Community gardener beautifies one of Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods

ByTaylor Musgrove Localish logo
Monday, November 13, 2023
Community gardener beautifies Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood
Back of the Yards is known to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago, but Edgar Florentino is committed to beautifying it one plant at a time.

CHICAGO -- Edgar Florentino is from Chicagos Back of the Yards neighborhood. In 2020, he decided to become a community gardener to beautify the area he grew up in.

"Back of the Yards, definitely is a disinvested community. So you might not see as much color and texture as you would see in the Magnificent Mile," Florentino said. "So for that reason I took upon myself to bring color and texture and with that bring more wildlife and people outside of their homes into our corner parkways and corner streets as a way to take back our streets."

Back of the Yards is known to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago. Florentino said growing up in this community was no easy feat.

"Walking out of my home just to get to school was enough for me to encounter a couple of bad experiences," he said. "It broke my love for a lot of things, just the anxiety, the hurt, the hate. It's a vicious cycle. And it's a cycle that not a lot of people, a lot of kids in Chicago come out of."

For Florentino, gardening has not only been therapeutic, but a way to reconnect with his hometown.

"It brought a lot of peace, a lot of self-fulfillment. It has helped me grow as a man," Florentino said. "I hope to hit every corner within our neighborhood and hopefully expand and inspire more people in surrounding communities to also do the same and meet each other halfway."

Florentino is currently an apprentice with Greencorps Chicago, a green industry employment program and operates a bilingual Facebook group called Jadieneros y Janieneros Chicago, a page where people can share their love and passion for nature and wildlife.