Free Little Apothecary Pops Up In Little Village Garden As ‘A Love Letter To The Neighborhood’


LITTLE VILLAGE – A community garden on the southwest side is now home to a “little free pharmacy” – the organizers’ way of giving back to the community through homemade teas, balms and other goodies.

Jeannine Wise, a Little Village neighbor and gardener of Las Semillas De Justicia Garden at 2727 S. Troy St., said she was inspired to have the box installed so she could give away produce from her garden. For Wise, a pharmacy sells—or in this case gives away—products that promote wellness through herbal remedies.

“I thought that the pharmacy would be a really good way to create and share community across generations and races, and that it would spark conversations like, ‘What do you grow? What are you using that for?’” Wise said. “The idea of ​​the pharmacy should be a declaration of love to the neighborhood.”

Most recently, Wise had bags of lemon balm tea and tins of lemon balm made from dried calendula, a flower commonly seen around Día de Los Muertos. But her garden is thriving and full of amaranth, spinach, sage, basil and more, and she hopes to use these plants to make herbal remedies.

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Recognition: Madison Savedra/Block Club Chicago/Provided
Jeannine Wise grows all kinds of herbs and plants in her garden and makes teas, balms and other things to give away in a free Apothecary Box.

Wise has had a garden plot in Las Semillas since last year and the idea for the box came to her this summer. She is in the process of completing a 1,000-hour immersion in herbal medicine and training in spiritual herbalism to learn more about the practice, Wise said.

One of the garden coordinators built the box by hand, Wise said. Ever since she started storing items in it, people have reached out for it, she said.

“Most of the herbs I grow are for the nervous system and the respiratory system because when you’re living under constant stress from the school-to-jail pipeline and food apartheid and medical racism and redlining and environmental racism… it really takes a toll on your body and your health of the people,” Wise said.

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Sergio Ruiz, another garden coordinator in Las Semillas through the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, said she was “excited” to hear about Wise’s idea for the dispensary, as the group has always wanted to support gardener-led projects.

“I feel like this is another opportunity for gardeners to learn from each other,” Ruiz said. “It fit into our whole idea of ​​how we want the garden to be.”

Wise said she has dedicated most of her working life to health, nutrition and agriculture and how these issues intersect. She used to be a restaurant chef, but now she works for the non-profit organization Good Food Is Good Medicine to give cooking classes to people in the comfort of their own homes.

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“My whole life is about how we can support and nurture one another and ourselves and meet people where they are,” she said.

Wise and Ruiz said they hope more people get involved in making things for the pharmacy and that the idea spreads to other gardens.

Wise said anyone who wants to know how to donate to the free pharmacy can get in touch via Instagram.

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