Meet the Farm Team

At the Perry Ave Commons, every member of the Sweet Water Foundation team contributes to the Perry Ave Community Farm. But, there are three individuals whose hard work and experience make the bounty of the Perry Ave Community Farm's harvest possible.  

Read on to learn more about our Farm Team: Howard Perkins, Robert Cherry and Kristian Armendariz...


Meet Howard Perkins...

I enjoy all of it, everything I do. I enjoy it.
— Howard Perkins, Resident Farmer

Tell us a little about your background:

I’m from the South, from Greenwood, Mississippi. I have been doing farming for a while. I learned it down south at a young age.

 

What is your role at Sweet Water Foundation?

I do everything, everything that needs to be done from watering to pulling weeds to cutting grass. I built and maintain the Perry Ave Residents’ Farm where I grow kale, collard greens, tomatoes, corn, okra, chard, and garlic.

 

How long have you been with Sweet Water Foundation?

I have been farming these lots before Emmanuel and Sweet Water Foundation began the Perry Ave Commons. I built the Residents’ Farm and have been working with Sweet Water Foundation for about 4 years now.

 

If you had unlimited resources, what project would you dedicate yourself to on the Perry Ave Commons?

I would build another garden on this block where we haven’t yet farmed.


 

Meet Robert Cherry...

It’s good to be engaged with the community, working side by side with community members, feeding community members, and having an impact on the community, in a constructive, progressive way.
— Robert Cherry, Resident Farmer

Tell us a little about your background:

I’m Robert. I’ve been with Sweet Water Foundation for about three years. I’m from the Chatham, Chicago Heights area.

 

How’d you find out about Sweet Water Foundation?

Emmanuel is a good friend of a cousin of mine. I came in through the Aquaponics Center at 9601 S. Cottage Grove. I have a bit of a plumbing background, so I started helping out there.

 

What does a day look like?

Everyday is a little different. My work ranges from weeding to harvesting to painting a house to demolition and cleanout to building an aquaponics system. It’s a wide spectrum; no one has just one role at Sweet Water Foundation.

 

What is your role here at Sweet Water Foundation?

I’m an urban farmer, irrigation specialist, woodworker, mentor, and any other task or role that needs to be done.

 

If you had unlimited resources, what project would you dedicate yourself to on the Perry Ave Commons?

Expansion... just expanding on what we’re already building on.

 

Favorite food: Eggplant parmesan.


Meet Kristian Armendariz...

Sweet Water means a lot of things… it means family, it means life, it means revitalization. Sweet Water makes me feel like I’m in touch with my inner self.
— Kristian Armendariz, Apprentice

Tell us a little about your background:

I’m Kristian. I grew up in Little Village, a predominantly Mexican neighborhood. I went to an alternative school in the city. My teacher there enrolled me in this program and I've been here with Sweet Water Foundation ever since, for a little more than a year.

Both of my parents, my mom and dad, come from farmer families. So, my grandma grew up on a farm and my dad and his siblings actually worked on a farm their whole lives. To this day, he has 300 acres of land in Mexico that will soon be mine. I have farmer blood in me; it’s part of me. I’m surprised it came to me at this point in my life, in this form.

 

What is your role here at Sweet Water Foundation?

I am an Apprentice that focuses on farming and carpentry.

With farming, I farm from seed. We start off with the seeds and two or three months later we then have a whole bunch of plants. From tomatoes to peppers to watermelons to cucumbers, I help start them from seed and transplant them onto the farm or into the garden beds. We also grow sunflowers and transplant them to the street corners and at different locations on the farm.

With carpentry, we build just about anything from wood - tables, chairs, stools, and shelves. I had the chance to help build a custom display table for The Silver Room store in Hyde Park on 53rd Street. We made the table out of reclaimed wood with gas pipe legs and wheels.

 

If you had unlimited resources, what project would you dedicate yourself to on the Perry Ave Commons?

I would build tiny homes. Tiny, portable homes that you could drive around like trailers. The Sweet Water Foundation team and I would build them. It would be a simple space that would have a bed, a bathroom, and a kitchen. Everything you need.

 

What is a notable memory that you’ve had here with SWF?

It’s definitely when people come for tours. They feel so engaged in the land and what we’re doing. Then, when they come back again, their enthusiasm to be here is still the same. They always want to be more and more involved the second time they come around.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Sweet Water means a lot of things… it means family, it means life, it means revitalization. Sweet Water Foundation makes me feel like I’m in touch with my inner self.

 

Future plans?

I hope to still be involved with Sweet Water Foundation further down the line and hope to continue working with some of the partners and connections I have made because of Sweet Water.

 

Favorite movie: Harry Potter series

Favorite book: J.K Rowling, her autobiography.

Jia Li Pratt