Cara Cummings

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My garden is the most important part of my living space--wherever that may be. Right now that is in east Central Illinois. In the summer it is where I grow food, tend chickens, plant flowers, feed wild birds,  and am still amazed by the  sound of the cicadas and the flickering of the fireflies. It is also where my wood shop is--a detached one-car garage with a lot of character, and a nice collection of old power tools that I have the privilege of using. In the fall it is where I feel relief that the weeds will die back, the colors will calm me, and I allow myself to think about my appropriately ignored indoor space. I put more layers on and spend more time in the shop, which is neither like a sauna nor a deep freeze.

By winter it is the place I pine to be. But it also gives me something to be hopeful about and to plan for. It gives me the time to paint in my cozy upstairs studio with bright windows.

And by spring it becomes the container for all my pent up crazy, and an explosion of ideas begin to materialize.

But before all of this...I grew up in the mountains of Santa Barbara, California, in a community of inspired people who often came together to cook, eat, and make art.  After completing a degree in biology–which is also where my passion for botanical painting came from–I ran a website design business, raised two daughters, and completed a Master’s degree in environmental science and policy at Columbia University in 2010.

In 2012 I arrived in Illinois and I immersed myself in the local food scene, volunteering at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in Champaign, frequenting the Urbana Farmers’ Market, joining the Slow Food Champaign-Urbana board, becoming an owner of the Common Ground Food Co-op. I am now the executive director at The Land Connection,   were I had the opportunity to start the Champaign Farmers’ Market, and I get to work with farmers to start their farm businesses.

I also paint, make wood pieces for the kitchen, and write and photograph food. I also spend spend a lot of time in my garden in Champaign, Illinois--where the lawn continues to get smaller and the vegetable growing space gets bigger--with my dog Francis, cats Olive and Flower, a half dozen urban chickens, and a really sweet wood shop.