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Obama Foundation Announces Partnership with Chicago Botanic Garden

April 22, 2021 at 10:00 AM CDT

Proposed planting strategy supports an effective pollinator network to attract a range of species that promote long-term ecological health within Jackson Park and support crop yields in the Fruit and Vegetable Garden

CHICAGO – The Obama Foundation today announced a new partnership with the Chicago Botanic Garden as the first of many community partners who will help inform the overall design of the Obama Presidential Center landscape in Jackson Park, particularly focusing on the design of the Fruit & Vegetable Garden and sharing their expertise in operating urban farms.

In addition to the partnership, the Foundation is also sharing new details of its landscape plan to create a model of sustainability and strengthen the overall ecological health of the site. The new landscape design of the Obama Presidential Center will play host to a number of pollinator friendly plants, including Yellow Coneflower, Hervey’s Aster, Eastern Bergamot, and dozens of other plants to help attract a wide range of pollinating species.

Butterflies, bees, ants, beetles, birds, and other pollinators like them are crucial to our food supply and the environment. Scientists estimate pollinators are responsible for 1 out of 3 bites of food we take each day. Unfortunately, human-induced changes in recent decades have reduced the diversity and distribution of pollinators around the world, threatening crop yields and food supply.

"This Earth Day is a call to action for each of us to protect the planet for future generations and the Obama Foundation is committed to doing its part," said Michael Strautmanis, Obama Foundation Executive Vice President of Civic Engagement. "More than creating a model of sustainability in how we are designing and constructing the Obama Presidential Center, it will be a place to learn about the Obama Administration's work to fight climate change, get inspired by young leaders focused on environmental issues around the world, and to gain the tools and resources necessary to create a positive change and a healthier planet wherever you are."

“At the Chicago Botanic Garden, we cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life. Vegetable gardens are fertile ground to do just that.” said Angela Mason, Associate Vice President, Community Engagement and Senior Director of Windy City Harvest, Chicago Botanic Garden. “We are pleased to share our expertise with the Obama Foundation to support pollinators who are vital to our ecosystem and to growing food for the community.”

The pollinator-friendly plants are just one of many sustainability-minded design elements of the forthcoming Center. Other sustainability features of the site include:

  • Stronger storm water retention strategies that will manage storm events on site, promote infiltration, leverage water for reuse, and improve the overall quality of stormwater entering the Lagoon from the project site;

  • Repurposing of existing trees and soil biology in support of natural nutrient cycling within the landscape;

  • A thoughtful strategy for the increase in vegetation at all levels within the proposed landscape;

  • Incorporation of a planting palette that will support the migratory bird population who rely on the Chicago lakefront as a migratory stopover location.

A new branch of the Chicago Public Library located at the Center will also have a garden on its roof. Similar to the garden that Mrs. Obama planted at the White House, it will be a place where young people and community members can get their hands dirty, engage with growing fruits and vegetables, and learn about the importance of environmental sustainability and pollination. There will even be a few bee hives for honey – and to support one of nature’s most important pollinators.

Created by renowned landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, the design for the grounds of the Obama Presidential Center within Jackson Park combines the heritage of a beloved Chicago park with world-class design and measures to enhance vital ecological performance.

“Landscapes surrounding the Center have been designed to anticipate not just the immediate aesthetic upon the project’s completion, but also how they will grow, mature, and evolve - ultimately outlasting each of us,” said Robert Rock, Principal and Chief Operating Officer of Living Habitats and Chicago-based part of the landscape architecture team of the Obama Presidential Center. “That includes a careful consideration of the plants the team has selected, the pollinators they will support, and the impact that will have for future generations.”

For more information about how the Obama Presidential Center’s landscape design will reinforce the local ecology, click here.


The Obama Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world. That mission begins on the South Side of Chicago, where the Foundation is building the Obama Presidential Center. The Obama Presidential Center represents a historic opportunity for Chicago: a chance to build a world-class museum and public gathering space that celebrates our nation’s first African American President and First Lady, steps away from where he began his career, where she was raised, and where—together—they made their home. Not only will the Center generate billions of dollars of economic opportunity and help reconnect and revitalize Jackson Park, it will also serve as a reminder to young visitors—from around the city and from around the world—that their potential is limitless.


The Chicago Botanic Garden, one of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, is a 385-acre living plant museum featuring 27 distinct gardens and four natural areas. Opened to the public in 1972, the Garden is managed by the Chicago Horticultural Society, accredited by the American Association of Museums and a member of the American Public Gardens Association (APGA). Mission statement: We cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life.

Windy City Harvest is the Chicago Botanic Garden’s urban agriculture education and jobs-training initiative to help build and support a local food system, healthier communities, and a greener economy.


Contact: Courtney Williams, [email protected]