With summer winding down and the fall harvest soon to be gracing Chicago with its bounty, I wanted to focus on the relatively new but growing trend of urban agriculture here in Chicago. As you know, from one of my previous articles, Mayor Emmanuel is a big proponent of urban farms and he wants to see more of them in Chicago especially in underserved areas (aka “food deserts”). This is good news because UPA (urban and peri-urban agriculture) fill many purposes in a city environment.
According to Wikipedia:
- UPA assists to close the open loop system in urban areas characterized by the importation of food from rural zones and the exportation of waste to regions outside the city or town.
- Wastewater and organic solid waste can be transformed into resources for growing agriculture products: the former can be used for irrigation, the latter as fertilizer.
- Vacant urban areas can be used for agriculture production.
- Other natural resources can be conserved. The use of wastewater for irrigation improves water management and increases the availability of freshwater for drinking and household consumption.
- UPA can help to preserve bioregional ecologies from being transformed into cropland.
- Urban agriculture saves energy (e.g. energy consumed in transporting food from rural to urban areas).
- Local production of food also allows savings in transportation costs, storage, and in product loss, what results in food cost reduction.
- UPA improves the quality of the urban environment through greening and thus, a reduction in pollution.
- Urban agriculture also makes of the city a healthier place to live by improving the quality of the environment.
- UPA is a very efficient tool to fight against hunger and malnutrition since it facilitates the access to food by an impoverished sector of the urban population.
- UPA provides food and creates savings in household expenditure on consumables, thus increasing the amount of income allocated to other uses.
- UPA surpluses can be sold in local markets, generating more income for the urban poor.
WINDY CITIFIED FARMS
There are lots of urban farms in Chicago that have been around for several years and hopefully with Mayor Emmanuel’s plans, we will see more of them in the future. Here are few of them:
CITY FARM. Founded in 2000, City Farm was voted #1 Urban Farm in America in 2009 by Natural Home Magazine. This sustainable vegetable farm borders the two very different Chicago neighborhoods of Cabrini-Green and the Gold Coast. It has 30 varieties of tomatoes and a large variety of veggies grown in composted soil such as beets, carrots, potatoes, specialty lettuces, herbs and melon. Local Chicago restaurants such as Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill use City Farm produce in their dishes.
GREEN YOUTH FARM. Following in City Farms footsteps, Green Youth Farm was voted #2 Urban Farm in America in 2009. The Green Youth Farm program of the Chicago Botanic Gardens is a program that gives students the opportunity to learn about organic farming, how to manage a hive of bees, how to cook the food they grow, how to sell it at farmstands and markets. The food they grow is also used in dishes at the Garden Café at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. The one-acre farm is located suburban North Chicago is located in the Greenbelt Forest Preserve off Green Bay Road and the quarter-acre site is in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, at 3555 West Ogden Avenue. In 2009, the Washington Park Farm at Dyett High School at 555 E. 51st Street added an additional three-quarters of an acre of growing space to the farms.
WOOD STREET FARM. Founded in 1992, Wood Street Farm is a part of Growing Home Inc. Growing Home Inc. was created on the idea that people uprooted from society could connect to nature, and through that connection, find a place in the community. Growing Home farms grow spinach, arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, beets, turnips, kale, mustard greens and collards. The organization sells produce at its two farm stands and the Green City Market. The Wood Street Urban Farm is located in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, just a few blocks west of Ashland and 58th St. This site, as well as all of Growing home’s other farm sites, is USDA Certified organic.
WE GROW THE POWER
Growing Power, Will Allen’s creation, has several successful Chicago urban farms under its wing. He has five established Chicago Urban Farms and Chicago Lights and Iron Street Farms are just two of them. The information below is from their website; See the link for his other three Chicago projects.
CHICAGO LIGHTS. Established 2003, Chicago Lights is located at the intersection of W. Chicago Avenue & N. Hudson Avenue, Chicago, IL 60610. The farm is a partnership with Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church who, in 2002, purchased the land in the Cabrini-Green community. It was once a former broken down basketball court. As a neighborhood in transition, one of the purposes of the project was to ensure that current residents were included in the goals of the community garden for the changing neighborhood. The farm enables neighborhood youth and residents to have additional economic opportunities through availability of organic produce, nutritional education, and work-force training.
IRON STREET FARM. Established 2010, Iron Street Farm is located at 3333 S. Iron Street, Chicago, Illinois 60608 in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. The seven-acre site includes 10 hoop-houses to grow fresh produce year-round, aquaponics systems, vermicomposting, small ruminant husbandry, urban apiary with six bee hives, urban orchard and vine fruit production, green roof production and research and the training and employment of over 40 youth. The vision for the site is that it will also include an anaerobic digester to not only create nutrient-rich compost, but renewable energy as well.
How can you support these Urban Farms? Most importantly, urban farms sell their produce and other items at local farmers markets. Always choose to buy the fresh produce from these markets to help their farms stay in business. Secondly, you can volunteer! These farms are always looking for some extra helping hands and it is a learning experience as well! When you support urban farms you are supporting fresh local produce, education and keeping people employed in your community.
I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world”
– George Washington