We’re amidst a food revolution. We’re slowly coming back to that time in which our grandparents grew up — a time when they were much closer to the origins of their food. They knew where it came from because it was often in their own backyard.
Thankfully, nowadays there is a strong movement to educate people about not only the nutrition of their food, but where it comes from and how it got to their plate (i.e. what likely suffered in order for you to eat your dinner). We are becoming much more mindful about our food and not only in the country, but in the city too.
In parts of Chicago, we have great access to local, sustainable food from farmer’s markets and shops which cater to those seeking it. But now, instead of the farmers coming to the city, the city is developing its own farms on small, vacant plots of land, on rooftops, and in parks.
Last year, the city received a $1 million federal grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual Conservation Innovation Grants.
Through its “Growing for Chicago” initiative, the city plans to promote and coordinate urban farming efforts, provide microgrants and training through partnerships with existing nonprofits, and prepare vacant land in the Englewood neighborhood for farming, said Chris Wheat, chief sustainability officer for Chicago.
I recently took the Urban Farm Tour with the Good Food Fest put on in Chicago every year by Family Farmed.
Metropolitan Farms is an aquaponic farm that combines fish farming and a hydroponic growing system in a closed-loop, efficient and super clean facility. Their mission is to grow fresh food in the city where it is eaten. They believe this will result in a healthier, more secure and environmentally sustainable food system.
The Pie Patch is a pick-your-own farm, growing perennial fruits and annual vegetables traditionally used in pies: strawberries, apples, pears, plums, raspberries, rhubarb, sweet squash and pumpkin, sweet potatoes and concord grapes.
Founded in 2011, The Urban Canopy includes an indoor growing space, support for community and school gardens, and a two-acre community farm in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.
Here are some other projects going on in Chicago worth knowing about:
Windy City Harvest, a project of the Chicago Botanic Gardens, is a job training program that works with the City Colleges of Chicago to offer a certificate in Sustainable Horticulture and Urban Agriculture.
Growing Power is one of the best known urban agriculture organizations in the country.
The Plant, located in Back of the Yards, is one of the most innovative and exciting urban farm and food projects in Chicago. Inside a former meat packing facility, you can find aquaponics, hydroponics, a mushroom farm, a shrimp farm, a bakery with a wood fired oven, a brewery, a Kombucha brewery, and more. The entire building is being re-purposed into a closed-loop system, with an anaerobic digester to convert food waste into energy. It also serves as a business incubator for several urban farms and an education center for public school students.
Growing Home is an innovative job training program for formerly homeless or incarcerated people. In 2013 they won an award for the Outstanding Community Strategy of the Year from the Chicago Community Trust.
The Peterson Garden Project is a community gardening education and resource hub with multiple locations around the city. Garden members pay $75 to get a small garden plot for the year in one of the project’s pop-up locations in Rogers Park, Andersonville or Lincoln Square, along with access to various educational and community events.
Global Garden Refugee Training Farm is situated inside one of the Petersen Garden Project’s locations.
Refugee families from Bhutan and Burma maintain these plots and sell them on-site as well as at Horner Park’s Saturday farmers’ market (which is my neighborhood market, so I’ve bought from them!). They’ve expanded their CSA efforts.
Westside Bee Boyz install and manage hives at Lincoln Park Zoo, the Aquarium and on a number of commercial buildings downtown.
Bike a Bee provides hives to community gardens to serve as educational tools and public examples of the the need for these pollinators. They are also known to rescue city-dwellers from “inconveniently” placed hives.