When you think of the large, busy, concrete, skyscraper adorned city of Chicago the last thing that pops in one’s mind is farm land. But Mayor Rahm Emanuel has recently announced that he is changing empty and abandoned lots, which are crime magnets, to urban farms.
This project is called “Farmers for Chicago” and will be supported by private donors and will turn about five acres of city-owned lots into urban farming developments. Chicago will partner up with the local urban agriculture organization Growing Power. Neighborhood residents will be trained by nonprofit organizations, to grow food which will be distributed to local farmer’s markets, restaurants, and grocery chains.
Not only will this program end the opportunity for drug dealers and other crime to hide in the vacant city lots but will also promote pride in community, healthier eating and a connection amongst residents. According to, backtonature.net, “Planting, harvesting and caring for a garden is a great way to bring people together and get some outdoor exercise. A garden provides an excellent opportunity to teach children about nature and growing cycles as well as nutrition. Not only will you and your family be more likely to eat the fresher, better tasting foods, you can be sure that your homegrown organic foods do not contain pesticides, chemical fertilizers or hormones. Growing your own food can also save you significant money on groceries. By freezing, drying and canning your food, you can extend the savings beyond the growing season. Growing your own food can also help reduce your carbon footprint. You can help protect air and water quality when you grow your own food organically, without chemical pesticides. You will also reduce the use of fossil fuels and resulting pollution from transporting food to the supermarket.”
Chicago will partner up with the local urban agriculture organization, Growing Power. In 1993, Growing Power was an organization with teens who needed a place to work. And the creator, Will Allen was a farmer with land. Will designed a program that offered teens an opportunity to work at his store and renovate the greenhouses to grow food for their community. What started as a simple partnership to change the landscape of the north side of Milwaukee has blossomed into a national and global commitment to sustainable food systems. Since its inception, Growing Power has served as a “living museum” or “idea factory” for the young, the elderly, farmers, producers, and other professionals ranging from USDA personnel to urban planners. Training areas include the following: acid-digestion, anaerobic digestion for food waste, bio-phyto remediation and soil health, aquaculture closed-loop systems, vermiculture, small and large scale composting, urban agriculture, permaculture, food distribution, marketing, value-added product development, youth education, community engagement, participatory leadership development, and project planning.
It’s good to hear the city of Chicago which has been having so many crimes and violence in the news recently will soon reap the benefits of this new program.
I am happy to have this be the second good in the hood news story for my column series and hope that despite the many negative reports over the news in America, I can finally put a spotlight on those positive news items that often gets overlooked. Please contact me if you know of a positive news story in your area that you want reported. Don’t allow negativity you watch or read get you down. It’s better to get out there, open your eyes, meet people and find the positivity around you. You’ll never know what you may run into!