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Evolving stories About Growing Food in a Big City

Filtering by Tag: Chicago

Of renewals, seed swaps and mapping urban gardens in Chicago

Cassandra West


It’s been a while since my last blog post. OK, yes I know. A long while. But the hiatus is over.

I look forward again to digging into the constantly germinating Chicago community gardening/urban farming/local foods scene and sharing what I discover/uncover.

As I look around, I see everything emerging — slowly — from a long winter. You know what that means. Yeah, we might we able to plant something outside soon. But in the meantime, seed swaps are happening all over. (The UIC Heritage Garden is holding its first ever seed swap Sunday, March 29, at the Hull-House Dining Hall, 800 S. Halsted Ave., Chicago.) Garden supply stores are building up their inventories. Community gardens are registering old and new members.

And, speaking of community gardens. They keep cropping up. And so do city farms and more backyard gardens. I mean people are really getting into this growing-themselves-some-food thing. Since I launched this blog in 2010, the growth in urban agriculture hasn’t let up. It does, in fact, seem to be exploding.

seed swap flier
seed swap flier

o see how much urban ag is thriving in our area, jump on over to the Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project (CUAMP), which launched this month. The project had a soft rollout March 7 at the 3rd Annual Chicago Community Gardening Association Gathering held at West Town Academy. The official launch was March 21 at the Good Food Festival & Conference at UIC.

Since around the time this blog started, CUAMP has been mapping and taking an inventory of urban agriculture and community gardens in Chicago. Representatives from nonprofits, urban ag organizations and universities worked together to bring the map to fruition. It’s administered by three entities: NeighborSpace, Advocates for Urban Agriculture and DePaul University’s Steans Center.

At the latest count there are 786 growing sites on the list. You can download an Excel spreadsheet of all them here.

SeedingChicago is beyond happy to see this groundswell of passion for urban gardening, and CUAMP is a huge testament to how serious people are taking local agriculture. And taking it to new heights

CUAMP includes urban gardens and farms of every stripe. On the spreadsheet you can find ownership info, whether a garden produces food, whether it's locked, is a collective or allotment and where gets its water.

Whether you write about urban agriculture as I do, or just want to get out and visit some of the hundreds of gardening sites in Chicago, CUAMP has done us all a great service. And, I appreciate all the effort that has gone into producing this valuable resource.

Loyola to host Urban Food Symposium

Cassandra West


Food. It’s a topic that keeps expanding. And Loyola University Chicago will add to the national conversation on Saturday, September 7, when it hosts the Urban Food Symposium at its new Institute for Environmental Sustainability and Mundelein Center. Thought leaders from Chicago, the Midwest and across the nation will explore social justice, environmental and nutritional issues of food systems and offer innovative ways to approach local, alternative solutions. A municipal policy discussion will feature representatives from Chicago, San Francisco and Boston as well as presentations from more than 10 key players in the local food systems.

Among the speakers are Erika Allen (Growing Power), John Edel (The Plant), Kate Maehr (Chicago Food Depository), Bral Spight (Urban Ponics), Mei Ling Hui (Urban Forest and Urban Agriculture Coordinator, San Francisco Dept. of Environment) and Mari Gallagher. See the full list of speaker profiles. Check the calendar listing to the right for more details.

Chicago's South Shore gets a farmers market

Cassandra West

Farmers market
South Shore Farmers Market
South Shore Farmers Market

With the Chicago skyline as a backdrop and the lakeshore at its doorstep, the city’s newest outdoor produce stand—South Shore Farmers Market at Rainbow Beach Park—opens on Sunday, June 23.

South Shore Farmers Market joins other city-run farmers markets that provide urban residents easy access to fresh and locally harvested produce. The market is a collaboration between the Ashe Park and Rainbow Beach Park Advisory Councils.

“We’re definitely a food desert and everybody’s looking for a place to get fresh food,” says Marion Brown, a South Shore resident and member of the Rainbow Park Advisory Council who co-chairs the team behind the market.

The South Shore market will bring the number of city-run South Side farmers markets to three, although city officials tend to count the Bridgeport farmers market among its “South Side” operations. The other South Side farmers markets are in Pullman (Wednesdays, 111th and Cottage Grove) and Beverly (Sundays, 95th and Longwood).

Chicago’s official farmers market season kicked off on May 16 and runs through the end of October.

Unlike most farmers markets in the city that get their produce from Michigan and Indiana farmers, the South Shore Farmers Market will source its vegetables from urban farmers and even container gardeners, Brown says.

It will be located on Chicago Park District property and operated by the City of Chicago. Hours of operation are 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays through Aug. 25. Depending on how well the market is received, it may extend it season beyond that date, Brown says.

Market planners are trying to keep vendor fees reasonable. They’ve started a market collective that allows smaller growers to pool their resources to reduce the expense of participating in the market and reduce the amount of produce needed to sell, Qae-Dah Muhammad, vendor manager, says. The weekly fee to sell at the market is $15 and all vendors must have insurance.

Primarily an agricultural market, South Shore Farmers Market also will offer products by local bakers and specialty food producers; live plant, flowers and herb growers, plus food-related products and services. The market plans to work with local food pantries and encourage its vendors to donate any unsold products that would otherwise spoil.

With this market, customers can expect more than fresh produce and healthier fare than is generally available to Southeast Chicago residents. The group that envisioned the market wants to educate the community about healthy food, cooking/eating, food production and growing edible gardens. They also want to bring attention to one their community’s underutilized resources: city parks.