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Evolving stories About Growing Food in a Big City

Filtering by Tag: produce

Urban farm to provide “job training and fresh vegetables”

Cassandra West

A new 2.6-acre urban farm will be located on this tract of land in East Garfield Park. /Seeding Chicago photo

The ground breaking today was merely symbolic, but Chicago’s newest urban farm will be a reality in the next few months. That’s when Chicago FarmWorks begins producing food on a 2.6-acre site located along side the Metra/Union-Pacific railroad tracks in the East Garfield Park neighborhood.

Heartland Human Care Services, Inc. — a division of the anti-poverty organization Heartland Alliance — is one of several agencies behind Chicago FarmWorks. Heartland estimates that 24,000 pounds of produce will be grown in the first year. The farm also expects to create 90 transitional jobs in the first three years that will allow hard-to-employ people to get training and eventually full-time jobs.

“This is no ordinary farm,” said David Sinski, Heartland Human Care Services executive director. “This land will produce more than just fresh vegetables for Chicago families. It also will create jobs for those who are overcoming barriers to employment.” It will also give neighborhood children “a better understanding of agriculture and healthy eating.”

Chicago FarmWorks is being developed in partnership with Heartland Alliance, the City of Chicago, Wilbur Wright College, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, NeighborSpace and West Humboldt Park Development Council. When Chicago FarmWorks becomes fully operational, it will provide produce directly to the Greater Chicago Food Depository at wholesale prices. The farm also will grow flowers in hoop houses for sale to floral retailers at wholesale rates to create a more financially sustainable project.

“We have worked with Greater Chicago Food Depository to identify the vegetables most needed for local food pantries,” said Dave Snyder, Chicago FarmWorks manager. During the winter, the farm will produce cabbage, carrots, radishes and onions. Seedlings are already growing in a green house space that Christy Webber Landscapes has donated. Sweet potatoes, beets, cucumbers, beans, spinach, summer squash and peppers are planned for spring.

“Urban farms benefit communities in a variety of ways,” said Ben Helphand, executive director of NeighborSpace. “The rows of food growing on what had been vacant lots provides a beautiful inspiration to the neighborhood. It also provides very real job training and fresh vegetables."

Chicago FarmWorks hopes it can be catalyst to spur other economic development in the East Garfield Park neighborhood, where unemployment hovers around 35 percent.

Chicago Public Schools to buy more produce from Illinois farmers

Cassandra West

The food service provider for Chicago Public Schools plans to increase the produce it buys from Illinois farmers. Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality is asking farmers to contract for $500,000 of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables in addition to the $1.8 million in local farm products purchased last year, the food service company said in a July 15 press release. “This program is fulfilling our commitment to meet the new nutritional standards adopted by the Chicago Board of Education to try and surpass the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ‘gold standard’ guidelines for school food,” said Louise Esaian, logistics officer for food service at Chicago Public Schools.

Chartwells-Thompson has teamed with, a Chicago-based non-profit that works to build and utilize local food systems.

“We want apples, peaches pears, broccoli, beans, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables grown by Illinois farmers to serve nearly 305,000 students in 481 schools every day,” said Bob Bloomer, regional vice president for Chartwells-Thompson. “This is good for local farmers and great for Chicago students.”

Local food production could yield big economic benefits

Cassandra West

Food grown locally could boost region's economyIf Midwestern farmers raised the fruit and vegetables eaten in the Heartland, they could create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in income, according to a study reported recently by the Associated Press.

The Iowa State University study looked at what would happen if farmers in six states — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin — raised 28 crops in quantities large enough to meet local demand. The study found that if an ample supply of produce could be grown regionally, it would spur $882 million in sales, more than 9,300 jobs and about $395 million in labor income.

Growing enough food to meet regional demand also wouldn't take much land, said said Michelle Miller, associate director of the University of Wisconsin's Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, which helped fund the study. "That's one of the wild things about it — you can grow a lot on a few number of acres. Anyone who has a garden knows this."

How few acres? One of Iowa's 99 counties could meet the demand for all six states, said Rich Pirog, associate director for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State. The center requested the study after seeing increased demand for food grown closer to home, especially from public schools and colleges.

The study included apricots, asparagus, mustard greens, bell peppers, onions, broccoli, peaches, cabbage, pears, cantaloupe, plums, carrots, raspberries, cauliflower, snap beans, collard greens, spinach, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, strawberries, garlic, sweet potatoes, kale, tomatoes, watermelon and lettuce — both leaf and head.

Crops such as pumpkins, apples and cherries weren't included in the study because the Midwest already grows enough of them to meet local and regional demand. Corn and soybeans are considered grains, not produce.

Wholesome Wave Foundation funds 'Link Bucks' at Farmers Markets

Cassandra West

farmers markets produce LINK card users will get more beans for their bucks at Chicago Farmers Markets this season thanks to a grant from the Wholesome Wave Foundation to fund a Double Value Coupon Program. Experimental Station and the City of Chicago announced last week a program to accept Link (food stamps) at five city-run farmers markets starting May 13, 2010 at Daley Plaza. The Wholesome Wave grant will fund $5 in “Link Bucks” to match up to five dollars of LINK purchases per cardholder per market day at the Lincoln Square (Tuesdays), South Shore (Wednesday), Daley Plaza (Thursday), Division Street (Saturday), and Beverly (Sunday) farmers markets, a press release issued Tuesday says. When a shopper makes a LINK purchase at one of five participating farmers markets, the shopper will receive up to five extra dollars (“LINK Bucks”) to purchase more nutritious, local food. The “LINK Bucks” are valid at any of the five markets for the entire season (expiring October 30, 2010) and do not need to be redeemed the same day.

Experimental Station is a not-for-profit incubator of innovative cultural, educational, and environmental projects and small-scale enterprises. It was established in 2002 in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

The mission of Wholesome Wave Foundation Charitable Ventures Inc. is to nourish neighborhoods by supporting increased production and access to healthy, fresh and affordable locally grown food for the well-being of all. Wholesome Wave is based in Westport, CT.

Oscar-Nominated Documentary Tackles Food Production

Cassandra West

By Susan Richardson

Food, Inc., a documentary that explores America's industrialized food system and its effect on the environment, health, and economy, will be shown tonight, Wednesday, April 21, at 9 p.m. on WTTW 11.   The film, which was nominated for an Oscar, examines major issues surrounding food and food production: factory farming, genetic engineering, pesticides, food-borne illnesses, organic food, nutritional labeling, environmental impact, school lunches, obesity, and farm workers' rights.  The documentary is also available on Netflix.

Director Robert Kenner follows the processed chicken at American grocery stores back to cramped chicken houses where the birds are puffed up on steroids.  Kenner also highlights  a working-class family as it struggles to eat healthy on a limited budget.  The documentary is informed by the work of healthy food advocates Eric Schlosser, author of  "Fast Food Nation," and Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma."

May 1 is deadline for farmers market listings on state dept of agriculture website

Cassandra West

farmers marketTo have your farmers market be included and updated on the Illinois Department of Agriculture's website, contact Delayne Reeves by May 1st. See details below. This information is important for government agencies (local, federal, state) to have an accurate count of farmers markets and where they are located. Decisions about funding, etc., will be made on this information. This is like a "Farmers Market Census" -- everyone needs to be counted!

Information submitted will be shared with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other groups soon after the May 1st deadline. Also, details on the IDOA website will be hidden from public viewing after that deadline unless the information has been updated during 2010.

If you are a new market or need your username and password e-mailed to you, contact

Chicago residents can view a list of local farmers markets and the 2010 rules and regulations governing growers and food producers by clicking here. Chicago's Farmers Markets bring more than 70 vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, plants and flowers to over 20 neighborhoods throughout the City of Chicago. Markets are held Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday around the city.

Delayne Reeves Marketing Representative Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Marketing and Promotions Mailing Address: State Fairgrounds, P. O. Box 19281, Springfield, IL 62794-9281

Shipping Address: 801 E. Sangamon Ave. Springfield, IL 62702 217-524-9129 217-524-5960 fax

A full-service supermarket for the Near West Side?

Cassandra West

fresh fruit and vegetables Chicago's Near West Side may be getting a 60,000-square-foot full-service supermarket by next summer if the city's Community Development Commission approves the plan, Crain's Chicago Business reported today.

Pete's Fresh Market, which operates six stores on the city's South and Southwest sides and sells organic products, would construct a new store on the southeast corner of Madison Street and Western Ave, its lawyer told Crain's.

Last August, Chicago selected Pete's to develop the 3.5-acre city-owned property, about a half-mile west of the United Center. The area is one of many in the city without a full-service grocer providing fresh fruit, vegetable and other healthy food options for residents. Currently, the nearest supermarkets are more than a mile away.