Laura Erickson, market coordinator for Windy City Harvest, takes beds of lettuce out of the water to be cleaned and sent to market on Dec. 7, 2016. Windy City Harvest, now working out of the Arturo Velasquez Institute, grows more than 100,000 pounds of produce a year.
Like a tomato plant bursting from a pothole, Chicago’s urban farming scene is a tiny hope-filled industry in a tough city, steadily growing as a source of jobs, economic development and food in some of the poorest neighborhoods on the South and West sides.
Dec 21, 2016
The city is jumping into the urban farming game, aided by a $1 million federal grant, one of 45 projects awarded a total of $26.6 million this year through the 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.
The first order of business will hiring the city’s first full-time urban agriculture coordinator, who will serve as a liaison of sorts between city departments and the various nonprofits and businesses doing the farming, Wheat said. One of the goals is to streamline the bureaucratic process for those wishing to farm to obtain the necessary permits, he said.
The city is also in the process of acquiring and remediating land near the long-awaited Englewood Line rail trail, and will eventually coordinate with public trusts and nonprofits to place farmers on the land, Wheat said.