Farm cultivates job, community involvement

August 25, 2011 11:27:04 AM PDT
In the midst of Englewood's food desert lies an organic farm that's fostering produce and potential.

"When I first started, it was more like I was being employed so I was gonna do what the supervisor told me to do. But as I started working and I started sweating and putting in the labor, I started to really understand farming and developed a passion for it," said Fred Daniels, a former Growing Home intern.

Growing Home is a nonprofit organization that provides job training through organic farming on three farm sites. Participants are called interns. And they all have at least one barrier to employment, such as a history of prolonged unemployment, substance abuse, incarceration or homelessness.

Daniels is a former intern who now supervises the internship program at Wood Street Urban Farm.

"I was kind of confused. I really didn't know what I wanted to do until I started here. It was more like party, hanging out, the typical young guy thing just hanging out. But now I don't have the time for that. I don't really think about it because I'm occupied. It's great for me- it keeps me out of trouble, keeps me focused and I'm learning as well," said Daniels.

And he uses that knowledge off the job, too.

"I get to take what I learn home and pass it on. My granny, she don't have to attend to her garden because she's got me to do it for her, and grow all the things that she likes. It feels good. My family's happy, I'm happy," said Daniels.

Allen Clausell is a new intern who continues to look for a job, but says he is content where he is.

"I hadn't worked. I just gave up on jobs. It helps me focus on having a positive attitude. I guess it's the environment, you know, seeing nature at work. It's a nice place to be- the world should have more places like this," said Clausell.

About Growing Home

Les Brown, former Director of Policy for Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, founded Growing Home in 1992 on the idea that people uprooted from society could connect to nature, and through that connection, find a place in the community. He believed that a sense of purpose as well as job training was necessary to break the cycle of homelessness.

The organization acquired land to start the program in Chicago and Marseilles, Ill., through the McKinney Act, which offers federal surplus land for organizations working with the homeless.

The nonprofit also runs the Les Brown Memorial Farm at Ottawa, Ill., and the Su Casa Market Garden at the corner of 51st Avenue and Laflin Street in Chicago.

Growing Home farms grow spinach, arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, beets, turnips, kale, mustard greens and collards.

The organization sells produce at its two farm stands and the Green City Market. The Wood Street Urban Farm stand runs Wednesdays from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m at 5814 S. Wood St. The Les Brown Memorial Farm stand runs Wednesdays and Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 2539 N. 30th Road, Marseilles, Ill.

Growing Home is also at Green City Market Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1790 N. Clark Street at Lincoln Park.

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