Turning vacant lots into city farms

October 1, 2010 (CHICAGO)

One of the pioneers of the movement is opening its gates to show off its crops and celebrate with the community.

City Farm has been around for nearly fifteen years. Its goal is to feed the community while setting an example of how to use vacant city space in a productive and sustainable way.

City Farm covers one full acre of farmland at the corner of Division Street and Clybourn Avenue, nestled between the Gold Coast and Cabrini Green. The farm is a subsidiary of a south side non-profit called the Resource Center.

"The Resource Center is dedicated to finding resources that we can use to improve the quality of life in all of our neighborhoods," said Resource Center Founder and President Ken Dunn. "There are many neighborhoods that need more jobs and they need the distribution of organic, healthy produce."

They set up a farm stand to sell fruits and vegetables to local residents at an affordable cost.

"If someone comes needing some tomatoes, we try not to let them go away without what they came for," said Dunn.

"We are able to pay a living wage because we charge restaurants like $4.50 and $5 a pound for tomatoes, $20 a pound for greens," said Dunn.

"A lot of the places that get our food are places that are committed to sustainable activities, buying local and buying healthy produce, places like Frontera Grill, we've got Lula Cafe, Knightwood restaurant, the Signature Room, the Gilt bar a lot of places in the city. The list could go on," said Director of Urban Agriculture Andy Rozendaal.

Next Saturday, October 9th, City Farm will host its first ever "urban harvest" festival and fundraiser. There will be food and outdoor activities for children and adults, including live music and hayrides.

Admission to City Farm's Urban Harvest event is free for children under age 12; tickets are $35 for adults and $10 for youth aged 12 to 18. Proceeds from the event will be used to support the operations of Resource Center, which operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tickets may be purchased online via Eventbrite, at http://cityfarmurbanharvest2010.eventbrite.com; tickets may also be purchased via phone at 773-821-1351. For more information, visit www.resourcecenterchicago.org.

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