Urban farms crop up in Chicago

May 20, 2011 (CHICAGO)

A new farm has all the ingredients to help a struggling neighborhood move toward self-sufficiency: Students get jobs and learn how to grow food in an area where supermarkets are in short supply. They are also reclaiming abandoned land and using it to live green.

New occupants of an old trucking dock, long abandoned, are answering a greener call. It's now the Iron Street Urban Farm.

"We want to take that land and turn it over into something beautiful and turn it into something that can evolve for the people to help them not only to eat right but just to beautify the community as well," said Dr. Camilla Alfred, instructor, Growing Power.

The organization Growing Power sets up farms in urban areas deemed food deserts. Their teaching residents to grow their own food, eat a healthy diet, and live sustainably.

"A lot of these neighborhoods are poor neighborhoods. People aren't really getting the benefits of good food; not healthy grocery stores in these neighborhoods. The land is just sitting there going to waste," Dr. Alfred.

Students are getting hands-on training at the urban farm.

"We've learned about how to grow our crops and how you know growing your own crops is better for the atmosphere and for our health. So, I've actually learned how to live healthier," said Maria Chavez, senior, Curie High School.

For some of the students, the lessons are brand new.

"You're wondering what you're going to do with your future and I want to be a teacher so it helps you learn to work with different kinds of people," said Hilda Avalos, senior, Curie High School

Others are charting the course to a career.

"This is a hoop house. It's basically for doing all year production. During the winter time, we grow straight out of here," said Malcolm Evans, junior, Wells Academy.

Evans started as a volunteer in a community garden near his home 10 years ago. Now a part-time staff member, he says gardening is addictive.

"My future is keep doing agriculture work, eventually get my own farm, have somebody working for me and just keep it going," said Evans.

Growing Power is partially funded by After School Matters which is a non-profit that works to provide positive activities for students after school. Its 20th anniversary celebration will take place on June 29 at noon in Daley Plaza. It is free and open to the public.




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