Growing Home organic farm provides second chance job training with fresh produce

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An organic farm in Englewood is not only growing produce, but it's also providing job training for low-income individuals.

Thursday mornings at 11 a.m. the Wood Street Farm Stand opens, but the real story is behind the farm stand.

Growing Home is a UDSA certified organic urban farm in Englewood, known for its late summer produce that doesn't disappoint.

It's not just the produce that has a chance to flourish at Growing Home, but the staff who face employment barriers as well.

LaQuandra Fair started as one of the paid production assistants and has bloomed into the community engagement associate role. Fair said she was a Marine dealing with PTSD who got a fresh start with Growing Home.

"For a lot of us who have been out of the workforce, you don't know what to tell the employer about," Fair said. "It actually helps build your confidence so that you are comfortable enough to talk about the things and address what you need to address to be gainfully employed."

The production assistants get the practical training of learning which are the weeds and which is lettuce. They learn how to write a resume, how to represent themselves at the job interview, even conflict resolution.

Since 2006, Growing Home has trained 500 people with 85-percent securing and maintaining full time employment.

Terrell Jones wanted to move forward but with a criminal record options were limited.

"There wasn't an example for me. That's why I got into the trouble I got into. No positive role models," Jones said.

Jones is now 34 and on parole. He is on track for permanent employment after working with Growing Home, achieving a food certifications and setting a goal to someday have his own food truck.

"You have people who give up," Jones said. "This is a great beginning and me having the motivation I have of wanting to better. That means a lot."

As this growing season comes to a close, another class of production assistants prepare for their second chances in the work force.
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