WBEZ | urban agriculture http://www.wbez.org/tags/urban-agriculture Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en A farm grows in a Northwest Side high school http://www.wbez.org/news/farm-grows-northwest-side-high-school-113682 <p><div class="image-insert-image ">Chef Jaime Guerrero has a dream of opening a fully sustainable restaurant in the Old Irving Park neighborhood of Chicago. To refine that model, he&rsquo;s turning to an unlikely partner: Schurz High School, located almost literally in his Old Irving backyard. &nbsp;</div><p>&ldquo;Imagine that you have a restaurant where everything you eat is grown, farmed, harvested, crafted or brewed in that facility,&rdquo; he says of the restaurant that he hopes to open by the end of next year. &nbsp;</p><p>But first he needs to perfect the indoor vertical farming model, which is the task he has put before Schurz students working in the new Food Science Lab. The lab is housed in a 105-year-old classroom that used to host industrial arts classes. But today the white-tiled room, capped with a large glass skylight, is filled with white trays and towers that are expected to be filled with lettuce, herbs and microgreens by the end of the year.</p><p>On a recent morning, lab organizer Cyd Smillie was setting up the space for a fundraiser for the last key element in the lab: LED grow lights. The fundraising <a href="https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/launch-a-food-revolution#/">continues her</a>e.</p><p>Smillie lives in the area and works for Ald John Arena&rsquo;s (45th) office.</p><p>&ldquo;I loved his idea and it seemed to me ...Schurz was the perfect place to develop some of the technology and train the staff,&rdquo; said Smillie, who is also an artist. &ldquo;We talked to [the late] chef Homaro Cantu who was an area resident, about the sustainable agriculture he was working on in his own restaurant and how training food handlers for it was already an issue in the city.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Schurz Farm2_0.jpg" style="height: 304px; width: 620px;" title="The Schurz Food Science Lab served as an English literature industrial arts classroom over the last 100 years. But it should be filled with trays of hydroponic lettuce, herbs and greens by the end of the year. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></p><p>The Schurz program hopes to certify all of its students as trained food handlers. And Smillie says the lab will serve as a classroom for several AP and International Baccalaureate science classes.</p><p>But she also notes less obvious uses for the program and lab. These include use as a therapeutic space for students with low-level autism and as a business project for classes in entrepreneurship and marketing. The school&rsquo;s JROTC program has also gotten involved.</p><p>&ldquo;Those students go on to Peace Corps and National Guard and work post-disaster or war situations where they have to set up food systems,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So they have been instrumental in helping set up the lab so far, and we&rsquo;re teaching them how to set up these very portable systems to help grow food in those kinds of post-crisis situations.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Schurz%20farm1.jpg" style="height: 348px; width: 620px;" title="Schurz High School is more than 100 years old, but it’s launching a lab to refine the future of urban agriculture. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></p><p>The group is working with a volunteer organization called Build Up, which will help distribute the produce to area food pantries. But Smillie says she hopes that one day the students will get to incorporate it into school food.</p><p>&ldquo;CPS has a protocol for certification so we need to be certified as a growing facility and as food handlers,&rdquo; she explained. &ldquo;But after we achieve that we have a roster of area chefs who will teach the kids how to use them and then we would like them to go into the lunchrooms here, once CPS says we are allowed to do that.&rdquo;</p><p>Principal Dan Kramer has embraced the program as a way to help restore the place of schools in communities.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to bring schools back to a role they had when they were really the heart of the neighborhood,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;not just families sending their kids there for school but places for performances, exhibits and social celebrations, really making [them] open to the public.&rdquo;</p><p>Smillie says that, if they can refine the model, it won&rsquo;t just help launch Guerrero&rsquo;s restaurant but many more food labs across the city.</p><p>&ldquo;Ideally it&rsquo;s a pilot project we can take to other schools in food deserts,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There, it won&rsquo;t be just an academic exercise but a job training program and a food supply chain, to not just the students and school but to the communities they serve.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 12:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/farm-grows-northwest-side-high-school-113682 Morning Shift: Urban agriculture still finding footing http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-08-27/morning-shift-urban-agriculture-still-finding-footing <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/-Tripp-.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>While some programs have met with success, other farms in the city haven&#39;t had success. We check in with some farmers trying to bring farming-and healthy eating-to city neighborhoods. And, the city celebrates the U.S. Little League champs.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-urban-agriculture/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-urban-agriculture.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-urban-agriculture" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Urban agriculture still finding footing" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-08-27/morning-shift-urban-agriculture-still-finding-footing Chicago's urban farms have yet to harvest sustainable jobs, better health http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-urban-farms-have-yet-harvest-sustainable-jobs-better-health-110709 <p><p>On a recent hot summer day on the city&rsquo;s South Side a group of farmers and reporters gathered to tour a new two-acre farm enjoying its first harvest in the shadow of the old Robert Taylor Homes.</p><p>Safia Rashid is growing a diverse crop of kale, chard, tomatoes, onion, zucchini and several peppers in hopes of selling the produce to the local Women Infant and Children feeding program.</p><p>She&#39;s one of the new agriculture entrepreneurs benefiting from a $750 thousand, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It&rsquo;s aimed at putting graduates of The Botanic Garden&#39;s Windy City Harvest training program on track to start their own small farming businesses. &nbsp;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s urban farming movement has always held out the promise of sustainable employment. But more than a decade after it first took root, why aren&rsquo;t there more well-paying jobs? &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Thats not realistic,&rdquo; says Angela Mason the director of Botanic&rsquo;s Windy City Harvest, which trains ex-offenders in agricultural skills as a path toward employment. &ldquo;Our intention in launching the incubator program, and what most family farms do now, is [provide] supplemental income. It&rsquo;s not their only income. A lot of people romanticize farming but that&rsquo;s very challenging in this day and age. We don&rsquo;t support local food in a way that makes it economically viable for a person to go out and only farm for a living.&rdquo;</p><p>The fact is, most of these programs can&rsquo;t survive without outside funding.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s so much more you need to do than put fresh produce in a grocery store,&rdquo; Mason says. &ldquo;To get people interested in even buying the produce, you need to get people excited about it and learning how to prepare food with it. There are &nbsp;a lot of people who&rsquo;ve never seen kale grow or seen Swiss chard grow and don&rsquo;t know what to do with it.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Indeed, lack of demand and knowledge about what to do with the produce still hampers sales in these communities. In the produce business margins are slim and product that doesn&rsquo;t move can go bad very quickly. Even one of the nation&rsquo;s biggest retailers has run into snags.</p><p>At a White House meeting in 2011, Walgreens promised to build 50 &ldquo;food oasis&rdquo; stores in Chicago by summer 2013. &nbsp;By July 2014, the retailer had only installed fresh produce in 26 local food desert stores, according to Crain&#39;s Chicago. In the last month, however, the store finally met its original goal, according to a Walgreens spokesman.</p><p>Smaller projects have also run into problems. The much praised Farmers Best Market in Bronzeville opened in 2008 but was closed within a year. The Englewood Farmers Market on 63rd called it quits after a few tough seasons. And, last summer, the Fresh Moves buses that brought fresh produce markets to the people <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-say-whole-foods-may-struggle-find-customers-englewood-108608">turned off their engines indefinitely</a>.</p><p>So why has it been so hard to successfully sell produce in Chicago&rsquo;s food deserts? Mari Gallagher is a researcher who specializes in food access.</p><p>&ldquo;You can have a great idea and you can put your whole heart into it, but you still have to figure out how to make it viable,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So there are lots of different reasons why some of these programs fail. But unfortunately, because people feel so closely tied to these outcomes, it&rsquo;s hard to get at the truth [to analyze what lessons can be learned].&rdquo;</p><p>Although they rarely speak about it on the record, several urban ag experts across the city confided that the demand for full-priced, high quality produce isn&rsquo;t strong enough to support the businesses that sell it. As Whole Foods prepares to open its Englewood store in 2016, it&rsquo;s counting on building that demand. But today, observers say, it&rsquo;s just not there.</p><p>So does that mean inner city farmers markets, mobile produce programs and viable urban farming jobs are doomed for now?</p><p>&ldquo;When we talk about [greening] the food desert we&rsquo;re really trying to keep costs down and quality high and that&rsquo;s tricky,&rdquo; Gallagher says. &ldquo;But I wouldn&rsquo;t write off any of these options. I would say that the market conditions need to be right and the operators need to be very, very good on a number of fronts to pull it off successfully.&rdquo;</p><p>One of the only urban farmers who seems to have figured it out, is the the tall, lanky and perpetually muddy Ken Dunn. The founder of the Resource Center and City Farm has practiced urban ag in Chicago for more than 40 years. The philosophy PhD also operates what he says are four profitable farms in Englewood.</p><p>&ldquo;You have to start with what has always been the food cycle,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We have a process where food scraps go back to the production of the next crop. We&rsquo;ve tapped into selling two-thirds of our crop to high-end restaurants, picking up the food scraps from all of their product and turning them into compost to bring back to the field.&rdquo;</p><p>Got that? First Dunn sells his vegetables to fancy restaurants. Then the restaurants give him back food scraps which are used to make compost. This ultra-rich growing medium, he says, produces 10 easy crops a year, and food so tasty that restaurants are happy to pay his high prices. And these premium prices, Dunn says, make it possible to pay a living wage, and sell cheaper veggies from kiosks on the farm.</p><p>Dunn believes this model could expand up to three times and still not saturate the high end restaurant market. But he hopes that by the time we reach that saturation, there will be other funding models in place.</p><p>His dream is for municipalities to recognizes the larger public benefits of urban ag on crime, health and education and to fund them as part of local budgets. These less tangible benefits are part of the reason Safia Rashid is out working on her quarter-acre plot nearly every day. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When the children are eating properly, guess what happens?&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;The violence goes down. So if we continue to feed them whole foods without the pesticides and GMOs, we will continue to see real change in our community. So it&rsquo;s just really that simple.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DJ%20Cavem.jpeg" style="float: left; width: 161px; height: 206px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="DJ Cavem travels the country preaching the gospel of organic urban farming to inner city youth. (Photo Courtesy of DJ Cavem)" />While Dunn sells mostly to restaurants and Rashid hopes to sell to WIC, DJ Cavem has a different plan. &nbsp;He wants to grow food<em> in</em> the community<em> for</em> the community. He&rsquo;s a rapper, educator, midwife and urban farm advocate based in Denver. He stopped in Chicago earlier this year to spread his gospel of home grown organic produce for all.</p><p>&ldquo;The same way gangsta rap promotes drug dealing, I am an environmental hip hop artist, eco hip hop artist who promotes gardening,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I have been teaching for 11 years now. I teach young people how to grow food, how to prepare the food, how to create a green job. I&rsquo;m setting up gardens in inner city communities and showing people how to keep the nutrition in their food.&rdquo;</p><p>He says that urban youth have largely lost touch with their grandparents&#39; food and growing skills. Still, he knows that history can cut both ways.</p><p>&ldquo;Because of slavery and Jim Crow, a lot of inner city African Americans do not want to talk to young people about growing food,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;They really think that &nbsp;going to the grocery store is the best for them. And they felt that they were forced to have to do this work. So there is that neglect of young people having access to the inter-generational dialogue that needs to happen around food preparation.&rdquo;</p><p>DJ Cavem&rsquo;s goals may be lofty, but he claims his message can reach these young people. Last year he got a whole summer camp of urban youths to remix the popular ode to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YLy4j8EZIk">&ldquo;Hot Cheetos and Takis.&quot;</a> They dubbed their version <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO3zE2XqEUo">&ldquo;Brown Rice and Broccoli.&rdquo;</a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/MO3zE2XqEUo?rel=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;You can watch the video on YouTube and Tweet it and let your friends know that that&rsquo;s what young people really want: Healthy food, foods that are fresher than the shoes on their feet.&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Between Dunn&rsquo;s decades of urban ag experience and DJ Cavem&rsquo;s youth-friendly message, there may come a time when produce from urban farms will not only nourish local residents but also grow their bank accounts.</p><p>Beginner farmer Rashid certainly hopes so. Despite her optimism for her newfound occupation, she knows she&rsquo;s got a tough row to hoe.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a lot to cover,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Especially in my case since I don&rsquo;t have a business partner. It&rsquo;s a lot to do alone. But I know that things are gonna change.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p><p><em>WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore contributed to this story. </em></p><iframe width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true"></iframe></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-urban-farms-have-yet-harvest-sustainable-jobs-better-health-110709 Policy implications of Iraq, Gaza http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-08-12/policy-implications-iraq-gaza-110636 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP914761718464.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Rashid Khalidi recently wrote in the New Yorker, &quot;What is going on in Palestine today is not really about Hamas... It is about Israel&rsquo;s permanent control over Palestinian land and Palestinian lives.&quot; We&#39;ll hear more from him on today&#39;s show. He&#39;ll also talk on U.S. policy failures in Iraq and Syria.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-policy-implications-of-iraq-gaza/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-policy-implications-of-iraq-gaza.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-policy-implications-of-iraq-gaza" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Policy implications of Iraq, Gaza" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-08-12/policy-implications-iraq-gaza-110636 From gang life to green shoots http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/gang-life-green-shoots-107391 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Windy-City-Harvest/177708402262849?fref=ts" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/darius%20with%20easter%20egg%20radishes%20courtesy%20chicago%20botanic%20garden.jpg" style="height: 458px; width: 610px;" title="Darius Jones, 21, with easter egg radishes. Raised in gritty West Garfield Park, Jones struggled to turn his life around, but recently launched his own urban agriculture business. (Chicago Botanic Garden)" /></a></div><p>Darius Jones grew up slinging drugs in West Garfield Park, a few blocks and seemingly a lifetime away from the garden beds he now tends with the support of the United States Department of Agriculture.</p><p>On May 1, the 21-year-old launched <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Urban-Aggies/199086706882220?fref=ts" target="_blank">Urban Aggies</a>, an incubator for urban agriculture enterprises that he hopes to parlay into a network of farms and small businesses. He is also part of a project administered by the Chicago Botanic Garden, and funded through a three-year USDA effort to rejuvenate food deserts on the city&rsquo;s West and South Sides.</p><p>But trading gang life for garden spades was no simple switch.</p><p>Jones first worked the soil behind bars at the <a href="http://www.cookcountysheriff.org/bootcamp/bootcamp_main.html" target="_blank">Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center</a>, or &ldquo;Boot Camp&rdquo; as it&rsquo;s known. He was arrested for aggravated carjacking at 17, when he was a junior at Crane High School. He waited 15 months in Cook County prison before pleading guilty to a lesser offense, which earned him four months in Boot Camp. In the compound&rsquo;s one-acre garden, he transplanted head lettuce, built raised beds and learned the basics of horticulture, landscaping and gardening.</p><p>After more than a year in a maximum security facility, Jones said he was just happy to be outside. He served his time and took a job at a compost operation right next door to Boot Camp.</p><p>But work is only eight hours each day. He quickly fell back in with his old crowd.</p><p>&ldquo;If I kept coming home to the same situation,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I would never change.&rdquo;</p><p>He signed up for the Chicago Botanic Garden&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.chicagobotanic.org/windycityharvest/" target="_blank">Windy City Harvest</a> program, a nine month training course in sustainable urban horticulture and agriculture, run through Richard J. Daley College. During the program he interned as a manager for the program&rsquo;s Pilsen market stand.</p><p>&ldquo;That started opening my eyes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;A little bit.&rdquo;</p><p>Jones surprised himself by blurting out solutions to garden problems that he didn&rsquo;t think he knew the answers to. But after work he returned to the same environment that landed many of his friends in jail or in the morgue.</p><p>It took a brush with violence for his new life to take root. Jones got caught up in a series of gang disputes that one night found him sobbing on the shore of Lake Michigan, remembering the people he&rsquo;d met in prison who were serving 60 year sentences.</p><p>&ldquo;I just started flashing back to all my cellmates who were never going home,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They traded all this for life in a box.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/darius-jones-2-610px.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 305px; float: left;" title="Darius Jones, at the garden plot he shares on the 200 block of N. Kenneth Ave. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" />His life is different now. He lives with his girlfriend in Humboldt Park, and was recently promoted to sales coordinator at the farmers market.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s all about who you come home to,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>On an 1,800-square-foot lot in West Garfield Park, his is one of three incubator farms for Windy City Harvest&rsquo;s urban agriculture initiative, which last month received $750,000 from USDA&rsquo;s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. He shares half of the growing space with a colleague who grows vegetables for her Smith Park food truck business. Five more beginning farmers on the South and West Sides will join the program over the next three years.</p><p>Urban Aggies&rsquo; first harvest will fill sampler boxes with winterbor kale, carrots, beets, swiss chard and turnips, but Jones said he hopes to expand into value added products like jams and pickles.</p><p>&ldquo;Doing this work gives me time to think,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s very therapeutic.&rdquo;</p><p>He hopes to sell his produce to Inspiration Café, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/former-cop-starts-effort-feed-homeless-little-red-wagon-105219" target="_blank">a neighborhood restaurant that employs formerly incarcerated men and serves people struggling with homelessness and poverty</a>. He said&nbsp;<a href="http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/community/west-garfield-park" target="_blank">the far West Side is still gritty</a>, but Jones is heartened by the support he has received since he turned away from his past.</p><p>&ldquo;The fact that I completely changed my life around,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;is highly respected in the &rsquo;hood.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Several new farmers markets <a href="http://austintalks.org/2012/06/farmers-markets-kick-off-on-west-side/" target="_blank">have cropped up in Jones&#39; neighborhood</a> recently, a trend he said he would be proud to help continue.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 28 May 2013 13:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/gang-life-green-shoots-107391 Englewood seeks celebrity help to keep school open near urban garden http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-seeks-celebrity-help-keep-school-open-near-urban-garden-107120 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/jennifer hudson school_130510_nm (2).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Students at Yale Elementary enjoy spring weather during recess. Laughter wafts from the playground. Girls in school uniforms chat in the grass, away from younger students.</p><p>Next to the school, on 70th Street and Princeton Avenue, is a vast garden, larger than most backyard gardens. Adult volunteers massage the soil to plant daffodils the color of bright sunshine.</p><p>In the summer, this mini-farm&mdash;with the help of children&mdash;will grow tomatoes, greens and dill. The garden is called Eat to Live, and the kids even learn a little bit about urban agriculture and healthy eating in the classroom. Across the street from the garden there&rsquo;s land that will become an urban farm this summer. Eat to Live Englewood will provide residents with a permanent space for food production, community learning and disease prevention education. The goal is to reduce health disparities.</p><p>But Yale is slated to close at the end of the academic year as part of the Chicago Public Schools controversial plan to shutdown 54 schools.</p><p>Pushback against school closings is familiar. Many communities champion their neighborhood school as unique. They argue that a one-size-fits-all policy shouldn&rsquo;t be used to shut their school down. That&rsquo;s true for parents at Yale Elementary School. They say the school&rsquo;s urban garden fits right in with a burgeoning focus on urban agriculture in the larger Englewood community.</p><p>Parts of the Englewood neighborhood are in a food desert. Alisa Ivory&rsquo;s two children attend Yale and she toils in the garden. She and garden neighbor Demetria Scott chat about healthy food and the impact the garden has had on their lives and their childrens&rsquo;.</p><p>&quot;We are some junk food junkies,&quot; Ivory says. &quot;And now my idea is turning away from a lot of junk food. Because that&rsquo;s what it is - junk for your body.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We went to Aldi&rsquo;s one day up the street, Michael was like can we get some plain yogurt and some granola. And some bananas. And I said oh, yeah, Michael, we can get that,&quot; Scott says.</p><p>Behind the garden, on the next street over, is a ghostly boarded-up home. It&rsquo;s the house singer and actress Jennifer Hudson grew up in&mdash;and where members of her family were killed several years ago.</p><p>Hudson attended Yale Elementary. As part of its large restructuring plan, Chicago Public Schools is proposing to close Yale and move its students to Harvard Elementary, about a mile away. Both schools are on the bottom of CPS academic ratings in a poverty-stricken neighborhood.</p><p>Yvette Moyo is the director of Real Men Charities, which started the Yale Eat to Live garden. At one of the school closing hearings, Moyo revealed an idea.</p><p>&ldquo;At the microphone I said, you could have called Jennifer Hudson and asked her is there something you want to do in the area that you grew up in and an area where tragedy took place. Would you like to see it come back to life again and would you play a role in it,&rdquo; Moyo recalls.</p><p>Moyo just learned that Hudson&rsquo;s representatives declined her request. But she figures there are other Chicagoans who might like to help make an urban agriculture elementary school. Quincy Jones, maybe, or Lupe Fiasco, Common, or R. Kelly.&nbsp;</p><p>The city of Chicago is invested in reducing food instability around the neighborhood.</p><p>That&rsquo;s a big reason Moyo doesn&rsquo;t want Yale to close.</p><p>&quot;The vision we&rsquo;ve given to the children for two years is that they&rsquo;re at the cutting edge of everything Chicago will be in the future and that is a part of an urban agriculture movement that not will only provide jobs but businesses for them and their parents, which is what&rsquo;s really missing - the opportunity to be fruitful and to provide for families and communities,&quot; Moyo says. &quot;When we talk about underemployment and the level of literacy the dropout rate of the parents even. This is something that we can provide for the community. And we kind of promised that we&rsquo;ll be there for them, that they have added value by working in the Eat to Live Garden.&quot;</p><p>The school garden at Yale is heading into its second season.</p><p>Moyo says even if Yale closes at the end of the school year, plans for all the farms will continue.</p><p>And she says that&rsquo;s why she&rsquo;ll be going after other groups to help keep the school open.</p><p>So Moyo says she&rsquo;ll keep writing letters to celebrities, and holding onto the garden&rsquo;s mantra: &quot;Everything Good Grows in Englewood.&quot;</p><p><em>Natalie Moore is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">@natalieymoore</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 10 May 2013 09:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-seeks-celebrity-help-keep-school-open-near-urban-garden-107120 Eat it: The Nature Museum serves up food for thought http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/eat-it-nature-museum-serves-food-thought-106246 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_0759.jpeg" style="height: 407px; width: 610px;" title="Food truck? (Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum)" /></p><p>The first thing you see upon entering the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum&rsquo;s new exhibit on food is a 19<sup>th</sup> century hand plow, its modesty a bit disarming as the climax of a walk-up whose walls are splashed with projections of grain nodding majestically in the wind. But that simple tool, which seems downright primitive in a time of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/gmo">genetically modified organisms</a> and <a href="http://www.epa.gov/region07/water/cafo/">concentrated animal feedlots</a>, was revolutionary.</p><p>Steve Sullivan, the Nature Museum&rsquo;s senior curator of urban ecology, said the diverse suite of native species that scientists now see as a hallmark of ecological resilience looked more like a mess to the area&rsquo;s white settlers.</p><p>&ldquo;Illinois was bulletproof,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It was an intact ecosystem.&rdquo; Settlers didn&rsquo;t know how rich the soil was, in other words, because they couldn&rsquo;t access it. Once John Deere helped them turn the soil, they changed the landscape rapidly. Less than one one-hundredth of one percent of Illinois&rsquo; prairie remains today.</p><p>But the bucolic family farm phase that most people picture when they think of homesteaders on the prairie didn&rsquo;t last long, said exhibit curator Alvaro Ramos. For industrial capitalists, efficiency is the mother of invention &mdash; concentrated, mechanized farms quickly took root.</p><p>&ldquo;Now we&rsquo;ve got a lot of food,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;but how good is it?&rdquo; Ramos said the point of the exhibit is not to sow nostalgia, but to push visitors to reexamine their own relationship with food &mdash; and by extension the Earth &mdash; that sustains them.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_0848.jpeg" style="width: 610px;" title="The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's President and CEO Deborah Lahey pushes a 19th-century plow replica with an exhibit guest. (Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum)" /></p><p>Placed throughout the exhibit are &ldquo;human stories&rdquo; placards holding up local examples of agricultural stewardship from past and present: The Murphy Family <a href="https://www.facebook.com/65thandwoodlawn">maintains a community garden at 65<sup>th</sup> and Woodlawn</a> in Chicago; <a href="http://chicagodefender.com/index.php/news/city/14900-fresh-moves-mobile-produce-market">the Fresh Moves truck</a> nourishes food deserts with local produce; <a href="http://www.chiappettimeats.com/">the Chiappetti family</a> lost their savings during the Great Depression, received farmland as repayment from their belly-up bank, and turned a subsistence enterprise in lamb-raising into an inter-generational industry.</p><p>&ldquo;We want to empower people,&rdquo; Sullivan said. &ldquo;By using your neighbor&rsquo;s example, you can see how you can have an impact.&rdquo;</p><p>(Sullivan&rsquo;s impact on the exhibit goes beyond his intellectual input. The taxidermy chicken and rabbit on display? &ldquo;Leftovers from my dinner,&rdquo; he said.)</p><p>Buying local produce isn&rsquo;t going to resurrect the vast swaths of prairie that once blanketed the Midwest &mdash; the deep-reaching root systems of its native grasses holding fast to black soil, nourishing bison and prairie chickens &mdash;but that&rsquo;s not the point. Ramos, the exhibit&rsquo;s curator, said <em>Food</em> is not a history exhibit. All he wants is for visitors to leave knowing that every time they lift a fork or shop for groceries, they&rsquo;re stepping into nature.</p><p><em>&ldquo;Food: The Nature of Eating&rdquo; is open March 23 through Sept. 8 at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.</em></p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at </em><a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley"><em>@Cementley</em></a><em>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 23 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/eat-it-nature-museum-serves-food-thought-106246 Urban farm breaks ground in Englewood http://www.wbez.org/story/urban-farm-breaks-ground-englewood-93170 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-14/026.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The first farm to open under Chicago’s new urban agriculture ordinance broke ground in Englewood on Friday.</p><p>Honore Street Farm will be on 58<sup>th</sup> and 59<sup>th</sup> Street and managed by Growing Home, a nonprofit organic agriculture business that employs individuals who’ve had problems with employment instability or substance-abuse.</p><p>The surrounding neighborhood of Englewood is known to have food deserts – areas lacking retail outlets that sell fresh, healthy food. The farm will open next spring with hoop houses. For more than 20 years, the land had been an abandoned lot.</p><p>The farm is an extension of the existing Wood Street Farm, which operates on the next lot over and grows produce from arugula to spinach to tomatoes.</p><p>Growing Home sees itself as an antidote to the food-desert problem, and Honore Street Farm will help out.</p><p>“This will more than triple what we’re able to produce,” said Harry Rhodes, executive director of Growing Home. “The demand is huge. One of the goals of the Englewood Urban Agriculture Task Force is to create a large number of farms. So we’re showing the way and showing others how it can done. By scaling up we’re showing how urban agriculture can be a business.”</p><p>Until recently, Growing Home said getting the right zoning designation took ropes of red tape. In September, though, the Chicago City Council passed the so-called “urban ag ordinance,” which formally recognizes the field. It expands the size of community gardens to allow for farms and commercial sales. Rhodes said these changes made the groundbreaking of Honore Street Farm much easier.</p><p>As urban farms, Honore and Wood look the part. The farms are near vacant, weed-strewn lots. There’s a viaduct nearby and broken beer glass litter the sidewalks.&nbsp;</p><p>U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) visited the Friday groundbreaking. In between buying vegetables at the Growing Home farm stand, he told WBEZ the farm can help boost the local economy.</p><p>Durbin said farmers markets’ increasing acceptance of food stamps is one way to help eliminate food deserts. But the federal food stamp system – known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – has fallen short. &nbsp;Retail outlets that participate in the program are supposed to offer a modicum of fresh produce and other items, but a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/audio-engineering/federal-food-stamp-program-fails-some-low-income-chicagoans">WBEZ investigation</a> showed these standards are low and rarely enforced.</p><p>“The only question I have in return is, Do these folks have any alternatives nearby?” Durbin said. “The dilemma is we want to make sure there’s some food available. And in many places the options are so limited that if you don’t give that mom with a baby and [the mom has] very little money a place to go for even a loaf of bread, it’s going to be very, very hard for her to get by with food stamps.”</p><p>When asked if the federal government should do a better job, Durbin said, “Of course we should. That’s not good. We’ve got to do a better job giving variety and more opportunity.”</p></p> Sat, 15 Oct 2011 13:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/urban-farm-breaks-ground-englewood-93170 Urban agriculture recognized in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/story/urban-agriculture-recognized-chicago-91720 <p><p>The Chicago City Council passed an amendment to the zoning code that recognizes urban agriculture.</p><p>This now makes urban farming of fruits, vegetables and fish legal in Chicago.</p><p>Farms settled on vacant land have been popping up around the city – particularly in blighted areas. These farms had to jump through hoops for recognition. Now, the zoning code expands the size of community gardens to 25,000 feet to accommodate commercial farms.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel said this could mean thousands of green jobs.</p><p>"This policy is about taking land that we have here in the city of Chicago that is literally sitting fallow both as land as well as a revenue base or tax base and turning it into a job creator and a revenue creator. And there’s great parts of the city where that exists," Emanuel said.</p><p>Urban agriculture is also used to bring fresh produce to communities lacking in healthy food.</p></p> Thu, 08 Sep 2011 22:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/urban-agriculture-recognized-chicago-91720 Proposed Chicago zoning change to cut red tape for urban agriculture http://www.wbez.org/story/proposed-chicago-zoning-change-cut-red-tape-urban-agriculture-89670 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-27/City Farm_Flickr_Piush Dahal.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Urban agriculture is a growing movement in Chicago to help increase access to healthy food – especially in food deserts. But there’s nothing in the city’s zoning code that formally recognizes farming.</p><p>A proposed ordinance would make it easier for urban agriculture to take place in the city of Chicago.</p><p>For months, the food justice community has been working on an ordinance. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he’s proposing one this week to city council.</p><p>Emanuel announced the initiative at Iron Street Urban Farm, a former abandoned truck depot in the Bridgeport neighborhood. The farm plans to grow fresh produce year round.</p><p>“Our ordinance will deal with the ability of turning a plot like this that was an eyesore into an economic engine in the neighborhood. That’s one – creating hundreds of jobs just here and there’s thousands of sites like this throughout the city,” Emanuel said.</p><p>The proposed ordinance would expand the size of community gardens that would, in turn, allow for farms. Urban agriculture workers and advocates say these proposed reforms are promising. Erika Allen is with Growing Power and says this new ordinance is better than the one that was being worked on. It also allows for more space and recognizes aquaponics, a sustainable fish production system.</p><p>“This ordinance that’s being presented will make our work legal,” Allen said.</p></p> Tue, 26 Jul 2011 18:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/proposed-chicago-zoning-change-cut-red-tape-urban-agriculture-89670