(Chicago) – Standing with the staff and farm stand customers of the Growing Home urban, organic farm in Englewood, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, last week highlighted the new project as helping to establish one of the nation’s largest urban agricultural districts.
Emanuel said, “By investing in the expansion of community projects like Growing Home, we are making more strategic use of Englewood’s assets.”
Growing Home and the City worked together to utilize city-owned vacant lots to expand to 1.5 acres. Growing Home is also quadrupling its workforce training initiatives to 80 people per year and tripling its produce output to 40,000 pounds of produce per year, much of which will be sold to local residents to help address Chicago’s food desert problem.
“The growth of urban agriculture in Englewood and throughout Chicago means more fresh food, but it also means more workforce training, more income for participants, and more productive uses for vacant land,” said Harry Rhodes, Growing Home executive director.
Nevertheless, a top Chicago nutrition policy expert, while praising the mayor’s urban farm initiative to help battle food deserts, noted that “poverty” was the key driver of food deserts.
“The expansion of urban agriculture in low-income neighborhoods does expand the availability of fresh, nutritious food which is critical in the battle against chronic disease, but the question of affordability remains to be solved,” said Deborah Hinde, Chief Healthcare Strategist at the Vital Bridges Center on Chronic Care, a program of Heartland Health Outreach, Inc.
“By including urban farm initiatives as part of Chicago’s work force development strategy and employing some community members in food growth, this nudges affordability forward, but to solve the broader community problem of food deserts – poverty – more remains to be done,” Hinde added.
Growing Home is also participating in a recently announced farmer incubation network that is helping to train individuals for the urban farms of tomorrow.
More than 40 acres of land are envisioned for agriculture-related uses in Englewood, primarily along the “Englewood Line,” a three-mile-long abandoned railroad viaduct adjacent to 59th Street that’s being planned as both a linear park and the spine of the Englewood agriculture district.