Today, the South Chicago Farm is getting a new outdoor studio space that will be used for community activities. The new space is expected to host art classes and culinary training. Volunteers from around the area are gathered at the farm to help prepare the area for construction as well as give a hand in other farm tasks like harvesting medicinal and culinary herbs and maintaining the greenhouses.
The volunteer-driven activity is led by the Urban Growers Collective (UGC), a Black- and woman-led nonprofit, and Love, Tito’s, the charitable arm of the Texas-based vodka distillery Tito’s. The two have joined forces for a “block-to-block community garden and farm program.” The program aims to increase access to fresh and healthy food by working with neighborhood nonprofits and volunteers to develop green spaces, community gardens and farms.
“Everyone eats, and it seems that we should all have equal access to high quality food. I felt this was an area that wasn’t being addressed in Chicago and it is a tangible way to impact people’s lives and mental health. Without our basic needs being met, its difficult to progress and shift the dynamics of trauma,” Erika Allen, the CEO and cofounder of UGC, told Big Green. “Healing is the precursor for so much in the communities we all work in here in Chicago.”
As of 2022, UGC, through its community farms, has harvested over 20,500 pounds of fresh produce for Chicago. It has also donated over $350,000 worth of food to families on the West and South Sides. These are all on top of the other programs it runs.
The collective operates eight farms over eleven acres of land. The South Chicago Farm covers seven acres of land and is located on the 15-acre Schafer Park which is under the administrative oversight of the Chicago Park District. The farm acts as a practical teaching space for on-the-job education and training in agriculture. It’s the training grounds for UGC’s apprenticeship programs.
One of their notable programs, the Grower Apprenticeship Program, is a three-year practical adult education training that aims to direct participants toward economically successful agricultural businesses through cooperative growing, aggregation, and profit sharing. It helps to teach individuals who are in the early stages of their agricultural careers the skills they will need to build their businesses. The apprenticeship involves training, coaching and practice. Ultimately it hopes to hone farmers with good business acumen and help establish economically, ecologically, and socially sustainable agribusinesses.
If you are interested volunteering for the farm, you can visit https://urbangrowerscollective.org/volunteer/.