The modern farmer is changing fast, with the terrain for food production and urban farming at the center of this transition.
Urban farming can mean produce gardens in backyards, rooftops and assigned city land plots as well as farming systems such as aquaponics, an agricultural approach where fish wastes nourish plants growing in water that it recycled once plants soak up the nutrients and purify the water.
Transporting food contributes to the fossil fuels emissions associated with global warming while producing more locally-grown food can mitigate this issue. Under Chicago Botanic Garden, Windy City Harvest offers urban agriculture education and jobs-training initiatives to help build up local food systems, foster healthier communities, and make the economy greener. At Windy City Harvest, volunteers and staff are at the forefront of this mission.
I visited the Arturo Velasquez Institute, 2800 S. Western Ave., and spoke with volunteers and growers. Melanie Carter is a formally trained chef who loves growing food and Nick Irizarry is a current Windy City Harvest Urban Agriculture apprentice. The two of them explained their vertical farming techniques, their aquaponics system, and showed me around their plush garden inside the greenhouse.
Most of the food that is harvested from the greenhouse will be discounted and distributed to people in the neighborhood.
“You’re achieving something bigger than yourself and you feel like you’re giving back,” Carter said.
Windy City Harvest operates several urban gardens in the Chicago area and the not-for-profit’s main garden is at 3555 Ogden Ave., where classes also are held.
Photo at top: “I did the urban agriculture apprenticeship program. I bring my training full circle because I wanted to keep teaching kids cooking and gardening,” Melanie Carter said. (Briana Garrett/MEDILL)