Home Grown Chicago

June 10, 2009 at 7:28 pm

“We get damn good food,” says Orrin Williams, case manager and new programs developer at Growing Home, Inc.

Growing Home, a nonprofit organization funded in part by the city of Chicago, offers education and training in the business of organic farming and agriculture for people who often come from situations of low income.

Participants, or interns, in the seven month training program receive a variety of hands-on training experience overseen by four full-time farmers at Growing Home’s three farm sites—the Les Brown Memorial Farm in Marseilles, Ill., the Su Casa Market Garden at 51st Ave. and Laflin St. in Chicago and the Wood Street Urban Farm, 5814 S. Wood St., in Chicago. “Our farmers work hard to provide top notch produce to our customers,” says Tegan Brace, Growing Home’s programs coordinator. (Both the Les Brown farm and the Su Casa garden are certified organic farms, while the Wood Street farm is currently pending certification.)

Two views of the Wood St. farm
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“The concept of Growing Home is to see an entire growing season,” says Rebekah Silverman, associate director for resource development. Learning to grow organic produce in a sustainable manner is emphasized within the program. “One of our goals is to further healthy organic food systems,” she says. The training lasts from April through October, and also includes courses on subjects such as market math and personal money management. “A lot of the people have never had a job, ever,” says Silverman.

While most of Growing Home’s interns do not go on to seek agriculturally based jobs, Silverman says that about 3 percent do go on to become farmers. The organization provides the services of a job developer to aid interns in finding jobs after completing the program.

Along with grants from the city of Chicago, Growing Home is funded by earned income from produce, donations, government funding and their annual benefit, which includes a five-course meal made from Growing Home foodstuffs by chefs from Nia Mediterranean Tapas, Bistro Campagne, Vie, Charlie Trotter’s and Eli’s Cheesecake.

Growing Home’s produce is sold wholesale and can be found at the Green City Market on Saturdays, the Englewood Farmer’s Market on Thursdays and at the Wood Street Urban Farm on Wednesdays.