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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Grants For Black And Brown Farmers Aim To Bring More Fresh Food To South And West Sides

People of color who own farms can apply for a piece of $650,000 in grant funding available through the Fresh Food from Farmers of Color Fund.

Liz Abunaw operates the Forty Acres produce stand at the PCC Farm Market.
Pascal Sabino/ Block Club Chicago
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WOODLAWN — A new grant from the Fresh Food from Farmers of Color Fund will help Black- and Brown-owned farms grow their operations so they can better serve South and West Siders.

Farms owned and operated by Black people, Indigenous people and people of color can apply for funding through Sept. 7. Grantees will be chosen and funds will be awarded by Sept. 30.

Applicants don’t have to be located on the South or West sides, said Michelle E.L. Merritt, the fund’s program director. But they must be willing to service the area or already have an active program providing fresh food to its residents.

The grant money can go toward anything “from compost to a capital investment — however they’re able to use these funds to expand their operations so they can increase their food production, which in turn provides food for community residents,” Merritt said.

The $650,000 program is funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services. The Woodlawn-based Experimental Station, which runs the 61st Street Farmers Market, is managing the application process and will select the grantees.

“With the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on both residents and farmers, we are eager to provide these grants to further provide South and West Side communities with access to fresh produce,” Experimental Station executive director Connie Spreen said in a statement.

The grant application went live Aug. 7 — the same day a project to bring an urban farm to Auburn Gresham received $2 million in state funding, and just one day after the farm was part of the winning submission for the $10 million Chicago Prize.

The public and private funding for the Always Growing Auburn Gresham project is “a wonderful recognition” of the Black-operated Urban Growers Collective, Merritt said.

She hopes the awarding of grant funds for other farmers of color can keep the momentum going and help address the need for farms and produce in Black and Brown neighborhoods.

“There’s definitely work that needs to continue to happen to support farmers of color in the city, as well as to [address] barriers that many communities have to accessing fresh fruit and vegetables,” she said.

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