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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

A West Side Urban Farm That Grows Produce For Food Pantries Is Poised To Expand

Chicago Farmworks is eyeing two lots to expand its urban farm, which grows fruits and vegetables for local food pantries.

Crops at Chicago Farmworks are grown for local food pantries.
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GARFIELD PARK — A West Side urban farm will soon have more space to grow fresh fruits and veggies for people experiencing food insecurity.

Chicago Farmworks, a Garfield Park urban farm that grows produce for local food pantries, wants to expand onto two additional lots next to its 411 N. Kedzie Ave. site.

City Council’s committee for special events, cultural affairs and recreation voted unanimously Thursday to give Chicago Farmworks $75,000 to buy the land. The full City Council will vote on the measure at its Nov. 17 meeting.

Chicago Farmworks is a collaborative project between Heartland Alliance, the city of Chicago, NeighborSpace and the Greater Chicago Food Depository aimed at tackling food insecurity. The 2 acres used by the farm are owned by NeighborSpace.

The farm produces more than 30,000 servings of fresh produce each year, said Josephine Mathias-Porter, program supervisor for Farmworks. Growing the farm is important since the demand for fresh produce at food pantries has increased during the pandemic, she said.

“These additional sites would help us expand on that production,” she said.

The expansion will allow Farmworks to finish its final phase of development and bring its original plan for the urban farm into fruition, said Ben Helphand, executive director for NeighborSpace.

The farm site is broken up by two narrow strips of land that are not owned by NeighborSpace. One is owned by the Cook County Land Bank, which has agreed to sell the land, and the other is privately owned.

“Heartland Alliance has been doing a great job for years on Farmworks. We just want to complete the original vision,” Helphand said. “It’s always awkward to have a private lot in the middle of your project.”

Food grown at the farm goes to Vital Bridges Food Pantry, which has three locations around the city, including one near the farm.

“It’s all organic as well as regenerative. We’re also trying to maintain the soil health at these sites,” Mathias-Porter said.

Each winter, Farmworks conducts a survey with residents who get food from the pantry to figure out what kinds of produce they want. The farm plans crops to match the kinds of food requested by people who rely on the food pantry, Mathias-Porter said.

“If they’re saying they’re not getting enough fruit, we plant some strawberries,” she said. “We’re also trying to eliminate food waste by growing specifically what participants requested.”

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