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Want To Start An Urban Farm? The City Could Help You Pay For It

The program aims to help divested neighborhoods get better access to fresh produce by supporting long-term efforts to grow food, city officials said.

Mecca Bey weeds at Sistas in the Village’s urban farm, 5800 S. Ada St., in Englewood on June 17, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Grants are now available for Chicagoans interested in sprouting their own urban gardens as the city aims to boost urban agriculture throughout the city.

Applications for the city’s Community Growers Program are now open through April 1, according to the city.

Growers who already have access to land — as well as growers seeking land — are eligible to get support. An application here allows people to sign up with basic information or provide further details about their proposed project.

Home gardeners should not apply. The grants are intended for businesses, nonprofits, startups and other entrepreneurs interested in making a long-term investment in growing and maintaining an urban farm to increase food access, city spokesperson Elisa Sledzinska said. 

The city’s $2 million investment in the growers program is paid for by pandemic relief funds from the Chicago Recovery Plan, according to a city news release.

Applicants will be assessed through a “competitive request for proposal process” by sustainability nonprofit NeighborSpace. Food advocacy and urban agriculture groups Chicago Food Policy Action Committee, Community Food Navigator, DePaul Steans Center, Grow Greater Englewood, Advocates for Urban Agriculture, Urban Growers Collective and Windy City Harvest also are partners on the project.

The growers program is intended to “increase food equity in communities with a history of disinvestment” by building gardens for local growers, according to the news release. It will provide business opportunities for neighbors and more options to pick up fresh produce by encouraging the development of urban agriculture sites by local growers,, according to the news release.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the fragility of our food system and the inequities embedded within it,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in the news release. “Through the Community Growers Program, we will enable us to use our urban agriculture to create a more equitable and resilient food system and supply food insecure residents with healthy and abundant options.” 

Food deserts have been an ongoing issue in the city, with some big box stores closing on the South and West sides.

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