Urban Farming and Community Gardening in the Chicago Region

by Randi Howry for SUST 210

Now more than ever, it is important for people to understand the origin of their food. We read labels, conduct research, meet farmers and ultimately gain a greater understanding of where some of our produce originates. A great way for people to have control over where their food is coming from is to grow it themselves. While Chicago is a dense city, innovative citizens have created a way to grown their own produce within and beyond the city limits through community gardens and urban farming.

Howry 210 blog imageTwo Chicago suburbs, Lake Zurich and Oak Ridge, have each spearheaded projects to bring massive community gardens to life. The beautiful thing about the community garden is that they are often run by volunteers, and the plots are reserved by people who truly want to participate in the project. There are, however, a few rules to this community garden. Gardeners must pay a small fee for the plots and they must be able to properly care for the land. This includes using organic herbicides as well as tending to the garden regularly to ensure the garden’s success. The garden in Oak Ridge was completed in the spring of 2014, and almost all of the available plots were reserved.

The idea of a community garden is being more widely accepted and in the last few years, City of Chicago officials have gotten on board. Former Mayor Daley supported urban farming and signed off on zoning regulations to allow for it to proceed on a more intensive scale. This is a wonderful thing for the community of urban farmers because they feared being shut down. This would be due to zoning regulations, limiting fencing, landscaping requirements, and plot size. Another problem here is that urban soil is usually tainted with lead, arsenic, or other toxins. This leads to an increased cost in starting the gardens because the soil typically needs to be replaced.

With 7 billion people in the world, we need to find ways to lessen our footprints and to be more self-sufficient. Urban farming allows for a region of city-locked people to be able to provide for themselves. The trick to having a successful community garden is to be resourceful and make use of the space that you have.

Each week during the Fall 2014 semester, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 210 Sustainable Future and SUST 240 Waste classes at Roosevelt University will contribute blog posts on urban and suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

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About Suburban Sustainability

Founder and editor of the Schaumburg's Sustainability Future social media project (est. Earth Day, 2011)
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