Chicago Abandoned Lots Eyed for Food-Producing Urban Farms

By Victoria Johnson on June 7, 2013 8:41am 

 A lot in the 400 block of North Kedzie Avenue is being transformed into an urban farm that will produce fresh produce for low-income residents.
A lot in the 400 block of North Kedzie Avenue is being transformed into an urban farm that will produce fresh produce for low-income residents.
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DNAInfo/Victoria Johnson

HUMBOLDT PARK — In a deal put before the City Council this week, 11 city-owned lots on the southern end of Humboldt Park are on their way to becoming veggie-laden urban farms bearing fresh produce for needy residents.

The proposal would see the lots — in the 400 block of North Kedzie, Albany and Whipple Avenues — sold to NeighborSpace for $1 a piece to be converted into a 2.6 acres of urban farmland.

Though the land will go to NeighborSpace, a nonprofit that works to provide and sustain urban gardening plots, Heartland Human Care Services will manage the land and distribute the produce to local food pantries.

"I can't tell you how excited I am to get this going," said Dave Snyder, program manager for the project, dubbed Chicago Farmworks. "I think it's just going to be an absolutely, incredibly exciting project."

Chicago Farmworks has already gotten started on a plot in the 400 block of North Kedzie, which straddles the communities it will serve, Humboldt Park and East Garfield Park.

"The city's committed, we're committed, NeighborSpace is committed, so we've already developed the first phase of the space, which is about half an acre," Snyder said.

The group has planted zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, cabbage, and onions to start, creating a true urban farm that can be seen next to the Metra tracks just off Fulton Street and Kedzie Avenue.

The produce will go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which distributes food throughout Cook County.

"So this way we're going to get high-quality, local, responsibly-grown produce to low-income residents," Snyder said.

The proposal has yet to go to a City Council vote but, in the meantime, Snyder said Heartland will use the Kedzie plot as a practice model for the rest of the lots.

"There's so much promise in the site right now," he said. "The city's willing to play ball and so are nonprofits like Heartland."

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