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Mayor on Urban Garden: 'Now I know where to come when I want a good salad'

By Wendell Hutson | April 24, 2013 3:40pm

ENGLEWOOD — Every Wednesday, Veronica Hawes said she goes to the Growing Home Farm to buy greens and tomatoes to cook for dinner.

"I love this place. I come here all the time and last year took a class on how to start a vegetable garden," said the insurance agent, who lives in Auburn Gresham. "This place is better than any grocery store you could think of when it comes to fresh vegetables."

Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th), whose ward includes the farm at 5835 S. Wolcott Ave., agreed.

"We need more urban gardens in Chicago. Once you get vegetables from here, it will be hard to go anywhere else," Foulkes said. "The garden helps a little bit with the food desert problem in Englewood."

The farm is open to the public every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. All major credit cards, including the Link card, are accepted.

Plans for developing the garden are already under way thanks to assistance from the city, said Harry Rhodes, executive director of Growing Home, a non-profit organization that operates the Englewood farm.

"The farm here in Englewood is the city's first organic farm, and now we want to expand the farm beyond its current 1.5 acres and onto the other 28 acres of land available," Rhodes said.

Ideally, Foulkes said she would like to see an urban farm occupy every vacant lot in Englewood.

"And trust me, we have plenty of vacant lots. The city owns something like 2,500 lots in Englewood," Foulkes said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday visited the Englewood farm, which he said is part of the Chicago Neighborhoods Now initiative.

"Delicious," described the mayor as he sampled some horse radish from the farm. "Now I know where to come when I want a good salad."

The mayor pointed out that the Englewood farm is one of several projects the city is assisting to help develop the economically challenged South Side community.

Other upcoming Englewood projects the mayor said being developed through the sale of city-owned lots are a rail yard expansion by Norfolk Southern, and a new, 73-unit apartment building for low-income veterans.

"When we [the City of Chicago) get through with Englewood, you will not know what hit you," he said at a Wednesday news conference. "More training classes are being developed for residents interested in an agricultural career. And by expanding the farm it would create 3,500 new jobs and provide access to healthy eating."