Growing Home Inc. is more than a producer of local, organic produce. Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Tim Murakami, Growing Home’s Urban Farm Manager. Murakami is responsible for the production and business aspect of Growing Home’s urban farms based in Chicago, IL, but Growing Home primarily functions as a job training program. Founded in 1996 by Les Brown, Growing Home was launched to provide job training to Chicagoans in need. Brown was inspired by his work at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to provide individuals in transition with a sense of purpose and the chance to break the cycle of homelessness. Brown passed away in 2005, but his mission lives on.
Growing Home currently operates four sites—a ten-acre farm in Marseilles, IL and three urban sites in the city of Chicago. Two of the gardens are next door to each other in the West Englewood neighborhood, while the other is about one mile away and works in partnership with another organization, Su Casa. Murakami explained, “Growing Home operates in three main ways: job training, organic urban agriculture, and community development.” Their work in the Englewood neighborhood is part of Teamwork Englewood, an initiative formed in 2003 as part of the New Communities Program, to unite organizations working in the neighborhood to build a stronger community and promote healthy lifestyles for residents. “Our Englewood location is important to our mission; it brings fresh produce to an area [in which it is] otherwise scarce,” said Murakami.
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ABOUT GROWING HOME
Growing Home is the leading social enterprise focused on empowering people and communities with Chicago’s first USDA-Certified Organic, high-production urban farms.
With farms in the Englewood and Back of the Yards neighborhoods, as well as the 10-acre Les Brown Memorial Farm in Marseilles, Illinois, Growing Home seeks to operate, promote, and demonstrate the use of organic agriculture as a vehicle for job training, employment, and community development.
Growing Home provides transitional employment and green industry training to Chicagoans motivated to reenter the workforce. We work with individuals who have had difficulty obtaining employment due to histories of incarceration, homelessness, or substance dependence, who are ready to rebuild their lives. Through a social enterprise business based on organic agriculture, interns learn specialized skills in agriculture and landscaping, food service, and/or customer service, as well as general workplace and life skills. Our program provides hands-on experience, education, and interpersonal skills that prepare our interns for a variety of careers in growing Chicago industries.
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