urban agricolture


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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.



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.




How healthy is urban horticulture in high traffic areas? Trace metal concentrations in vegetable crops.

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A study by:

Ina Säumel a,*, Iryna Kotsyuk b, Marie Hölscher a, Claudia Lenkereit a, Frauke Weber a, Ingo Kowarik a

a Department of Ecology, Technische Universität Berlin, Rothenburgstr. 12, D-12165 Berlin, Germany

b Botanical Garden of Khmelnitskij National University, str. Instytutska 11, Khmelnitsky 29016, Ukraine

High traffic burden near the planting site, i.e. <10 m, resulted in 67% of crops having Pb values which exceeded the standards of the European Union. In contrast, only 38% of the crops grown at the distance of more than 10 m from the nearest street exceeded these values. Only 37% of samples had critical Pb values when crops were grown behind a barrier (buildings and/or tall vegetation) between the cultivation site and the next street, while more than half (52%) of all samples collected at sampling sites without such a barrier had critical Pb values. Almost no sample collected in this study exceeded the standards of the European Union for cadmium concentration in food crops. Surprisingly, vegetables which had been planted directly in urban soil beds had lead values above the critical value less often (40%) than vegetables planted in beds filled with commercial soils or planted in pots (50%).

More info:

journal homepage: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/envpol