Urban Farms Helping Chicago Neighborhoods Grow More Than Vegetables; ‘We Can Really Impact The Community’

CHICAGO (CBS) — Thousands of acres in Chicago are little more than empty fields.

But CBS 2 Morning Insider Vince Gerasole learned they could sprout jobs and economic opportunity by converting them into farms. He spent a day down on the farm getting to know the people who work the soil.

“I get to eat a lot of good vegetables and grow a lot of vegetables,” said Urban Growers Collective production manager Malcolm Evans. “I can put in a lot of work and get a lot of love out of it.”

Evans grew up in the Cabrini Green public housing complex, so he didn’t know much about farming – or even where vegetables came from – until he started with Urban Growers in 2003.

He’s now worked in urban farming for 16 years.


Denver urban farming trend grows from a Sloan’s Lake condo tower to a Larimer Square parking garage

DENVER CO – JULY 26: Emily Lawler, farm manger, works outside at Altius Farms, in the RiNo neighborhood, on July 26, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. The urban agriculture sells items to local restaurants. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

It was 8:15 Tuesday morning and the greenhouse was just waking up for the day.

Spurred by an electrical panel that serves as its brain, its roof vents had popped open, letting in the cool, morning air.

Meanwhile, the human staff of Altius Farms was already busy doing its work. Moving among rows of aeroponic growing towers the pickers plucked leafy greens, herbs and edible flowers like Genovese basil and red Russian kale, washed them and packed them in coolers.

Within hours the harvest would be distributed to some of Altius’ three dozen odd regular and seasonal customers in the Denver area including top restaurants and grocers like Choice Market and Marczyk Fine Foods.


Farm Lot 59 Continues To Grow

Sasha Kanno is the eternal optimist.

The founder and farmer of Farm Lot 59, an organic farm, retail spot and education center that sits on a one-acre site surrounded by oil fields, is absolutely convinced that the people of this city need a business like hers.


“I’m just a one-woman show here,” she said. “It’s a very expensive operation. We are looking for a grant to fund it. (Long Beach) Park and Rec is supposed to do some improvements to the area. Some improvements need to happen to re-open the stand.”

Created in 2010, and located at 2714 California Ave., Farm Lot 59 has historical ties to the city’s past. According to the University of California’s Urban Agriculture website, the property is one of the last remnants of a 20-acre farm lot subdivided by the American Colony Tract in the late 1800s.


Got dirt? Grow food cheaply.

LANSING — The city is growing — in population and also vertically.

Tomatoes, greens, squash and more sprout in garden plots and small farms across Lansing.

More than 100 community gardens are tucked into vacant lots sitting in Lansing neighborhoods, their use coordinated by the Ingham County Land Bank, which owns them.

There were only nine such gardens in 1983 that were managed through the Garden Project, a Greater Lansing Food Bank program that’s partnered with the land bank.

“(It’s) growing every year,” said Dilli Chapagai, 31, a liaison to immigrants and refugees through the Garden Project.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE Lansing State Journal

A NYC Urban Garden Teaches Youth Community and Justice

“Community Roots uses the entire city as a classroom. It sees place-based learning as essential to teaching and learning. Urban gardening serves as a departure point for learning about land and relationships, as well as food, consumer culture, and social activism.”

“Raven, a student who grew up in Coney Island, recalls a reading in Community Roots class from Brazilian educator and theorist Paulo Freire’s book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire introduced an approach called problem-posing: teachers and students teach and learn together. Their major subjects of inquiry include themselves, each other and the ideas and issues that shape their realities and relationships.”

“Community Roots attracts many students like Iris and Raven: immigrants, children of immigrants and first-generation college students. Each student brings to the class deep, rich experiences of food, of places that are important to them, and their own relationships to these things. Learning starts in the garden and branches out into related themes and different parts of the city. When students make connections through critical thinking and relationships, their capacities to lead in their families and communities is strengthened.”


Part of Broadway becomes an urban garden for the summer

A pop-up urban garden has taken over a small slice of Broadway for the summer.

This week, the Garment District Alliance announced the return of a seasonal pedestrian plaza to the neighborhood. The space is located along Broadway between 37th and 38th Streets, a block that was converted into public space.

The garden features a mural by Ecuadorian-born artist Carla Torres, called Nymph Pond. The 180-foot-long mural was inspired by a small pond in the Galapagos Islands that she would visit often when back home.

Part of the summer plazas program, the garden offers additional space for pedestrians and cyclists, along with birch trees, planters, turf, café tables, and chairs. The space will be open until August 31, and every Wednesday there will be free lemonade and music.

“Over the past few years, the Garment District Urban Garden has served as a vibrant, welcoming outdoor space for the public to enjoy during the summer in the heart of Midtown Manhattan,” Barbara A. Blair, president of the Garment District Alliance, said in a statement.


This Librarian Turned Her Backyard into an Urban Eden, One Plant at a Time

It began with a packet of seeds. Growing up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Nasim Parveen was mesmerized by the lush flowers she saw growing in neighbors’ gardens. As a second grader, she begged her father for a garden of their own, but he rebuffed her, saying, “No, this is dirty stuff.” After many entreaties on her part, he finally relented and bought her a packet of seeds. When she returned from school one day to see that those seeds had produced plants with purple blossoms, she was smitten.

“I said, ‘Oh, this is something,” Parveen recalls. Thus began her lifelong passion for plants and gardening. A librarian at BU’s Stone Science Library, Parveen (Wheelock’83,’86) has plied her green thumb from one continent to another. And for the past 17 years, her passion project has been her quarter-acre backyard garden at her West Roxbury home. When she bought the house, it was still under construction. The lot had previously been used by the city of Boston to store salt and sand in winter and when she bought it, there wasn’t a tree or shrub anywhere in sight. But, she says, she instantly knew “this is the place I have to have.” At the time, she was going through a divorce and both of her children were attending Boston Latin School. To keep them enrolled there, she had to live in the city limits. But she immediately saw the numerous possibilities the blank canvas of the empty backyard provided.


Quick Maturing Crops You Can Grow Almost ANYWHERE!

Don’t let space or time hold you back from growing your own food! There are plenty of things you can plant in your garden, windowsill or tiny patio that will produce in less than 45 days. In some cases, you can even enjoy homegrown food in less than 1 week! Here are our top selections if you’re short on time & space in the garden.

Sprouts / Microgreens – Ready to eat in 3 days to 2 weeks

Each and every living seed will grow into a plant. It’s when that seed begins to grow (germinate) that we call the beginning growth stage of the plant a “sprout”. They are a convenient way to have fresh vegetables for salads, or otherwise, in any season and can be germinated at home or produced industrially. Sprouts are said to be rich in digestible energy, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, and phytochemicals! See MORE Sprout/Microgreen Varieties, here! 


Swiss Chard – Ready to eat in about 5 weeks

Chard is a leafy green vegetable often used in Mediterranean cooking. Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads. Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked or sauteed; their bitterness fades with cooking, leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of cooked spinach. See MORE Swiss Chard Varieties, here!


Zucchini Squash – Ready to eat in about 6 weeks

Though considered a vegetable in cooking, botanically speaking, squash is a fruit (being the receptacle for the plant’s seeds). Squash can be served fresh (in salads) and cooked (squash stuffed with meat, fried squash, baked squash). See MORE Squash Varieties, here!


Spinach – Ready to eat in about 5 weeks

Spinach can grow anywhere there is at least a month and a half of cool growing weather. Spinach is a cool-season crop, hardy to frosts and light freezes. In rows 12 inches apart, space seedlings 3 inches apart. After thinning, cover the plants with row covers to keep the pests away.  (Soak seeds overnight before planting because it germinates slowly.) See MORE Spinach varieties, here!


Radishes – Ready to eat in 4 weeks

Radishes are a fast-growing, cool-season crop that can be harvested in as little as twenty days.  Eaten raw they can be whole, sliced, diced, or grated. You can also cook and pickle them. Most of them are typically eaten fresh and make a good addition to a salad or a substitute to pepper on a sandwich. See MORE Radish varieties, here!


Tiny Tim Tomatoes – Ready to eat in about 6-8 weeks

The Tiny Tim tomato plant is a dwarf type plant produces excellent yields of ¾” – 1″  bright red cherry tomatoes. They are perfect for patio gardens. Grows well in pots, containers, and windowsill gardens. See MORE Tomato varieties, here!


Mustard Greens – Ready to eat in about 6 weeks

Growing mustards are a quick and easy crop to grow in your home garden.  They are a spicy green, which will quickly become one of your favorite crops. When growing from seed, start them outdoors 3 weeks before the last frost. For a more steady harvest, plant seeds about every 3 weeks or every month to give you a successive harvest. Mustard greens prefer cooler weather, so plant late in the summer for a fall harvest, or very early in spring before the summer heat sets in. See MORE Mustard varieties, here!


Lettuce – Ready to eat in as little as 6-8 weeks

Seed should be sown thinly in rows 1 foot apart; for leaf types, thin plants to 2-3 inches apart, then thin again by pulling every other plant when half-grown. This will encourage thickly developed plants. For head types, space rows 18 inches apart, plants 8-10 inches apart. Closer spacing results in smaller heads, which may be preferable for small families. Specialty growers are spacing lettuce very close for selling baby lettuces, a rapidly growing produce market. See MORE Lettuce varieties, here!


9 of The Best Vegetables to Grow in Small Gardens

Gardening in a small space can be just as rewarding and fun as growing in a large garden area.  These days, urban gardeners are growing more of their own food in sometimes less than 100 square feet.  Balconies, patios, even indoor windowsills are a great place to grow vegetables and herbs.  Almost anything can be grown in a container, and if you’re wanting to know what you should plant to maximize your yield in a small area, here are 9 of the best vegetables/herbs to grow in a small garden.

1. Shallots:

Space shallots approx. 4-6 inches apart with the rows 18 inches apart. Plant the bulb root side down, the top of the bulb 1 inch below the surface. Planting too deep grows elongated bulbs that don’t store well.

2. Carrots:

Sow seeds evenly in a very shallow trench, about 1/4 inch deep. Keep seeds moist so they will germinate. Space rows about 12″ apart and when the first leaves emerge, thin to 1″ apart; when true leaves emerge, thin to 3″ apart.

3. Cherry Tomatoes:

To start tomatoes indoors, sow seeds using expanding seed starting soil pods about 8 weeks before the last frost date for your area. Seedlings will be spindly with less than 12-14 hours of light per day, try to keep them in a warm sunny location. When seedlings have 4 leaves, transfer to a deeper pot (3-4″) and again when 8-10 inches tall. Each time, place the uppermost leaves just above the soil line and remove all lower leaves. Transplant (see: guide to transplanting) into the garden when the stem above the soil has reached 8-10 inches tall. Be sure to harden them off before transplanting them outdoors. Allow up to 10 days for the tomato plants to harden off to the outside temperature fluctuations.

4. Runner Beans:

Set three 6 foot poles in the ground, tepee fashion, and tie together at the top. Leave 3 to 4 feet between the pole groups. Make a hill at the base of each pole, enriched with compost or well-rotted manure, and plant 6-8 seeds in each. After the second pair of true leaves appear, thin to 3 plants per pole. With regular harvesting, the pole beans should bear all summer.

5. Garlic:

Break apart cloves from bulb but keep the papery husk on each individual clove.
Ensure soil is well-drained with plenty of organic matter. Plant in Full Sun.
Plant 4 inches apart & 2 inches deep, in their upright position (the wide end down and pointed end facing up). Come springtime, shoots will begin to emerge.

6. Kale:

Plant Kale in rows 18 inches to 2 feet apart. When the seedlings are 3 or more inches high, thin plants to 10 inches apart (read about thinning) and use the thinnings for salads or as a cooked vegetable.

7. Basil:

Try to space your basil plants about 12 inches apart. As long as you harvest the leaves when they are young, basil plants make a wonderful container crop.

8. Lettuce:

Seed should be sown thinly in rows 1 foot apart; for leaf types, thin plants to 2-3 inches apart, then thin again by pulling every other plant when half grown. This will encourage thickly developed plants. For head, Bibb, and cos types, space rows 18 inches apart, plants 8-10 inches apart. Closer spacing results in smaller heads, which may be preferable for small families.

9. Beets:

Sow seed 1/2 inch deep in rows 12-18 inches apart. The beet seed is a compact ball of many tiny seeds. Many plants germinate where each seed is sown, so seed should be placed sparingly. When seedlings are 4-6 inches high, thin plants to stand 1 1/2 inches apart. (They can be used in salad or cooked like spinach.) Then, as these beets grow to about an inch in diameter, pull every other one to allow larger beets to grow.


Join the Newest Organic Gardening Group on Facebook!

✅ “Urban Organic Gardeners”

Post YOUR practical container gardening tips and encourage others to grow their own food. Share your gardening pictures, tips, or questions today. 🤗See you there! 💪Let’s build this community!