Urban Farmer Round-up
Re-cap of the Midwest Urban Farmers Summit by Adam Peterson, GCM Program Coordinator
This weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Midwest Urban Farmers Summit at The Plant in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Attendees traveled from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan to attend the event. This years keynote consisted of state Rep. Sonya Harper, Christy Webber of Christy Webber Landscapes, and Rodrigo Cala of Cala Farms Origines in Turtle Lake, WI. Most of the discussion surrounded what we are doing within Chicago to promote greater job training and skill building, nutrition education, and decreasing barriers to entry for starting community gardens, urban agriculture initiatives, and kitchen & garden education.
One of the biggest barriers in Illinois is the lack of legal recognition of urban agriculture. State Rep. Harper discussed her current House Bill that is set to recognize urban agriculture and create an Urban Agricultural Zone (UAZ). This will allow for additional funding, resources, and simplified zoning regulations. Also, it would create a UAZ fund for sales tax of urban agricultural products to be pooled into for municipalities to redistribute within the industry.
Since urban agriculture is much more than just growing food, I attended a workshop on fostering youth engagement. Green City Market is continuing their Edible Education work by offering youth education at market and the Edible Gardens, as well as increasing its presence in Chicago schools with kitchen and garden educational programming. During the workshop, we discussed different ways youth can be engaged in growing, how to better assess needs of different communities, how to maintain relevance and inclusivity within those communities, as well as different ways to measure student success. Success can be identified in broad ways, such as trying new foods, learning accountability and responsibility, or simply a student bringing home produce they grew to share with family and friends. It’s been wonderful to hear students at our schools return with stories of how they convinced a parent or sibling to try something new, or make something from scratch that they generally bought pre-made.
Our markets support both urban and rural farms. As we move forward, it’s important that both types of farming are recognized, have resources and, are supported by consumers. The summit also reminded me that if we have time to volunteer, skills to teach or resources to share, then we need to get more involved! Spring will be upon us soon, let’s continue to eat well, share with others, and remember the world at large.
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