HEARTLAND HUMAN CARE SERVICES BREAKS GROUND ON WEST SIDE URBAN FARM
Chicago FarmWorks will create jobs, feed families throughout the city
Heartland Human Care Services, Inc. — a division of Heartland Alliance, the leading anti-poverty organization in the Midwest — today celebrated the groundbreaking of Chicago FarmWorks, a 2.6-acre urban farm in East Garfield Park.
Heartland Human Care Services estimates that 24,000 pounds of produce will be grown in the first year, which will be distributed to low-income families by the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The project will create 90 transitional jobs in the first three years, allowing hard-to- employ people to get the training they need to re-enter the workforce on a full-time basis.
“This is no ordinary farm. The empty lot you see today will be an important tool in addressing the most pressing issues our city faces: poverty and hunger,” said David Sinski, Executive Director, Heartland Human Care Services. “This land will produce more than just fresh vegetables for Chicago families. It also will create jobs for those who are overcoming barriers to employment. It will be a source of pride for those who live and work in the area, and give local children a better understanding of agriculture and healthy eating.”
Heartland Human Care Services is a direct service human rights organization that develops and implements solutions to the toughest societal challenges in metropolitan Chicago and the Midwest.
Chicago FarmWorks is being developed in partnership with Heartland Alliance, the City of Chicago, Wilbur Wright College, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, NeighborSpace and West Humboldt Park Development Council.
Chicago has been hit hard by the recession, with East Garfield Park suffering more than most communities. In this west side neighborhood, unemployment hovers around 35 percent. Chicago FarmWorks has created a jobs plan that combines four days of training per week through work experience on the farm in conjunction with one day of training per week to support increases in literacy, GED completion, and career development. Participants will earn $8.25 perhour for 30 hours a week over a 12-week period. The farm will provide approximately 30 transitional job positions each year; 70 percent of those will move into unsubsidized employment.
Once the transitional jobs experience is complete, participants will get assistance in gaining permanent employment with area landscapers, warehousing/logistics, and home improvement businesses.
“Whether it’s because of a lack of education or training, or a criminal record from their past, a good job can be simply unattainable for a lot of people,” said Sinski. “By creating transitional jobs, we offer a step out of that cycle of unemployment and despair, and put people on a path to a stable job and a steady income.”
Once up and running, Chicago FarmWorks will provide produce directly to the Greater Chicago Food Depository at wholesale prices, who will then distribute it to low-income communities through their network of 650 partner agencies. The farm will also grow flowers in hoop houses for sale to floral retailers at wholesale rates to create a more financially sustainable project.
“We have worked with Greater Chicago Food Depository to identify the vegetables most needed for local food pantries,” said Dave Snyder, Chicago FarmWorks manager. “During the winter we will grow cabbage, carrots, radishes and onions. We have already started our seedlings in green house space that Christy Webber
Landscapes has donated. In the spring, we will break ground on more land nearby and add sweet potatoes, beets, cucumbers, beans, spinach, summer squash and peppers.”
Beyond employment, job training and food production, Chicago FarmWorks hopes to be a catalyst for the neighborhood. By utilizing this empty parcel for farming, Heartland Human Care Services will dramatically improve the appearance of this now vacant land. As a working farm that will help those in the East Garfield Park community and beyond, Heartland hopes this project will bolster community pride and encourage local children to learn more about food production and nutrition.
“Urban farms benefit communities in a variety of ways,” said Ben Helphand, executive director of NeighborSpace. “The rows of food growing on what had been vacant lots provides a beautiful inspiration to the neighborhood. It also provides very real job training and fresh vegetables.”
Heartland Alliance is the leading anti-poverty organization in the Midwest and believes that all of us deserve the opportunity to improve our lives. Each year, we help ensure this opportunity for more than one million people around the world who are homeless, living in poverty, or seeking safety. Our policy efforts strengthen communities; our comprehensive services empower those we serve to rebuild and transform their lives. For more information, visit: www.heartlandalliance.org.