AUA upcoming events, SEEDS project profile, progress report and more

Welcome to AUA's End-of-Winter Newsletter!

So much happening as the new growing season kicks off

It may be hard for some to believe, but despite the thick blanket of snow outside, Chicago's growing season is already under way--spring starts are popping up in closets and greenhouses alike, and AUA has been quite busy doing some growing of its own.  Our membership drive has brought in hundreds of new AUA members over the last few months (as well as a few generous donations), and a number of recent events and other developments have helped to bring this coalition to a new level. 

If you haven't yet signed up as a member, please do--it's easy and free!  Simply click here and fill out a few boxes.  When you're done with that, we hope that you'll consider making a donation to keep our efforts funded.

We have a lot to tell you about, and we're especially excited about some big events coming up over the next two weekends!  In this third edition of our e-newsletter, you'll:
  • Read about some of these upcoming events and projects we've been working on,
  • Get a close look at this issue's featured urban ag project: SEEDS' Mini Farm at Dunne Tech,
  • Receive updates about recent successful events, and
  • Learn what AUA's Steering Committee and Working Groups have been up to.
Happy growing!

This Saturday!

An Urban Farming Celebration with Exclusive Test Screening of Growing Cities, Live Music, Local Beer and More!
It’s shaping up to be a full weekend with the Midwest Urban Farmers Summit, the Farm Dreams workshop, and more, but whatever your daytime plans on Saturday, plan on meeting up with us at the ECO Collective in Pilsen that evening to let loose!  AUA and the folks from the Midwest Urban Farmers Summit are hosting a party to kick off the growing season, featuring:
  • An exclusive pre-release screening of Growing Cities (featuring Chicago farms like The Plant, Growing Home, City Farm and Growing Power!)
  • Q&A with the filmmakers
  • Live music from the Kodiak Farm Boys (co-led by City Farm’s own Dave Henderson!)
  • Local beer from Revolution Brewery
  • Popcorn!
All proceeds from the night will help to fund AUA’s outreach, educational and advocacy projects. 

Saturday, March 9
@ ECO Collective, 2042 W 21st St
Doors open at 7:30PM
Film starts at 8PM
Music starts at 9:45PM

ALL AGES (ID required for service of alcohol)
$7 admission (free for Midwest Urban Farmers Summit attendees, but donations encouraged!)


What is this Midwest Urban Farmers Summit, You Ask?

by Brekke Bounds
Designed to be a gathering place for urban farmers from all over the Midwest, the Summit will include educational seminars, participant-directed breakout sessions, and plenty of opportunities for networking among production-based urban farmers. Sessions will include a discussion of legal issues related to urban farming (lead by the University of Chicago’s Institute for Justice), a seminar on managing multiple plots on one farm (lead by farmers from Stone's Throw Farm in the twin cities), a presentation from AUA Coordinator Billy Burdett on the state of urban agriculture in Chicago, and much more.

Other activities include tours of The Plant--an amazing urban agriculture project on Chicago’s south side--and a tool share. The Summit will also serve as a catalyst for regional data collection on the current state of urban farms.

Mark your calendar for March 9th and 10th and visit for a complete schedule of events and additional information.


1st Urban Livestock Expo a Big Success!

by Cassidy Drew
A couple of weeks ago on a cold Saturday, AUA, Angelic Organics Learning Center and Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts hosted Chicago’s 1st Annual URBAN LIVESTOCK EXPO. Located in the beautiful Jensen Room of the Garfield Park Conservatory, the Expo featured presentations by speakers well versed in the dos and don’ts of raising livestock, public policy in Chicago, and what to consider when deciding whether to raise livestock in the city.

The Expo's framing questions were:
What if everyone decides to raise livestock in the city?  What do they need to know -- to do, and not do?
Where will they get the mentoring and the supplies they need to do it well?
How can we work together to include food animals successfully in ecologically-integrated urban lifestyles?

After offering general information and advice about raising chickens/ducks, bees, goats and rabbits, our presenters broke into 4 breakout sessions (each with its own critter category) to answer questions, provide more specific info on raising each type of livestock, delve deeper into city regulations. and guide attendees to more resources (including the nearby info tables). Some of the speakers brought their animal with as a visual aid (although I disappointed a few children when I told them they couldn’t pet the bunny!). Following the Expo, a group toured two nearby yards with goats and chickens in residence.
The Expo drew a diverse group of people together. We counted well over 200 in attendance, far exceeding our expectations, and it was wonderful to see so many people sign in from different wards.  Expo organizer Martha Boyd (AUA Steering Commitee Co-Chair and Angelic Organics Learning Center Urban Initiatives Program Director) was likewise happy with the event's outcome: "We had excellent presenters and helpers, including our supportive hosts, the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance.  I was so pleased with the great turnout and people's enthusiasm for what looks like the first annual Urban Livestock Expo.  I hope people will join the various networks of critter keepers to stay in touch and learn more from each other."

When conversing with the folks who signed up for AUA information and membership, I found that many people were excited to have a place to learn about and share their ideas around raising animals in the city. The first ever Chicago Urban Livestock Expo has begun to look like the first of many!
Many people helped make the Livestock Expo a success -- our 15 presenters, 20+ volunteers (greeters, notetakers, photographers, and herders), AND all of the wonderful visitors who came from near and far to hear from experienced practitioners about keeping chickens, ducks, bees, goats, and rabbits in the city.
We want to acknowledge and thank especially:
  • Fellow sponsors and organizers: for preparing and shaping, and for solving problems as they arose
  • Speakers: for knowledgeable, grounded, and thoughtful presentations
  • Staffers of info tables: for sharing and showing your stuff
  • Volunteers: your many willing hands made light work
  • Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance for hosting, and Dill Pickle Food Coop for their generous donation of fruit
  • Journalists and bloggers and others for spreading the word so effectively
  • AND hundreds of visitors from many wards of Chicago and beyond, for engaging enthusiastically in the day
Presenter videos are linked in AUA's Resource Guide livestock page (and on AUA's YouTube Channel).
We're looking forward to the 2014 Expo about this time next year!
Also, SAVE THE DATES for the 2013 Windy City COOP TOUR on September 21-22.


Report: AUA at the Urban Innovation Symposium

by Marlise Fratinardo
Urban Innovation Symposium, February 8, 2013: Food Systems and Agriculture Panels
"Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." ~Robert Louis Stevenson
UIC’s Urban Planning and Policy Student Association (UPPSA) organized an exciting roster of presenters for the 2013 Urban Innovation Symposium.  Addressing the theme of sustainability, this year’s speakers shared their expertise across multiple aspects of the topic spanning transportation, environmental justice, community engagement, social enterprise, and urban agriculture. 
AUA facilitated two panel sessions for the event, providing participants with over two hours of insights and information about the city’s most prominent agriculture initiatives.
Harry Rhodes of Growing Home & AUA; Brad Roback of the City of Chicago, Housing and Economic Development Department; and Orrin Williams of the Center for Urban Transformation comprised the panel on “Planning Towards a Sustainable Food System.” This panel covered the importance of persistence, planning, big vision, and plain old hard work that is required to create a vibrant and ever expanding future for urban agriculture.  Discussion topics included the recent shifts in the city’s regulatory framework to allow for greater local food production and the possibilities to expand agricultural activities into every spatial condition, small to large, including the individual backyard parcel, vacant city lots, the neighborhood, to across the region and beyond.
AUA Steering Committee members Martha Boyd (Angelic Organics Learning Center), Kelly Larsen (Windy City Harvest/Chicago Botanic Garden), and Patsy Benveniste (Chicago Botanic Garden) led “Incubator Farming in Chicago,” which explored the topic of incubator farms.  Supported under the wing of an organizational sponsor for a predetermined period in the early stages of its operation, incubator farms can be a vital tool to train and develop farmers of the future.  The need for new farmers is urgent given that, today, the average age of an American farmer is 60 years old.

*View video of the panels here*
Thank you to UPPSA for providing a remarkable day of conversation on the rapidly evolving sustainability scene in Chicago and for creating an opportunity to highlight innovative food systems policy and urban agriculture initiatives.

Next Saturday, 3/16

AUA presents "Good Food Commons" Micro Workshops in Composting, Growing and Preserving at the Good Food Festival
AUA is partnering with the Good Food Festival, Edible Alchemy and others to present a series of 20-minute sessions led by experts from Chicago Botanic Garden, Growing Home, Lake Street Landscape Supply, Rick Bayless' Organic Gardens and more!  Click on the Good Food Festival logo below to find the workshop schedule and more information about the 3-day Festival!

Thursday, 3/14-Saturday, 3/16


AUA Project Profile:

SEEDS Mini Farm

Work is Love Made Visible: Cultivating Community in Roseland at Dunne Tech "Mini Farm"

An interview with Darryl Gibson, President, and Paula Roderick, Board Member, of the South Side Education & Economic Development System, Inc. (SEEDS)
by Marlise Fratinardo

AUA: Tell me how this garden got started.
DG: The garden is located on the South Side and it covers one half-acre on the property of Dunne Tech Academy. This is our fourth year. The garden project began almost by happenstance. Our friend Bill Heine, who I met at a Blacks in Green event at the University of Chicago, wanted to start a home weatherization initiative on the South Side.
PR: Yes, at first, the project wasn’t necessarily going to be a garden. Darryl and Bill had established SEEDS and they were seeking projects with a hands-on learning component for students and mentoring opportunities for adults. I got involved through my work with a student project growing seedlings in the greenhouse at Fenger High School.
DG: I was showing Bill around the neighborhood and, when we got to Dunne Tech, he said that the land there would be a good place to expand the seedlings project at Fenger. We tested the soil and it came back perfectly for growing vegetables. The location of the garden is highly visible. It is surrounded by the neighborhood, so the community was really curious about it when they could see students out there cultivating the land. Very soon, students and community members got to meet each other and started to develop a close relationship.
PR: The garden was a perfect fit. The philosophy was that, with a garden, we could provide the hands-on education and mentoring we wanted and give back to the community a product that the community really needed. It’s been an amazing experience. As we work the garden, we are sending a message. People drive by and look over the fence. They want to know what we are doing. They want to help out. We find many of our volunteers that way, right from the local area. We are still largely dependent on volunteers. We have no paid staff and no steady funding. We depend on our volunteers from the community to keep the garden going.
AUA: Who are your allies in this work?
PR: There are lots of them. For instance, two years ago, the City of Chicago’s GreenCorps helped us install an outdoor classroom. We had benches put in last October. What that means is this spring, for the first time, students can work in the classroom and then go get their hands dirty. We went in with the idea that the garden was going to be successful and sustainable in every season. Sometimes school gardens stagnate during breaks because of the school year timing. We wanted to stay viable all year long. So we work out there in the summer and during breaks. Our community volunteers keep our garden going so that it is tended and ready for students in the fall.
DG: The Girl Scouts, local churches, and students from Chicago State, DePaul and IIT have participated at Dunne Tech. We’ve also partnered with Growing Power and Walgreens. The community buy-in was almost instantaneous. Elderly people who had grown vegetables or were raised on farms share a lot with students. That type of interaction among generations is invaluable. It was something that was really missing. People started to build relationships with one another around gardening.
PR: We rely on volunteers to keep the garden growing. Our participation in the Roseland Community Agriculture Network has been very helpful. We also have amazing support from the principals of Dunne Tech, Chandra Byrd-Wright, and Fenger High, Elizabeth Dozier. The City of Chicago urban agriculture zoning amendment that made it easier to grow vegetables in the city also made a difference for us.

What are the key goals of this garden?
PR: Our mission at SEEDS has an educational component. We are partnering with Seven Generations Ahead to do a nutrition class for students at Dunne Tech, using the garden a teaching tool. Saturdays are our Market Days where we offer workshops on topics like gardening, nutrition, or health to the community during our produce sales. We want to expand our productivity. Last year, we grew about 2,500 to 3,000 pounds of vegetables and we know we can increase the amount of veggies, which we provide at a low cost or as giveaways to the community.
DG: We have always envisioned an outdoor classroom and that will be a reality this year. For the future, the school lunch facility needs an upgrade. Right now, our produce goes home with students through on Market Days and at various school events, but it is not served at the school for meals. We have a plan to construct a passive solar barn, hopefully this year, built by 7th and 8th graders at Dunne Tech and 9th and 10th graders at Fenger High. We also want to involve students more in marketing our vegetables. We have introduced students, very enthusiastically, to planting. When students come back from summer break, they light up when they see the garden.
How do you provide your produce to the community?
PR: We are rustic! We have a farm stand, a donated table, and a volunteer who decorates the table and helps us put the vegetables out on our Market Days. That’s our farmers market. The community can either pick their own vegetables, and some of them really like to do that, or buy them at or below market rate from our farm stand. It is important to have the farm stand in the middle of our community. We want to let everyone know that you can grow healthy food right where you live.

Do you have any particular favorites that you love to grow?
: I have to share with you about everything we grow at Dunne Tech because it’s pretty amazing. We decided early on that, because we are a school garden, we would plant a diverse selection of produce, so that students would have as much to learn from as much as possible. We grow four types of greens, collards, mustards, kale, Swiss chard, two or three types of cucumbers, three to four varieties of tomatoes, green beans, okra, corn, and several different squashes, including zucchini and summer squash. We grow beets and rhubarb. We were gifted with several apple trees, so in a few years we will have apples growing. We have strawberries, raspberries, and a successful herb garden next to the children’s classroom. In about a year, we will have asparagus to harvest. At the end of last season, we planted garlic. For 2013, we are using the aquaponics center at Chicago State University to start our seedlings for the season. Depending on the weather, we start planting in March and keep growing until the end of November. Our goal is to produce healthy, natural food with no pesticides, using the best seeds we can get. The older generation in the community has stepped up around educating everyone about cooking. On market days, we provide recipes for vegetables that people might not have cooked with before.
DG: The vegetable we sell the most is collard greens. Collards are the number one product that everyone wants. We have also introduced Swiss chard, about three or four rows of it. The more we educate the community on the benefits of eating Swiss chard, the more demand we have for it. And that’s exactly what we want, to bring healthy veggies to the community.
MORE ABOUT SEEDS. The Roseland community is a recognized "food desert" void of proper nutrition with no major food stores with fresh fruit and vegetable produce within a 3-mile radius. SEEDS promotes a healthier lifestyle for the Roseland community by partnering with regional partners to find innovative ways to reduce hunger and increase local access to healthy foods. Check them out at or contact them at

Updates from AUA's Steering Committee and Working Groups

AUA's Steering Committee has been working over the past year on organizational development, from the creation of a Structure & Governance document to the definition of AUA membership that served as the foundation for launching our new membership drive in September.  Most recently, the Steering Committee approved language for developing and ratifying official organizational position statements so that it can have a greater impact on policy going forward.  The process will focus on member feedback to identify positions that represent the broad interests of Chicagoland's urban agriculture community. The Steering Committee also continues to work on a resource development plan for 2013.  In addition to securing continued funding for AUA's Program Coordinator position and other organizational expenses, the goal is to be able to fund a new Civic Engagement Coordinator position that will be more specifically dedicated to the "Advocacy" part of Advocates for Urban Agriculture.
In addition to doing much of the organizing for the 1st Annual Urban Livestock Expo, the Advocacy Working Group has been working on ensuring that there is a big place for urban agriculture in the newly formed Cook County Lank Bank, which has potential to provide needed land for both non- and for-profit urban farm and garden projects. The Steering Committee recently signed off on a Land Bank statement in support of investing in Illinois communities destabilized by vacant and abandoned properties. The Working Group is also continuing with its Local Food Economy campaign, which aims to generate support for bringing fresh, local, healthy goods to neighborhoods across the city through locally owned enterprises. Add your name to the Local Food Economy Statement of Support if you haven't already by clicking the link above! And that's not all--keep your eyes out for information about Advocacy's work on promoting incubator farms and organizing "Civics 101" workshops in the near future!
The Connections Working Group has been keeping itself occupied with event planning, from the Urban Livestock Expo to this Saturday's big film screening and fundraising party. It has several other events in the works, so keep your eyes peeled! The group has also been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work on developing AUA's membership and donation drive--more to come soon. Finally, Connections will be organizing another slew of community presentations and tabling events across the city this spring and summer. (Connections is also responsible for the newsletter you are now reading.)
The Resources Working Group has been working closely with the Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project (which was recently featured in a great NPR article!) to compile a first-ever comprehensive directory and map of Chicagoarea urban agriculture projects. Drafting of the mapping survey has been completed, so if you have a garden or farm in the area, be on the lookout for notices about filling it out; we'll need your help to create a detailed-yet-big-picture look at the current state of urban agriculture in Chicago! This will provide us with a powerful new advocacy tool, not to mention a great resource for gardeners, farmers, vendors, shoppers, volunteers, elected officials, and others interested in urban agriculture.  And be sure to check the website regularly; it continues to evolve (and word has it that it's helped quite a number of people to connect with some great urban ag-related jobs!).
Of course, none of this work could be done without the amazing people volunteering their time in these Working Groups; please visit AUA's Working Group and Projects pages to find out how you can join the effort! 
Copyright © 2013 Advocates for Urban Agriculture, All rights reserved.
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