One of our most exciting projects right now is the creation of an urban farm in the empty lot next to 611 W. Healey St. with help from the University of Illinois’ Metropolitan Food Supply and Environmental Systems(MFST) program within the College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences(ACES) and The U of I Extension. The project is in the early design stages currently, but we thought now might be a good time to explain what an urban farm is and why we’re interested in building one!
What Is an Urban Farm?
An urban farm is any piece of land gardened by a group of people, using either individual or shared plots on private or public land. Urban farms may be found in neighborhoods, schools, connected to institutions such as hospitals, and on residential housing grounds. The idea is to provide space for farming and gardening in areas where access to those activities may be limited.
What Is the Purpose of an Urban Farm?
The purpose of an urban farm can vary greatly and is defined by the community members that the garden is meant to serve. The garden may provide a space otherwise unavailable to community members to grow food, flowers, and herbs. It may be used as a way to build or revitalize a sense of community among neighbors or reconnect with nature. Other goals of a community garden can include: educating youth and adults about growing food and associated food system topics (eg. nutrition, health); job and entrepreneurial training in the food sector; improving food access to fresh vegetables and fruits; or therapy gardens.
Why Are We Building an Urban Farm?
We would like to provide our residents the space, platform, and knowledge to grow their own food, flowers, or herbs at home as well as create a shared community space for people to come together and get to know one another.
We believe that your apartment is more than a temporary rental space – it’s your home. And we want to make living in that home, and being a part of our community, the best experience it can be. We know that one of the major pitfalls of apartment living is the lack of personal outdoor space to garden in, so we’re creating one!
We also want to help our residents feel more a part of our community. We believe this not only enhances your life but the community as a whole! This project allows us to engage residents and get them involved with local organizations like the University of Illinois and the U of I Extension in a unique and personal way.
In addition to all of the great benefits above this project also allows our residents to engage with a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle through composting and rain collection!
Why collaborate with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on this project?
The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of ACES and the U of I Extension have the knowledge and skills necessary to help plan and implement the garden in as well as provide opportunities for residents to learn more about gardening, composting, and more! We hope to have them doing regular demonstrations and seminars on site once the space is built.
If you want to get a glimpse at this process you can check out the College of ACES webinar series on community gardening, or explore the U of I Extension website for tons of resources on horticulture, energy & environment, and local foods, as well as resources for getting your kids involved!