Lincoln Park campus to welcome urban farm
Published: Monday, April 16, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
For most students, the freshness of their groceries depends on the selection at Dominick’s that week. However, that may no longer be the only source for local produce after the DePaul Urban Farming Organization’s (UFO) urban farm breaks ground in May.
The new organization was developed in the fall by students from Barbara Willard’s Urban Agriculture class who felt the need to address sustainability on another local level. The group’s farm will make temporary use of the purchased lot at the corner of Belden and Bissell Avenues, just blocks away from the Lincoln Park Student Center and across from Wish Field.
“It is a natural fit with the university’s newly-launched Institutional Sustainability Plan,” said James Montgomery, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Studies. “As DePaul focuses on becoming a more sustainable institution with respect to its curriculum operations, research and community engagement, issues of food quality and food access are vital elements. The farm allows us to begin addressing these issues.”
The farm will encourage all students and faculty to learn about urban agriculture and connect classroom learning with urban nature and community engagement. The group hopes the project will also educate the public about how to establish and enjoy sustainable food production systems.
“Students will have the opportunity to conduct research on various aspects of food production, besides getting their hands dirty and playing with worms,” said Montgomery. "The farm connects students to food directly and intimately.”
Starting in the fall, DePaul will offer an urban agriculture minor, making this addition to the Lincoln Park campus even more purposeful as students will be able to watch the garden progress in an urban and degraded environment.
The farm will be built upon a construction lot with gravel as its foundation, so raised beds will be needed to prevent any heavy-metal uptake from below, said Barbara Willard, associate professor in the College of Communication and Department of Environmental Science and Studies.
“It is my hope that students recognize the power they have to positively impact their local communities,” said Faith Kohler, president of the Urban Farming Organization. “This project seeks to educate students about the benefits of small-scale organic agricultural production and to empower individuals to take control of their food system, not only to benefit themselves but also to contribute to the wider community.”
Issues of social and environmental justice, food security, sustainability, and ecology will be addressed through the hands-on engagement students will experience according to Kohler.
At the farm, UFO will be growing a variety of fruits and vegetables including okra, onions, chard, peas, peppers, heirloom tomatoes, melons, herbs and wildflowers. The group has already started planting in the greenhouse atop McGowan South in preparation for the projects opening day, May 4.
“Eventually, we hope to see if Chartwells would be willing to purchase the produce,” said Kohler. “But primarily we will be working with community food banks and food pantries to donate the food keeping with the Vincentian tradition.”