Thursday, April 13, 2017

Understand the Chicago Urban Agriculture Landscape

In October 2015 I wrote an article about urban agriculture and suggested that non-school, site-based, tutor, mentor and learning programs throughout the region could include some sort of urban agriculture activity as part of their mix of programs.

This week the Philanthropy Club of Chicago hosted speakers representing the Walter S. Mander Foundation and the Wendy City Harvest Program of the Chicago Botanic Garden, who introduced me to a much larger ecosystem supporting urban agriculture in the Chicago region, and a central intermediary organization called Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA).

I encourage you to browse the web site, paying special attention to these two pages.

Chicago Urban Agriculture Directory - The description on the page says "It includes partial lists of Chicago area farms, gardens and urban agriculture-related organizations, services, blogs, listservs, reports, guides, and other resources."  While I maintain an extensive directory of information related to helping kids in poverty, this page is an equally expansive list of resources for those interested in urban agriculture, which should include leaders and volunteers from youth tutoring, mentoring programs in the region, and their donors.

The Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project (CUAMP) - The web site says, "this is an ongoing collaboration between individuals, organizations, businesses and institutions that seeks to inventory and map urban agriculture across the Chicago Metropolitan Area. It includes everything from small residential gardens to commercial urban farms. With an interactive map and directory that link to detailed profiles for each growing site, CUAMP aims to provide the public with a comprehensive and constantly evolving look at the state of urban agriculture in Chicagoland."

I have been hosting an on-line map-directory of Chicago non-school tutor/mentor programs for more than 10 years, with the goal that people use the map to identify and support existing programs, and to help new programs grow where they are needed.  In this article I showed how libraries could be hubs supporting the growth of tutor/mentor programs in different areas.

The Urban Agriculture Mapping Project is designed for a similar, but much broader set of goals. For instance, restaurant owners looking for fresh produce could use the maps to find urban farmers located near them. Community development leaders could work with neighborhoods to use vacant land for urban gardens. City planners and social justice advocates could use the maps as part of an on-going effort to provide jobs and career opportunities for people in areas with high rates of unemployment, high poverty and high crime.

A similar type of analysis could be used to connect  urban agriculture projects and advocates with site based youth serving organizations in different parts of the region.  At some point in the future one category on the Urban Agriculture map might be something like "agriculture tutoring/mentoring sites".

There's huge potential for jobs, careers, public health, urban development, etc. within the urban agriculture sector. I encourage you to take a look at these resources and share them with others who might be interested.

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