Help Build Iron Street Farm on Chicago's Southside

by Growing Power - Chicago
winter growing
winter growing

Farming in the City in an old warehouse is never dull and our transition from winter to spring is filled with hard work and anticipation. We are sifting worm castings and beginning our seedlings for all of our Chicago Projects and here at Iron Street. We had the arrival of Mortimer Duke, a pygmy/dwarf goat to the delight of our staff, who considers themselves ‘Goat Mommas and Papas” I kid you not!

We are also proud to welcome the 2015 Farmers for Chicago who have begun planning and working on their projects to begin this spring. We are also launching the Fresh Moves mobile markets, 2 – converted city buses that will be rolling grocery aisles to serve food insecure communities. We are very pleased to be launching such an important and effect tool to bridge farmers with the customers who need good food access the most.

We are also now hosting the new school garden organization: Gardeneers, who work to provide classroom support for school gardens. Because of your support we had the capacity to support this new organization, which sources all of their compost, vermicompost and seedlings from Growing Power! A win-win for both organizations and most importantly the children who get to learn in the soil.

Through the remainder of the year we will look forward to continuing the great work made possible by supporters like you: providing hands on environmental education to local youth and adults through tours and volunteer opportunities, giving technical assistance to budding farmers and small farm enterprises; providing interns with meaningful work experiences, and growing good food for local communities. We hope to see you on a tour and deeply appreciate the support and encouragement you provide.

Growing Power is committed to serving on both a local and national level, and we hope you will continue to join in by lending your crucial support- both financially and otherwise.  Stay tuned for updates on our continued growth, and as always, we‘d love for you to drop us a line and give us some feedback! Thank you for your continued support and input- it really does mean the world to us. 

Mortimer Duke, son of Little Debbie and Louis
Mortimer Duke, son of Little Debbie and Louis
Chicago Youth Corps Participants
Chicago Youth Corps Participants

Dear Friends,

As we approach the end of 2014, we have a lot to be thankful for: family, friends, health and Good Food. Locally, our Good Food System is growing in many positive ways, yet there is much more that needs to be done in building a just Good Food System in our community and communities around the country and the world. We wanted to share with you some of our most noteworthy accomplishments of 2014.

  • We started the year by making history with the largest farm to school procurement in the history of the USDA, by selling 40,000 pounds of carrots to Farm Logix, a farm to school procurement organization.
  • Growing Power had more than 30,000 visitors tour our Community Food Center located at 55th Street & Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee.
  • In May, Growing Power held our first Good Food Revolution 5K Walk-Run, with more than 200 people participating.
  • During the summer months, we installed 30 gardens at Milwaukee licensed daycare facilities with the assistance of a grant from the City of Milwaukee’s Community Development Grants Administration.
  • We distributed more than 3,000 bags of fresh produce through our Farm to City Market Basket program.
  • In November we began the Haitian Aquaculture Project, a program through which Haitians will visit Growing Power to be trained in aquaponics and upon their return to Haiti, will be joined by two aquaponics experts to continue that training. This revolutionary project was funded by the U.S. Haitian Embassy.
  • More than 400 people were trained in community food systems through our “From the Ground Up” workshop series held one weekend each month, January through June.
  • In June, 8 people graduated from our Commercial Urban Agriculture program.
  • 1450 people from across the globe visited Milwaukee November 7-9 to participate in our 3rd National-International Urban & Small Farms Conference.
  • Growing Power received funding from the USDA to launch the Fresh Moves program, a mobile market program that will serve some of Chicago’s largest food deserts with repurposed Chicago Transit Authority buses.  
  • At our Chicago, Milwaukee & Madison locations we continued our Youth Corps program, through which more than 350 youth were engaged in sustainable agriculture and food literacy.
  • We started the Farmers for Chicago workshop series – a series of 6 workshops throughout the spring to train new growers in Chicago. This project is funded primarily through a grant from the USDA Community Food Project program.
  • In partnership with Root Cause, we re-launched Fresh Moves Mobile Market through an anniversary grant from the Polk Brothers Foundation. Fresh Moves is a program that will provide Chicago’s food deserts access to fresh and healthy produce via mobile markets made from re-purposed Chicago Transit Authority buses.
  • Once again we exhibited at the Chicago Flower and Garden show with an elaborate display of edible and ornamental plants. Growing Power also collaborated with the Chicago Park District and presented two bee keeping and mushroom workshops at the Flower and Garden show.
  • Youth Corps members partnered with After School Matters Culinary Program to grow produce for their teen cuisine buffet, attended by over 100 participants.
  • We began selling Growing Power produce at 10 Chicago area Food Oasis-Walgreens stores in Chicago’s food deserts.
  • The first class of Badger Rock Middle School 8th graders graduated in June. They learned about sustainable agriculture methods from participating in Growing Power programming during their middle school years.
  • Growing Power Madison continued to offer free monthly community dinners to the neighborhood surrounding the Badger Rock Middle School.
  • We collaborated with the Odyssey program, an adult education program at University of Wisconsin-Madison. This partnership is facilitated by one of Growing Power’s board members, Ariel Kaufman.

Looking forward I know that we can continue to grow the Good Food Revolution. However, in order for our growth to meet the demand we need community minded people to continue to invest in our cause.   We hope that you will consider continuing your support of Growing Power this holiday season because “Together We Are Growing Power”.

Happy Holidays to You & All!

Will talks carrots with CPS staff
Will talks carrots with CPS staff
2014 CUA Graduates
2014 CUA Graduates
Workshop participants learn all about microgreens
Workshop participants learn all about microgreens
Chicago staff celebrate Giving Tuesday
Chicago staff celebrate Giving Tuesday
Panel discussion at our 2014 conference
Panel discussion at our 2014 conference


During the past few months Growing Power Chicago has focused primarily on youth programming, as well as prepping the farm for the growing season. Our Spring After School Matters Program ended on May 22nd, making way for our Summer After School Matters program to begin on Monday, June 23. After School Matters (ASM) is s a non-profit organization that offers Chicago high school teens innovative out-of-school activities through Science, Sports, Tech, Words and the nationally recognized Gallery programs. Growing Power has partnered with ASM for a number of years, providing Chicago teens with skills in sustainable urban agriculture and local community food system development. Aside from learning hands-on concrete skills such as planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, compost production, sales, and marketing; youth are also immersed in life skills training in the form of work ethic and appropriate work place socialization.

During our Spring ASM program we had 19 teens from Altgeld Gardens and Carver High School participating, working 16 hours a week, for 6 weeks. For our Summer ASM program, teens will work a total of 96 program hours over a 6 week period at the Altgeld Garden Community Farm and Carver Military High School. We have 18 students currently enrolled and on track to successfully complete all 6 weeks of our Summer ASM program. This partnership has provided us with a great opportunity to offer programming for teens 14-15 who are not yet eligible for Chicago’s Summer Youth Employment Program. During both the Spring and Summer ASM programs teens receive a stipend upon completion of the 6 week period.

The Altgeld Garden Community Farm empowers neighborhood youth and residents to have increased economic opportunities through access to organic produce, food system development, nutritional education, and work-force training. One of our primary objectives is teaching teens about food production and food security through hands on work at the farm. Teens grow organic vegetables, herbs and flowers and participate in all phases of production (watering, weeding, harvesting, marketing, composting, etc.). This summer all teens will have hand-on learning and practical experience with the composting process. They will also help tremendously with infrastructure development. Teens will help to build compost beds on the remaining 2 acres of farm and also do general site beautification. This summer, teens will also have the opportunity to gain basic carpentry skills through the construction of hoop houses onsite.

A critical component to our program curriculum objectives is food system literacy and community engagement and awareness. Teens complete several activities to better understand the complexities of our modern food system, and to identify opportunities to create a more food secure community in Altgeld Gardens. Through our program, teens gain a better understanding of food systems and all the players involved in bringing food to our plates every day. Once that foundation is built, we then dig deeper and explore food security and ultimately food justice. Teens also participate in weekly culinary workshops during which they prepare food from the garden.

Our ASM programming also assists teens in refining their college and career readiness skills. We hold workshops during the course of the program that focus primarily on interviewing, resume building and personal marketing. During “Interviewing 101” teens use mock interviews to better prepare for the interview process. They participate in mock interviews to apply for their dream job/college and provide peer-to-peer evaluation and feedback on their performance. Our Resume Building Workshop assists teens in the importance of developing a thoughtful resume and identifying their skills, education and experience relative to their college and career goals. They also work on making a first good impression to potential employers by developing a two minute pitch to best introduce themselves and highlight their skills and abilities. In addition to the workshops, we do several theater and role-playing activities to prepare for future jobs. Teens explore topics such as conflict resolution, accountability and appropriate workplace socialization. Teens also complete several journaling activities that provided a space for self-reflection and goal setting.

We have very high-expectations for each of the teens that participate in our programming. By maintaining high expectations and consistent boundaries with our teens, we ensure that we meet several of our career readiness objectives such as: emphasizing the importance of timeliness, work ethic and character, problem solving on the job and interpersonal communication amongst co-workers and supervisors.

Farmers For Chicago
Farmers For Chicago

In 2013, Growing Power Chicago received a three year grant from the USDA through the Community Food Projects program to address the concerns of food insecurity and economic disinvestment in low-income communities of Chicago. Through advanced training and farm and marketing infrastructure development, Growing Power will work with food desert communities to secure land, build farms and mentor farmers within designated food desert communities. New farmers will be provided with opportunities for land access through a new 7-acre urban farm in partnership with the Chicago Park District and other city owned land as well as shared infrastructure and resources (compost, seeds, tools, hoop house construction).

The project, which is now underway, will provide new farmers and food entrepreneurs direct market access for their product through a new aggregation pilot that will provide fresh produce to a variety of commercial retailers, corner stores, farmers’ markets, and local businesses. We are currently working with three local organizations that specifically address food insecurity in the Roseland and Washington Park neighborhoods: Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN); Southside Education and Economic Development Systems (S.E.E.D.S.); and Keep Loving Each Other (KLEO).

Through this grant Growing Power Chicago started offering a workshop series that provide hands-on training in creating and maintaining urban farms for individuals. The series began in February and will run through May. Individual workshops concentrate on a variety of sustainable farming topics covering: project planning; marketing; Good Agricultural Practices; dismantling racism in the food system; beekeeping; composting; and hoop house construction.

The Farmers for Chicago project, which will conclude in 2016, aims to provide training to:

  • 50 new farmers to receive direct training and farm incubation support.
  • 150 farmers to benefit from shared infrastructure support.
  • 1500 individuals to receive training and educational opportunities in urban agriculture via workshops offered at Iron Street Urban Farm
  • 900 youth are provided with meaningful work experience in urban agriculture.
  • 30 commercial retailers and independent corner storeowners increase the availability of fresh food in their businesses.

Dear Friends,

As we approach the end of 2013, we have a lot to be thankful for:  family, friends, health and Good Food.  Locally, our Good Food System is growing in many positive ways, yet there is much more that needs to be done in building a just Good Food System in our community and communities around the country and the world.  In 2012, we stated that we would like to increase the amount of Good Food in our community from less than 1% to 10%.  At 10%, locally grown Good Food would change the dynamics of our community.  It would affect the health of our citizens as well as impact job creation and, overall, impact the local economy.  Growing Power is already making that impact.  With the increase of 25 acres of greenhouses and 300 acres of outside production, we continue to grow our local food system.

What we need now is for all institutions to come together to keep growing the Good Food Revolution.  Corporations, medical institutions, colleges and universities, planners, politicos, architects, engineers and most importantly every citizen should all be sitting at the community table and planning the next steps in the Good Food Revolution.  We cannot continue to live in a community where 34% of our children live in poverty, three out of ten young people go to bed every night without a meal, and diabetes and obesity continue to rise among youth.  These conditions lead to cancer and other debilitating diseases.  We must act now.  We must stop eating food that has low nutritional value and make our Good Food our medicine. 

The only way to end the health care crisis is to grow healthy people.  Growing Power has made big strides towards building the health of our next generation.  In 2013 we installed 50 day care gardens in Milwaukee,  grew 500,000 pounds of carrots for regional school systems (including Milwaukee Public Schools), installed several school gardens and developed classroom curriculum that meets the STEM requirements.  We also taught hundreds of Milwaukee area youth nutritional education through our Youth Corps program and through partnerships with other youth based non-profits.  We know that good eating habits start at a young age and Growing Power is working to instill these habits in Milwaukee’s youth.

We must also continue to grow our food system.  We must grow healthy soil.  In 2013 Growing Power collected 40 million pounds of food and carbon waste that was used to grow healthy high fertility soil.  We need to grow new farmers. During this past year Growing Power trained over 1000 farmers from all over the United States on how to grow this Good Food.   We need to grow new food sources.  Currently Growing Power is working with the School of Freshwater Sciences to grow healthy fish as a local protein source.

Looking forward I know that we can continue to grow the Good Food Revolution.  However, in order for our growth to meet the demand we need community minded people to invest in our cause.   We hope that you will continue to support Growing Power in the new year, because “Together We Are Growing Power”.  Please enjoy the attached document that outlines our successes during 2013.


Happy Holidays to You & All!

Will Allen

Farmer, Founder & CEO




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Organization Information

Growing Power - Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Growing Power - Chicago
Project Leader:
Erika Allen
Chicago, IL United States

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