In the middle of a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side stands the Growing Home farm. The neighborhood does not have any grocery stores but local residence can purchase fresh, organic produce while supporting one of Chicago’s green nonprofits. This urban farm provides job training and employment opportunities to local homeless and low-income individuals.

The vast majority of the farm’s trainees and employees are ex-convicts with the majority of those having served time in jail. Growing Home understands the importance of including these individuals in the green collar economy to support them in finding a pathway out of poverty.

Les Brown founded the organization in 1992 and until his death in 2005; he was a champion for the local homeless population. “Growing Home has worked towards this by providing a transitional job program that lets previously-incarcerated and previously-homeless individuals prepare to re-enter the workforce not only by teaching job skills, but also by providing the chance to engage in what is for many a transformational experience.“ Source: Growing Home

Growing Home operates three different farm sites:

  • Wood Street Urban Farm – The farm is near Ashland and 58th St in the Englewood neighborhood and is a USDA Certified organic farm.
  • Su Casa Market Garden – This location is also USDA Certified Organic and is at the Su Casa Catholic Worker House near 51st Ave and Laflin St.
  • Les Brown Memorial Farm – Named in honor of Growing Home’s founder, the Les Brown Memorial Farm is the organization’s oldest farm. It is in Marseilles, IL and is a 10-acre USDA Certified Organic farm.
Like many other nonprofit organizations, Growing Home is facing a shortage in funding due to the nation’s financial woes. Harry Rhodes, Growing Home’s Executive Director, recently sent a message out to the farm’s supporters asking for donations to help make up the nearly $100,000 budget deficit. The letter is also published on Growing Home’s website.

Although smaller nonprofits like Growing Home don’t play a major role in the nation’s economic recovery, they play a very important role. In order to continue towards a green collar economy, all of the country’s citizens must be included. Homeless and low-income residents must be integrated into the process.

Photo by Seamus Murray

Green jobs: Urban farming in Chicago
Growing Home works with the homeless and low-income population in Chicago to provide organic agriculture training.