Chicago Lights Urban Farm
The Chicago Lights Urban Farm, in collaboration with Growing Power, empowers youth and community residents in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood to have increased economic opportunities through access to organic produce, nutritional education, work force training, and microenterprise development. It also provides a safe sanctuary and programs for children and youth to learn about urban agriculture.
Chicago Avenue has been the site for a community garden in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood since 2003, where Chicago Lights Academic Success in Schools bases its work. Located at 444 W. Chicago, the garden became an Urban Farm in 2010 through an expanded relationship between Chicago Lights and Growing Power—a nonprofit organization empowering communities by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe, and affordable food.
The Urban Farm provides job training and youth development so that youth may gain knowledge about life skills and job readiness, as well as agriculture. Families learn about nutrition and healthy cooking, and have access to affordable, organic produce. Relationships in the community grow as people of diverse backgrounds work side by side and enjoy community celebrations together.
More information about the Urban Farm is available here and by contacting Natasha Holbert (312.274.3831).
Photos | E-Newsletter | Volunteering
Allotment Gardening | GoodFood Mobile | History of the Site
Urban Farm Photos
Cookout at the Chicago Lights Urban Farm 2012 | June 23, 2012
All-Church/Community Cookout | June 25, 2011
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Urban Farm E-Newsletter
Stay up-to-date with everything happening at the Urban Farm by signing up to receive our e-newsletter here or send email addresses to Natasha Holbert.
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Volunteer at the Urban Farm
The Urban Farm (444 W. Chicago Ave.) is open each Saturday, until November, from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. Join us there at 12:00 noon for volunteer orientation and feel free to spend as much time as you wish afterward helping out.
Volunteer groups should meet at or before their scheduled time at their scheduled location. At arrival, we will have your group sign our volunteer ledger and put on name tags. Orientation and tours are a suggested $5 donation (please bring cash or a check made out to Chicago Lights).
Saturday volunteer activities may include: general farm clean-up and beautification, weeding, adding compost to growing beds, harvesting, trash pick-up, planting, and compost-building. If this does not interest you, don’t worry, there are many volunteer options! Our staff will be happy to find a task that is a good fit for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Please take a moment to review our frequently asked questions—which include information on what to wear and what to bring for volunteering.
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The Urban Farm incorporates a traditional allotment garden for individual gardeners. Gardeners choose the foods they want to grow and harvest produce from their own plots, although sometimes agreements are made to share or barter with others. Allotment plots are available to community members living or organizations operating within a five-block radius of the Urban Farm (East to LaSalle St., South to Ohio St., West to Halsted Ave., North to Division St.).
Allotment gardening will take place April through November 2012. As an allotment gardener, you will have access to the farm as often or as little as you want to appropriately tend to your plot. Participants also help maintain communal plots; the harvest from those areas is shared with the community and local hunger programs.
For more details about allotment gardening, click here.
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Looking for farm fresh, organic produce? Check out GoodFood Mobile!
GoodFood Mobile is the new microenterprise of the Chicago Lights Urban Farm in collaboration with Growing Power. It is a mobile market delivery service offering organic produce to those living in the community.
Much of the produce comes from our site, supplemented by harvest from neighboring farms run by our collaborator, Growing Power.
For more information or to place an order, email Stephanie Budd.
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History of the Site
For nearly fifty years, Fourth Church has been involved with the children and families living in Cabrini-Green. As an outgrowth of that relationship, in 2002 the church bought property in the Cabrini-Green community, on Chicago Avenue between Hudson and Cleveland (444 W. Chicago Avenue), for the purpose of building a community center. The planned community center was envisioned as a way to help the changing neighborhood become a thriving diverse community and to ensure that present residents would not be cast aside in the process of its transformation into a mixed-income neighborhood.
As a first step in this important endeavor, while funding strategies for the community center were being explored, the Chicago Avenue site was transformed into a community garden, as a way to strengthen the relationships with the families and children in the Cabrini community. The Chicago Avenue property became the site for a community garden in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood in 2003, with the first beds installed in the spring of 2004, and the garden became a program of Chicago Lights in December 2008, allowing the garden to increase collaboration with other Chicago Lights programs in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood, further ministry related to education and hunger, access outside funding sources, and increase involvement in and visibility of the Chicago Avenue Program. The Chicago Lights Chicago Avenue Outreach continued to thrive as a garden through 2009. In 2010, in collaboration with Growing Power, a nationally recognized leader in urban agriculture, the garden expanded to become an urban farm.
In April 2012, the Session and Trustees of Fourth Church passed a motion regarding the Chicago Avenue property. As noted in a November 4, 2011, email to the congregation, these Boards had passed a motion on November 3 to pursue negotiations around an offer received to purchase the Chicago Avenue property. This, in turn, was a follow-up to the action taken the previous autumn in which sale of property assets was identified as a funding option for Project Second Century (P2C). In November 2010, the Boards had appointed a study commission to explore ways in which Fourth Church and Chicago Lights’ longstanding commitment to the Cabrini-Green community could be continued and enhanced while also taking into account the financial needs of P2C. To implement part of the 2011 motion, an outside consultant was engaged to conduct a feasibility study to assess the ability to potentially raise the funds outside the membership of Fourth Church for Chicago Lights to purchase the Chicago Avenue property.
In April 2012, the Boards received the report of the consultant. The firm identified great interest among corporations and individuals around funding programming activities and supporting urban farming; they did not, however, find much engagement around helping invest in property. The Boards also heard that negotiations around selling the property have resulted in a desire on the part of the interested party to move to a letter of intent to buy, with an agreement that would include a leaseback provision to enable continued Chicago Lights Urban Farm programming on that site for a defined period of time.
Thus at their April 2012 meetings, the Boards passed a motion asking that a contract for the sale of the Chicago Avenue property be negotiated and brought to Session and Trustees. They also asked that the contract include provision for continuing to provide urban farming in Cabrini-Green in the coming years.
In January 2013, the Boards received and recommended for congregational approval a contract to sell the property on Chicago Avenue for $3.2 million to the Chicago Housing Authority, with the inclusion of a two-year leaseback at no leasing cost.
The recommendation to sell the property was presented at the Fourth Church Annual Meeting of the Congregation on Sunday, February 10, 2013, and both the congregation and Chicago Presbytery approved the sale. The property was then sold to the Chicago Housing Authority, with the inclusion of the two-year leaseback (through May 31, 2015).
This two-year-minimum lease period allows the Chicago Lights Urban Farm programming to continue on Chicago Avenue through May 2015 (with the option for two more growing seasons beyond that) while providing additional time to pursue alternate sites and opportunities for the mission outreach currently taking place there.
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