Growing a Business

2 gardeners sitting down
Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

The Christopher Family Foundation has supported the Windy City Harvest program of the Chicago Botanic Garden for several years now. This program brings healthy food to the West Side through a number of efforts that include partnering with local people who want to grow their own food, making locally grown food available at the Farm on Ogden‘s little grocery store, and providing free fresh produce through the VeggieRX program for people whose medical providers are recommending a diet of fresh vegetables to address health issues.

In addition to all that good growing, Windy City Harvest is a job training program. This includes summer jobs for young people, but for those who really want to try their hand at working as landscape caretakers, gardeners, or farmers, a full two years of training with stipends are available. The training program has resulted in a few farm businesses being started on land in or near the City of Chicago. We were excited to learn about The Chicago Urban Farm Solutions farm team as one such business.

The Chicago Urban Farm Solutions farm team, comprised of Natasha Coleman, Clarence Smith, and Deshawn Willingham, are talented Windy City Harvest graduates with a thriving wholesale vegetable business. Windy City Harvest is the Chicago Botanic Garden’s urban agriculture program. This year, they are significantly scaling production on a 20-acre farm secured through The Conservation Fund’s new Working Farms Fund program. Located in south suburban Chicago Heights, the farm is strategically located close to Chicago markets and wholesale buyers. In 2022, the team trained to become USDA GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified, which allows them to sell produce to wholesalers, grocery stores, and other institutions independently of Windy City Harvest. Here is more information on the farmers and this venture.