Last month, we wrote about an innovative urban design project in Chicago that’s being lauded as the greenest street in America.
Now, planners are fine-tuning details of another ambitious redevelopment initiative – one that would create the biggest urban farm in the US in the city’s historic, but downtrodden and poverty-stricken South Side district.
100 acres of city-owned land will be transformed from vacant lots into an “urban farm district.” Next door, farm stands will be staggered along a former three-mile railroad line that will also form a greenbelt trail for walking and biking.
The proposal is part of the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development’s Green Healthy Neighborhoods program, which sees it as a way to revitalize the neighborhood by bringing healthy, affordable food to the community as well as attracting jobs, housing and businesses.
“It’s urban planning from the bottom up,” economist Brandon Johnson told Grist. “It’s a long-range plan to turn a community filled with vacant lots into a community built around agriculture.”
Besides supplying local residents and restaurants, the planning group envisions distributing food across the country using the South Side’s extensive rail network. A food distribution center and processing plant are also on the drawing board.
And planners are working with two local schools, Kenney-King College and the Washington Culinary Institute, to establish degree programs centered on farming.
Urban farms are important for myriad reasons, including their role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and potential for revitalizing communities with new jobs and sources of healthy food.
New York is also witnessing a surge in urban farms, as more restaurants commit to buying local produce. Unfortunately, many of those farms are gravely damaged from superstorm Sandy. The number of farmer’s markets are rising rapidly across the US.