Putting its stamp on the city’s blooming urban agriculture movement, 22 Emerging Professionals gathered July 30 at City Farm Chicago to help prepare the sizable urban garden for the summer growing season on a temperate, cloud-covered morning that later gave way to sunshine.
Volunteers divided into two groups, as complete strangers before the event bonded over teamwork. The Emerging Professionals are a group of young professionals within the U.S. Green Building Council Illinois chapter.
“It is amazing to see how a desolate lot one year ago has transformed into a lush urban farm,” said committee member Andy Stein, who organized the event. “It was exciting that the USGBC EPs had the opportunity to help with this transformation and spend a Saturday afternoon getting to know each other while volunteering.”
One group pulled weeds, including tiny “micro-weeds”and the stubborn type that required a full-size shovel to unearth, to make room for the unimpeded growth of eggplants. The other moved chicken-wire fence, large metal and plastic pipes and other debris to more convenient locations.
The two groups switched midway through the 3.5 hour session.
A farm-to-table-to-farm operation, City Farm provides fresh, local produce to restaurants while also composting excess food. The approach creates a sustainable loop that provides Chicagoans with fresh, healthy produce, eliminates greenhouse gasses in the form of commercial farming operations and transportation, and tackles the growing issue of food waste.
Supporting those benefits fits in nicely with the EP committee’s goal to promote local sustainability, said Stein.
“It was the perfect opportunity have the EPs connect with the land and see how urban landscapes can turn into true sustainability resources for the community,” he said.
The event was kicked off by Paul Sippil, founder of Community Dining, a local organization dedicated to building substantive personal relationships over healthy, sustainable food.
“It was fun to be at an event where I could connect with others who have an interest in growing their own food and community building as well as deep knowledge of urban farming,” Sippil said.
Volunteer Steph Townsend said the event made her feel “encouraged and inspired” about the growing movement toward producing organic, healthy food in Chicago.
“I’m not the type of person to get dirty, but it was kind of cathartic and relaxing to weed around the eggplants,” she said. “I just like learning about food – I’m a foodie in that way, about how it grows, the climate, what it looks like in a natural setting.”
With some heavy lifting, strategic digging, sweat and camaraderie, the EP volunteers connected over an event central to the committee’s mission: making Chicago more sustainable, one acre at a time.