Volunteer Fun: Growing Power Chicago


I first heard of the Growing Power organization from a documentary on Netflix. It’s a true story. But usually when we watch documentaries about food, agriculture, and health, we see some hippie commune (I mean that in a nice way) in California or out on the West coast.

For once, they were talking about a non-profit group in the Midwest that was based out of Milwaukee and operated urban farms in Chicago. Considering both Danny Boy and I know absolutely nothing about farming and gardening, I decided it would be a great place to start learning and help out an organization whose goals we feel enthusiastic to support and help out.

We arrived on a Saturday morning for the volunteer orientation on a very cold and sad January morning. But regardless of the cold, we had a great day. Had a little tour of the urban farm and got to learn about how they can farm all year round (which I admit I didn’t think possible).

I recall Dan asking how anyone could farm in the city limits of Chicago. I believe my response was something along the lines of, “They must of figure something out or people would have died from it by now.” It turns out they did figure out a method but not one I expected. It turns out there is no way to purify the soil in Chicago. The people at Growing Power purchased a paved over lot and use the pavement to seal off the bad/corrupted soil and cover the pavement with fresh composted soil.

I was not expecting this was the solution to city pollution. I also had no clue how easy and beneficial it is to compost food scraps. I am considering finding a way to save my food garbage to bring and add to their compost. I still need to find a way to do this without my apartment smelling horrible!

The next thing I learned is that they can grow things like spinach and beets and tons of other things even in the cold winter. These little huts they made weren’t fancy greenhouses with glass windows. They were made with fencing materials and large tarps. I couldn’t believe the temperature difference when we entered. I almost expected them to have used an outside heating source.

PS – Thank you “greenhouse effect”. I thought that was just something they taught us in elementary school that really didn’t change my life in any way.

So why drive into the city limits and volunteer at an Urban Farm rather than go to farming areas just south of where I live? There is a really good reason I wanted to help this organization.

If you don’t live in a big city, you may not know what the lower class neighborhoods like look. Yes, you may see video in the news, but there’s things you don’t notice unless you drive and see it yourself.

One thing these inner city areas lack are real produce markets and grocery stores. In many areas, you only find little corner shops with nearly expired processed foods. Now don’t get me started on processed foods and why they are bad for you. But imagine being raised in a neighborhood where you can’t get whole fruits and veggies? How would your health and happiness be affected in this type of environment?

Growing Power Chicago makes an effort to bring agriculture and fresh produce to the city. They are a non-profit organization with a mission that includes both educating people about the health benefits of locally grown produce and helping rebuild the inner city neighborhoods from within.

While I may not have the extra money to donate to their cause, I will continue to volunteer there throughout the year. I hope to spread the word of their mission. You can contribute to Growing Power by sending me cash… Just kidding! Go to their official website and find a way to help out or share their message!

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