GROWING SOLUTIONS FARM FAQs
Where is Growing Solutions Farm?
Growing Solutions Farm is located in the Illinois Medical District at 2200 W. Campbell Park Drive (at the intersection of Leavitt St.). Free parking is available around the garden and across the street off Leavitt.
Why a farm?
Growing Solutions Farm is a program of Urban Autism Solutions. Young adults (ages 16 - 22) with autism and related challenges from West Side Chicago public high school transition programs visit the farm to gain agricultural skills as transferrable job skills.
Both visual learning and hands-on experiences teach our participants how to prepare soil, create composting systems, build and maintain crops, plant seeds and seedlings, weed and clean garden beds, and harvest, clean and package produce for sale at farmers’ markets and through our CSA. Working at the farm also helps students gain valuable ‘soft skills’ they can use on any job. These skills include navigating public transportation to get to work on time, following a daily schedule to accomplish tasks, wearing a uniform to represent an employer, and communicating with co-workers, supervisors, and instructors and adhering to safety protocols. Additionally, the farm provides a safe, outdoor environment where students can get fresh air and exercise. Many of our West Side students come from neighborhoods with some of the highest crimes rates in the city, and where it is not safe to be outside. The farm is a welcome respite to not only their neighborhoods but the indoor classroom environment.
What does the farm grow?
The farm has grown more than 100 varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers. We usually grow 40-50 different things in a given growing season. All our produce is restaurant-quality and grown without the use of pesticides or other chemicals. Our tomatoes, kale, lettuces, cucumbers and herbs are always top sellers!
The GSF farm stand is open on Wednesdays from 10 am to 1 pm and on Fridays from 2 pm to 5 pm, and runs from June 1 to October 26.
Does the farm have a greenhouse?
The farm has an enclosed high hoop house where we grow things like tomatoes. A hoop house is different from a greenhouse in that a greenhouse is a permanent structure with climate control while a hoop house is a structure, usually with a light plastic roof, that extends the growing season by helping to warm the air and soil inside. There is also a large tent where students gather, a cold storage locker to keep harvested produce fresh, an on-site bathroom (porta-potty), several tool sheds and composting bins.
Is the farm open to the general public?
Our on-site farm stand (2200 W. Campbell Park Drive, Chicago) is open to the public June - October on Wednesdays between 10 am and 1 pm and Fridays between 2 pm and 5 pm. Our produce is also sold at a pop-up market on Sundays at Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii at 1224 W. Lexington Ave. from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm (or until we are sold out).
Does the produce cost more at your farm stand than others?
Our prices are competitive. One thing to keep in mind when purchasing from us is that you are supporting the expenses of our vocational training programming, which directly impacts some of the neediest young adults in Chicago.
What do you do with all the produce the farm generates?
Growing Solutions Farm sells produce grown at the farm through CSA (community supported agriculture) subscriptions, at our on-site and Little Italy farm stands, and to local restaurants and wholesalers. Students who participate in programming at our farm take home a bag of fresh produce each week. The farm also donates 20% of produce grown to Grace Seeds Ministry, which distributes it to food banks on the West Side.
Who is in charge of the farm? What role does the farmer play with the students?
Our Growing Solutions Farm is managed by our lead grower who is an expert in all things agricultural as well as a natural in guiding students with diverse learning profiles. The lead grower uses printed visual aids in describing tasks to students, goes over safety procedures and provides any instructions they need to complete various tasks. He also supervises students as they work. Students on the farm are accompanied by their teachers and aides and work in small groups.
How can I replicate this program in my community?
We are available for consultation to assist you. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.