GROWING SOLUTIONS FARM FAQs

Why a farm?

 

Growing Solutions Farm is run by Urban Autism Solutions. Young adults with autism and related challenges from West Side Chicago public high schools visit the farm to gain agricultural skills as transferrable job skills.  

Both visual learning and hands-on experiences teach young adults 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 farmer’s markets. Working at the farm also helps students gain valuable ‘soft skills’ they can use on any job. These 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. In a given growing season, we usually grow 40-50 different things.

Does the farm have a greenhouse?

The farm has an enclosed high hoop house where we grow things like tomatoes. 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.

 

I/my company is interested in volunteering. How can we get involved?

We always welcome adults who would like to get their hands dirty and help us at the farm. A farm this size takes many hands and we need help with planting, watering, weeding, harvesting, packaging and composting.  You will be able to work alongside our farmers or help the lead grower. We will ask you to complete an application and waiver. If you or your company is interested in volunteering at the farm, please email info@urbanautismsolutions.com.

Is the farm open to the general public?

We are happy to provide tours of the farm for the general public, however, we do need advance notice. Please email info@urbanautismsolutions.com to schedule a time/date to visit.

Our on-site farm stand is open to the public June - October on Wednesdays between 10 am and 1 pm and Fridays between 2 pm and 6 pm at 2200 W. Campbell Park Drive. (Our produce is also sold on Sundays at Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii at 1224 W. Lexington Ave. from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm).

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. 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. 

Do I need to get a vocational assessment for my child to participate in one of the vocational programs?

A major element of our vocational program is to unlock the potential of job seekers. Although we can provide a customized assessment and follow-up with several vocational consultants who work closely with UAS, we typically work with you based on a skills and interest review as well as a review of past records. We also assist with a link to our DRS community rehab partner if the candidate has a case open.

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.

Who is in charge of the farm?  What role does the farmer play with the students?

The farm is managed by a lead grower who is an expert in all things agricultural as well as a natural in guiding students with diverse learning profiles. The lead farmer 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.

How can I replicate this program in my community?

We are available for consultation to assist you. Please email us at info@urbanautismsolutions.com.