Thursday, May 8, 2008
Pictured above is a community garden located at Kenmore and Ainslie in Uptown. This garden isn't listed on Green Net Chicago's site (title link), so I don't know who operates it, but it is one of dozens of urban agricultural projects being operated in the city. Some of these have been functioning for decades, such as Resource Center's City Farm, at 1200 N. Clybourn, which can be seen from the Brown and Purple line el tracks, and which supplies upscale restaurants; and Howard Area Community Gardens, directed by Sister Cecilia Fandel, and located in the North of Howard neighborhood. This garden supplies produce to the Howard Area soup kitchen, and has 40 plots tended by area residents. These are only two of dozens of functioning community gardens and urban agricultural centers operating in the city and supplying local restaurants and farmer's markets.
Urban agricultural centers and gardens not only provide valuable agricultural training and jobs to area residents and locally grown food to area residents who make the effort to seek out their products, but will become increasingly indispensable as energy prices, and the associated costs of shipping, transportation, and arable farmland continue to escalate steeply in response to fuel prices and the diversion of land to biofuel and ethanol production.Within couple of decades, local agriculture may be the only way to feed a major percentage of Chicago's 2.9 million denizens, especially if fuel becomes scarce and expensive enough to render current farming methods, that are heavily mechanized and totally dependent upon chemical fertilizers, obsolete. Under such circumstances, much more of Chicago's thousands of vacant acres would need to be rehabilitated into farm land, which is even now probably the best use to which the vast tracts of completely uninhabited land on the city's south side could be put.
Most importantly, more citizens will gain the knowledge needed to produce food, and together contribute to a pool of knowledge that has been kept alive in front of the advance of mechanized agribusiness, only with great effort- the knowledge of agriculture, the management of land for maximum sustainability and output.