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Cultivate Cook County

Ramping up local food production in the second-most populous county in the US

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Perseverance and patience grow an urban farm in West Pullman

On a warm spring day with four varieties of garlic just beginning to poke out of the ground, Natasha Nicholes, urban farmer and Chicago native, describes her vision for the corner of 120th and Union. “The original site here on northwest corner will be a community gathering and learning space which will extend west to the bike path with a children’s nature play area. Over there on the SE corner will be the full working farm, with a farm stand located on the SW corner. I want to see my community...
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Urban beekeeper's planned expansion pays off during pandemic

Approaching the hives along the Metra tracks on Chicago’s south side the smell of grass smoke intensifies as Oscar Villa, beekeeper and owner of Bee-utiful Honey, waves his smoker. “Don’t worry. Come closer. Young bees tend not to sting, and they are the ones busy working in the hive,” declares Villa. “Most of the older bees are out gathering pollen at this time of day....
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Three types of investment set up a beginning urban farmer for success

 “I blame this on my Granny Flo,” Kevin Lindley, urban farmer and executive director Green Pastures Eco Community Farm, shakes his head and declares while standing in a high tunnel located on his 5-acre non-profit farm in Chicago’s south suburbs. “When I was growing up, she took me to U-pick farms in northern Indiana and southern Michigan. We would pick beans, corn, strawberries, and apples and bring them home to preserve and share with the family. I don’t know why she chose me, but I was the...
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Good Records. Confident Decisions. No Regrets.*

Living on the edge. Hustling. Working dawn to dusk, sunup to sundown, or 24-7. Nearly every farmer uses these words to describe their life. This endless work is not surprising given that farmers must be experts in growing crops, post-harvest handling, food safety, staff management, marketing, and selling plus have skills in tractor and small engine repair, contruction, basic plumbing, and electricity. Despite the hard work, many farmers straddle precariously on the edge of profitability,...
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Creating a vision for your urban agriculture project

Your vision is what you want your world to look like in the future. Businesses or projects are created to change the future by creating a product or filling a service gap. Getting clear about what you want to change helps you to plan your business, run your business, and when the time comes, change or shift your business. As a founder or a business owner you might be very clear about your vision. You likely see it in your imagination every day. Most businesses or non-profits...
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Cleaning, Sanitization, and Disinfection on the Produce Farm: What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?

By Zack Grant (Local Foods and Small Farms Educator) with review and input from Laurie George (Local Foods and Small Farms Educator) Fact sheet version There has never been a more important time than now to review food contact surface and high touch surface cleaning, sanitization, and disinfection procedures. Food safety systems on produce farms should always be given the...
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