Urban Agriculture

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What are the benefits of urban agriculture?
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Locally produced food and urban farming addresses food insecurity, provides employment and job training, and supports equitable access to healthy food for all our residents.

Urban farming and food production is experiencing a reemergence in popularity across the United States. Many benefits exist to growing food in cities including a decrease in transportation costs, neighborhood beautification, job creation, and providing fresh food in places where grocery stores are scarce. We believe Cook County, the second most populous county in the nation, can lead in the effort to increase local food production and consumption for all our residents.

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How much food is being produced?
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Cook County residents are producing food on porches in pots, in backyards, in community gardens, and on urban farms. Collectively, these efforts produce tons of food each year. We estimate a typical urban farm can produce at least 1/2 pound of food per square foot of land depending on what crops are grown and the existence of farm infrastructure such as high tunnels and irrigation. We fully expect production levels to steadily increase as urban farmers gain experience. Food produced in urban areas is typically donated to provide healthy, nutritious food for those in need, sold at market rates thus stimulating the local economy, or grown exclusively for home consumption.  

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What are we doing to support urban agriculture?
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At Illinois Extension we provide workshops, technical assistance consultations, and referrals to resources for urban and peri-urban food system projects and commercial fruit and vegetable farmers in Cook County, Illinois. Our flagship educational program, Master Urban Farmer Training Program, is offered once a year in the fall. Additional advanced and in-depth programs are offered throughout the year. These may include virtual workshops, field days, and coaching sessions on topics such as advanced farm business analysis, cash flow worksheets, compost, cover cropping, food safety, grant writing, irrigation, microgreens, production planning, protected culture, and more. 

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Our 12-week training for urban farmers is offered every fall Sept-Dec. Applications open up in July. Course sessions are held weekly. Two optional in-person field days are held on Saturday mornings at our Urban Research and Demonstration Farm in Matteson IL.