2 Chicagoland Food Organizations to Watch in 2016

Urban Ag continues to flourish in Chicagoland and you may be familiar with some of the leaders, Growing Home, Growing Power, the Plant and the umbrella organization Advocates for Urban Agriculture. But there are 2 groups that have been quietly planting and growing food in urban gardens and making a huge difference in their respective areas, KAM Isaiah Israel's Social Justice Committee in Hyde Park and The Talking Farm in Evanston/Skokie.

Since 2009, the KAM Isaiah Israel farmers, through their Social Justice Committee's Food Justice and Sustainability Program, have grown, harvested, and donated over 18,000 pounds of fresh produce. For five months a year, from June through October, their crew delivers fresh fruits and vegetables, weekly, to seven hot meal programs located within a mile or so of the synagogue.

Again this year, KAM Isaiah Israel's Social Justice Committee presents the 7th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Food Justice and Sustainability Weekend (Friday January 15- Sunday January 17) The focus this year is on Climate Change and Native Food. The action-packed weekend long education and advocacy program includes a keynote address on climate change and resilient communities, workshops on topics ranging from native plants and pollinators, to the new Chicago compost ordinance, to food as medicine, and a workshop at which a one-acre food forest will be designed. The goal of the weekend is to provide participants with powerful tools for change and a heightened motivation to work toward a greener, more equitable and sustainable world. For a complete list of workshops and to register: (insert link) or call 773-924-1234.

The Talking Farm (TTF), a non-profit urban agriculture organization headquartered in Evanston, Illinois is committed to providing local, fresh food and educational opportunities for the surrounding community. TTF advocates sustainable agriculture and organic growing practices and runs the Edible Acre and Howard Street Farm projects. The organization was founded in 2006 out of the efforts of the Evanston Food Council.

The Howard Street Farm has been in existence since 2010, after the village of Skokie offered TFF, a 20 year lease on a 2 acre parcel of land right on the Roger's Park/Skokie border. However, obtaining the land was only the beginning of getting the farm up and running. Over the next few years, The Talking Farm went through the long process of making it legal to have an urban farm in Skokie and sell the produce, which was the first of its kind in the area. Fortunately, they had the commitment of local lawyers to shepherd them through the process and a star volunteer farmer and now their first employee, Matt Ryan, who had gone through Windy City Harvest's Urban Ag training program, to direct the farm's operations.

In 2015, TFF sponsored intern programs at their Howard Street Farm in Skokie, provided 285 hours of school instruction to Evanston Township High School, Y.O.U. (Youth Opportunity United) and the TOT Learning Center, 2498 hours of volunteer time were donated to help the Howard Street Farm operate. They now sell their produce from the Howard Street Farm to Local Foods in Chicago and several area restaurants including Farmhouse and Boltwood in Evanston. The farm continues to grow and flourish amidst the bleak industrial landscape surrounding it. Every September, they hold their annual Hullabaloo, which is a celebration of the farm and sustainable farming.

Whether you attend the Food Justice and Sustainability weekend in January, get out to TFF's Howard Street Farm in Skokie, these 2 organizations continue to make inroads in urban-ag and continue on their paths of commitment and making a difference in their communities. Watch them grow in 2016!