September 1, 2012
On August 23rd, several members of Facilities Services' Grounds Crew spent the morning tilling soil at the Perry Street City Farm in Washington Park. The 1.7-acre farm occupies several lots that were formerly a homeless shelter. The project began as a partnership between alumni, Ken Dunn's, Resource Center and the Washington Park Consortium. The Resource Center, among other things, runs City Farm—a citywide project that is turning fallow, vacant land into productive farmland. The Center also manages the University's composting system.
Volunteers from Grounds helped Dunn spread organic compost into the soil to fertilize the beds and built crop rows for vegetables plants. Steve Frank, head of the Grounds Crew, said it was a great opportunity for both parties. "The [Grounds] Crew enjoyed getting off campus for a change and giving back to the community. And Ken Dunn was really grateful for the help."
The farm will serve many different purposes: it will supply high-end organic produce to upscale restaurants in the city, provide more jobs in the community, and generate fresh, organic produce for the local area. Perry Street farm will feature an on-site farm stand, where community members can purchase cheap local produce year-round.
The farm will service the Washington Park neighborhood and greater Chicago year-round. In a neighborhood where unemployment is over fifty percent, projects like the Perry Street Farm are a welcome addition. Brandon F. Johnson, Executive Director of the Washington Park Consortium, believes in the importance of this project. "While Washington Park is perceived through certain statistics as poor, the reality is that it is a neighborhood of abundant wealth. This wealth is most evident in the substantial available land in Washington Park. Perry St. Farm is a first step in activating Washington Park's wealth for the benefit of its residents and stakeholders. We are sincerely appreciative of the University's support in this endeavor."