Urban Farming Program Marks 10,000 Customers Served

Mayor Rahm Emanuel tours a mobile market operated by the Urban Growers
Collective during an event on Aug. 22, 2018. (Courtesy City of Chicago)

 An urban farming program that started barely two years ago with 7 acres of land near a former steel mill and a converted mobile library celebrated a milestone Wednesday, having served 10,000 customers with fresh fruits and vegetables.Using two retrofitted Chicago Transit Authority busses, the Fresh Moves Mobile Market program makes weekly visits to health and senior centers, schools, CTA stops and other locations on the city’s South and West Sides, with a focus on areas that lack access to fresh foods.

On the bus, shoppers can select from an array of fresh fruits and vegetables, about 80 percent of which are grown on 11 acres of city farms run by Urban Growers Collective, which operates the mobile market program. The biggest farm consists of 7 acres at Schafer Park, directly across from the former U.S. Steel site just north of where the Calumet River meets Lake Michigan.

It took several years of remediation by the Chicago Park District to transform the site into an urban farm, said Erika Allen, Urban Growers Collective’s CEO and a former Park District commissioner.

The nonprofit employs about 25 full-time staff who coordinate the mobile markets and other programs from offices in Bridgeport. Urban Growers Collective also runs initiatives focused on growing community gardens, helping beginning farmers and preparing youth for jobs.

But the organization’s trademark program is the mobile market, which marked its milestone with a press event Wednesday afternoon at its 7-acre farm.