growing home: a day at the farm

This summer we have done some produce shopping at Chicago’s Green City Market, a huge outdoor farmer’s market in Lincoln Park.  One of the organizations we’ve become acquainted with at the market (thanks solely to my wife’s inquisitive nature) is Growing Home.  On Saturday we drove out to Growing Home’s farm for their Harvest Fest.

For $20 we got to tour the farm, listen to a talk about sustainable farming, watch a cooking demonstration with fresh produce, pick as much produce as we wanted (tomatoes, basil, and raspberries), and eat some very tasty food from the farm.

The thing that first attracted Maggie to Growing Home was their unique mission.

Growing Home provides job training for homeless and low-income individuals in Chicago through a social enterprise business based on organic agriculture. Our program provides experiential learning opportunities and employment in the horticulture field as well as a unique job readiness curriculum that helps reintroduces participants back into the workforce.

On Saturday we spoke with the employees and participants of this unique program.  From our limited conversations it certainly seems that those involved with Growing Home are very quality people.  If I recall correctly, each week participants spend two days working on the farm.  They also receive other job training skills with the purpose of quickly finding employment elsewhere.  Growing Home basically serves as a stepping stone from homelessness (or other dire circumstances) to stable employment.

Two things stood out to me as we listened to the Growing Home folks talk.  First, what they do is very hard work.  There’s nothing romantic about running an organic, nonprofit farm.  80 hour work weeks are the norm.  The added layer of working with at-risk populations adds to the difficulty of their mission.  Secondly, Growing Home is a beautiful sign of life.  The simultaneous care for people and earth is so attractive and, without being trite, inspiring.

Intrigued?  Check out Growing Home’s website.  You can also sink your teeth into some of their delicious produce at a Chicago farmers market.  Or, consider joining their CSA next year to receive a box of in-season produce each week.

Anyone aware of other organizations like this in Chicago or elsewhere?

One word of warning.  If you ever visit Growing Home’s farm and decide to pick some raspberries, you will have to keep your eyes open for these spiders.  Who knew berry picking could be so exciting?

6 thoughts on “growing home: a day at the farm

  1. Sounds like you guys had a great experience there!

    Chicago Honey Co-op is a company with a similar objective and vision, except they sell only honey and honey products (duh). There are doubtless many other organizations in the country like this (and possibly more in Chicago), but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

    My fave celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, created a foundation called Fifteen, which has a few restaurants around the world that train at-risk youth to be cooks and chefs. After the training, they have marketable skills and Jamie’s clout to find them employment. Good stuff.

  2. Cathy, we’ve seen the booth for the Honey Co-op but haven’t tried any of their honey yet. At the farm we learned- something you likely know already- that honey from city bees tends to taste better because of the variety of flowers the bees have too choose from. We’ll have to try some Co-up honey soon.

  3. I love this! One of my absolute favorite organizations here in Massachusetts is the Food Project (

    Our mission is to grow a thoughtful and productive community of youth and adults from diverse backgrounds who work together to build a sustainable food system. We produce healthy food for residents of the city and suburbs and provide youth leadership opportunities. Most importantly, we strive to inspire and support others to create change in their own communities.

    They farm in rural Mass as well as on several lots in the city. Check out their goals ( it’s such a comprehensive program, meeting so many needs through such a simple idea. Amazing!

  4. Have you ever been to Pike’s Place Market in Seattle? There are a couple of stands that sell many single varietals of honey. They all have noticeable differences in flavor and are a lot more interesting than the standard whatever type you get from Jewel. I do like the Co-op honey; I think they have a different one in the fall than in the spring.

  5. Completely harmless spider (unless you are allergic). They actually have really neat zig zag patterned webs. It’s a type of orb weaver spider called an argiope spider. I saw one once on a trip to Maine and was impressed by its web, its size and its colours.

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