Urban Farm Dinners and Youth Gardening Programs in Chicago
Urban Farm Dinners and Youth Gardening Programs in Chicago
Expanding our program of turning vacant city lots into green space to bring farm dinners and youth gardening to Chicago's West Town.
Expanding our program of turning vacant city lots into green space to bring farm dinners and youth gardening to Chicago's West Town. Read more
Big Delicious Planet Catering & Canteen is a 4 Star Certified Green Restaurant (the first caterer in the nation to earn this status), located in the industrial corridor of Chicago's West Town. We started catering in 1994, and opened our cafe, the Canteen, in 2011 in the front of our geothermal kitchen. We want to continue our sustainability goals by implementing positive environmental practices in our operation, by turning vacant lots into vegetable and herb gardens, by bringing farm-to-table dinners to our West Town garden, and by providing neighborhood schools and groups a place to learn about urban gardening.
In March 2012 we converted a corner junkyard of our catering parking lot into a lush garden with 8 raised cedar beds of organic soil. We planted mixed greens, spinach, arugula, chard, kale, carrots, beets, herbs and more. We were so excited about how quickly everything was growing, that we leased an adjacent vacant lot on the other side of our fence, and added 20 more beds. In our first year we organically grew 70 varieties of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. Everything we harvested was used for our catering events and the Canteen.
We've just leased another adjacent vacant lot in order to make more green space. With your support to this campaign, we hope to finish this project to achieve three goals:
1. We want to transform underdeveloped urban land into an organic vegetable and herb garden.
2. This summer we want to offer a unique hyperlocal dining experience of farm-to-table dinners right in the middle of our urban garden.
3. And, after much interest, we want to offer our garden to neighboring urban schools and small groups, such as Girl Scouts, so they can experience working in a garden and learn about the cycle of food, from seed to the food we see in a grocery store.
TRANSFORMING UNDERDEVELOPED URBAN LAND
We're located in an industrial part part of Chicago, and we're pretty lucky there happened to be some vacant lots next to our building. Starting a garden, and organically growing our own vegetables is part of our continued efforts to become a sustainable operation. What we grow and harvest is not only meant for our benefit, but about bringing new opportunities to the city. Take a look at the photos below to see what we've done.
FARM-TO-TABLE DINNERS IN THE GARDEN
There is a growing movement toward buying locally grown organic food, and supporting small independent farmers. Destination farm-to-table dinners and meeting the farmers at the food source have become very popular. Typically, you'd have to travel outside an urban area to enjoy this kind of dining experience. Imagine only having to go to Chicago's West Town! Arrive to an intimate private event on a summer evening to delicious passed appetizers and drinks, followed by a garden tour. Then you'll be seated at our beautiful 20-person farm table for a salad or soup course, followed by a family-style dinner with plenty of options for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans, and end with an amazing dessert. We'll create each evening's menu with our own organically grown vegetables, combined with locally raised natural meat. There will also be plenty of beverages.
YOUTH GARDENING PROGRAMS
We've had a few inquiries from elementary and high schools about whether we'd offer opportunities for students to come work in our garden. I know the invaluable lessons children learn while working in a garden from my own kids' experience working at Near North Montessori's "Farmessori" right up Wood Street. Planting seeds, watching seeds grow, caring for a plant, harvesting vegetables, tasting something new, learning about the nutritional value of fresh vegetables, and learning that it isn't too difficult to grow something from a little seed. Many children in urban areas never have the opportunity to see vegetables growing from the soil and learning the cycle of food. We want to offer a hands-on experience with the hope that kids will cultivate a healthy interest in what they are eating, the knowledge that there is more than one kind of tomato, and that radishes come in more than one color. Most importantly, we want them to understand the care and labor that goes into growing food, which will eventually end up in a grocery store and then on their own plates.
The money raised through this campaign will go towards finishing our project. Clearing out the junkyard, combining our front and back gardens to make one large green space, replacing a long broken fence, cutting down a couple dead trees and dead branches, installing plumbing for outdoor water, purchasing more wood and soil to build more raised beds, building a table out of a bunch of reclaimed wood planks, intern programs, etc. Please help us turn a junkyard into a multipurpose urban green space!
Take a look at what we've done so far.
Risks and challenges
The challenge of turning an underdeveloped city lot into green space is that it takes time planning it, the manpower to do it, and the resources to do it correctly and in a timely fashion. We need to clean up broken glass and remove junk to make way for building beds. We need access to water, which will be hooked up from our building. The labor involved in building beds and moving soil, etc. Weather is also a major factor. We had a group of interns from Windy City Harvest scheduled to come learn how to build raised beds and do the labor at no cost, but due to rain, it was canceled. We can't wait four more weeks to build our beds, so we're now going to have to pay some handy people to come build them. We've been working on this for a while, and know what we want to achieve, we just need some help getting there.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)