Urban Farming as Community Activism ...

An interview with April Dumas from The Beloved Community at Green Festival Chicago 2013.One of the more interesting aspects of the Green Festival exhibitor mix is the presence of various small (or not so small) community or advocacy groups. Several in attendance were household names from the non-profit world, while others, such as The Beloved Community from the Auburn Gresham area of Chicago’s south side, are less well known.

Founded by the controversial activist minister Rev. Michael L. Pfleger, The Beloved Community has a pretty straight-forward mission statement:

Our mission is to educate and empower our community to foster an environment that promotes long-term growth and stability.

We accomplish our mission of educating our community by:

  • Preparing young people to compete in the global economy.
  • Training adult entrepreneurs and help small business grow.
  • Training young people to grow nutritious food in a food desert.
  • And many other initiatives rooted in educating and empowering residents.

Representing the group at the conference was their Executive Director, April Dumas, who spoke with us about the specific “green” activities they’re implementing, notably an urban farming program, providing free produce to the community, and training for neighborhood-based agricultural jobs:

The organization has a number of programs that it runs … College Exploration, which features college visits, alumni panels, and recruiting fairs for grade 7-12, Excellence in Education which makes available evening and weekend tutoring, academic enrichment, and other benefits for grades 6-12, a Re-Entry Program that providing services and skill development for ex-offenders trying to enter the workforce and community, and (being featured at the Green Festival), one in Urban Agriculture:

The Urban Agriculture Program provides youth Training and vibrant experiential learning in agriculture that encourages and educates about principles of sustainability through the growing of organic food. Along with summer job opportunities for youth and access to affordable, organic produce, the program offers nutrition and healthy cooking workshops, and other health educational benefits for the entire community.

As Ms. Dumas notes in the video, they have both 8,000 sq. feet of outdoor growing area, plus an indoor aquaponics facility that this year is making locally-grown strawberries available to their local community.

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  • This effort is being replicated all over the country. We have been working on a similar project in Bronzeville, Orrin Williams in Englewood. Emmanuel Pratt all over the place, Growing Home, Growing Power just to name a few. So far this is the best method for fighting GMO, Monsanto monstrosity foods but be aware Monsanto and agribusinesses are fighting hard. Just look at some recent information about apiary destruction in Illinois and elsewhere.
    These actions have a direct effect on farming.

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