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Chicago Botanic Garden And Lawndale Christian Health Center Open 20,000 Square-Foot Farm On Ogden

One of first of its kind in U.S. to offer jobs training, fresh food year-round
Release Date: 
Friday, June 1, 2018

The Chicago Botanic Garden and Lawndale Christian Health Center have partnered to open the Farm on Ogden, a 20,000-square-foot multiuse facility, one of the first of its kind in the nation. The Farm on Ogden will support and sustain a healthy urban community by bringing food, health and jobs together in one location. In its first year of operation, the Farm on Ogden will train more than 100 people for jobs in food-related industries; reach more than 5,000 customers through its year-round farm stand; and work with 400 patients through the Veggie Rx program, in which fresh produce is distributed to patients of Lawndale Christian Health Center. The Farm on Ogden will aggregate more than 177,000 pounds of produce annually, which includes 14,000 pounds of tilapia, 33,000 pounds of produce from the Lawndale location and 130,000 additional pounds of produce from 12 other urban farm locations in the Chicago area. Farm on Ogden will open on June 22. 

Watch video about the Farm on Ogden project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFFnNdwMUX0&feature=youtu.be

See photos of the Farm on Ogden in progress and completed: https://chicagobotanicgarden.smugmug.com/Press-Room/Farm-on-Ogden/

Windy City Harvest (WCH), the Chicago Botanic Garden’s urban agriculture program,  https://www.chicagobotanic.org/urbanagriculture, will manage the Farm on Ogden in partnership with Lawndale Christian Health Center (LCHC), https://www.lawndale.org.  LCHC brings high-quality, affordable health care to more than 63,000 patients throughout the West Side of Chicago. Both organizations have extensive experience working in the Lawndale community and take a “whole person” approach to community health and wellness.

   The Farm on Ogden offers eight functions under one roof:

  • Job training and certificate programs for Chicago Public School students, ex-offenders and future urban farmers in farming, food safety, cooking and nutrition.
  • Distribution center for Veggie Rx, a cooperative program developed with the Garden, LCHC, and the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Chicago Partnership for Health Promotion (CPHP). Veggie Rx boxes, grown and packed by Windy City Harvest trainees, are prescribed by LCHC providers to patients with diet-related diseases who are also food insecure. Along with the boxes, patients receive weekly nutrition education and cooking lessons from CPHP. Four hundred patients are expected to participate in this program.
  • 7,300-square-foot greenhouse, where seasonal vegetables will be grown year-round.
  • 50,000-gallon aquaponics system that will produce 2,500 heads of lettuce every week, year-round, and 14,000 pounds of tilapia a year.
  • Commercial kitchen where urban farmers can create value-added products—such as salsas, jams and teas—with produce that has been grown in previous seasons to “extend” their farm business offerings in the non-growing season.
  • Teaching kitchen for community nutrition education, Youth Farm cooking activities and Veggie Rx cooking classes. Four hundred cooking classes and demonstrations will be offered to community audiences.
  • Indoor farm stand, where fresh, affordable produce will be available year-round. It will also have produce from Windy City Harvest incubator farmers. The WCH Incubator Farmer program offers individual farmers a growing space to create a farming start-up business.
  • Aggregation space for Windy City Harvest farms and incubator farmers to distribute produce via a local food distribution network, including Midwest Foods, SAVOR… Chicago, Bon Appetit at UChicago Dining, community markets and farm stands, and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Sixteen beginning farm businesses will be supported.

The need for this type of resource in Lawndale is significant. The rate of obesity*, high blood pressure* and diabetes** is higher than the national average; unemployment is five times the national average.***

      “Training programs for jobs creation in the food supply chain, fresh produce available year-round and the addition of cooking and nutrition classes will support the resilience, health and growth of this community,” said Angela Mason, associate vice president, Windy City Harvest. “We have worked with Lawndale Christian Health Center for the past 13 years. In the three years since we started the Veggie Rx program, we have distributed nearly 1,000 boxes of produce to LCHC patients,” she said.

     “Veggie Rx is a program that allows us to write prescriptions for food for our patients. In North Lawndale, for instance, the rate of diabetes is 50 percent higher than the national average; 41 percent of our residents have high blood pressure. Rather than address their medical problems with a pill, we are introducing lifestyle changes to impact health. Diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure are directly related to what we eat,” said Dr. Wayne Detmer, chief clinical officer, operations, at LCHC.

     Chicago Botanic Gardens’ Windy City Harvest opened its Lawndale Youth Farm, in partnership with Neighbor Space in 2005. Now part of the Farm on Ogden, the program has trained 200 neighborhood high school students and has produced more than 90,000 pounds of produce. Windy City Harvest has 12 other farm locations in the Chicago area and has distributed 712,323 pounds of produce since its inception in 2003. The program has collaborated with more than 130 community organizations during that time.

     Lawndale Christian Health Center has six clinic locations that provide primary care services, mental health care, dental care and vision services. Alongside its medical care, LCHC offers a community fitness center and café. LCHC has been providing care to the West Side since 1984.

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*Sinai Community Health Survey; Sinai Urban Health Institute

** Chicago Health Atlas

***Rush Community Health Needs Assessment Report

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Editors, please note: For digital images, contact Jasmine Leonas at (847) 835-6829 or at jleonas@chicagobotanic.org.

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