Farm Provides Fresh Produce To Community

By the Hand Club for Kids celebrated the ribbon cutting for Bowen
Harvest, a freight farm, located in Altgeld Gardens. PHOTO PROVIDED
BY BY THE HAND CLUB FOR KIDS.
By the Hand Club for Kids celebrated the ribbon cutting for Bowen Harvest, a freight farm, located in Altgeld Gardens. PHOTO PROVIDED BY BY THE HAND CLUB FOR KIDS.

Farm Provides Fresh Produce To Community

By Tia Carol Jones

A five hundred square foot container farm in Altgeld Gardens is being used to teach young people entrepreneurship and bring fresh produce to the community. By The Hand Club for Kids, along with Freight to Plate and the Kenilworth Union Church, have launched Bowen Harvest in Altgeld Gardens. In March, the farm harvested its first crop.

By The Hand Club for Kids is a nonprofit afterschool program that was founded in 2001. It has five locations throughout the city and its goal is to serve 1,800 children by 2024.

Bowen Harvest is the second community initiative dealing with food from By The Hand Club for Kids. Austin Harvest was launched in Austin in 2020 to provide fresh produce and flowers to the community.

Joe Jones, Vice President of Entrepreneurship at By The Hand Club For Kids, said the organization has a strong interest in developing an entrepreneurship program for high school students, to use it as a vehicle to help others. All of the entrepreneurship programming within the organization has a strong social justice component. With Bowen Harvest, the initiative is around food justice.

“Looking at the Altgeld community and how we can use entrepreneurship to support the Altgeld community, the concept of a freight farm made a lot of sense because there is a food desert in Altgeld-Riverdale.  We’re using entrepreneurship, by way of the freight farm, to help eradicate the food desert,” Jones said.

Currently, there are 13 students who work at Bowen Harvest and they attend schools within the Altgeld community. The students work three to four days a week after school from 4:30 p.m.  to 7:30 p.m. The hours shift based on the needs of the freight farm. Because it is a new program, adjustments are being made to the students’ schedules. Lettuce varieties are being grown at the farm, because it is the easiest to grow there. Eventually, it will grow kale, spinach and arugula.

With the freight farm, it has a control climate system, which allows farming to take place all year, and an advanced water system. Both things enable more control of the farming process. The first harvest happened eight weeks after the seeds were planted.

The students are learning about farming, to selecting the type of produce to grow, based on the needs of the community, to planting the seeds and harvesting the produce. During the farming process, the students monitor the produce. Once the harvest takes place, the students develop a distribution place to distribute the produce to the community. The students are looking at ways to supply the produce to the residents, community organizations, churches, food pantries and schools.

“We’re using this as an entrepreneurship between as well,” Jones said.

The produce for the first harvest went to the local community as a way to introduce Bowen Harvest to the community during the ribbon cutting. Jones said having a farm in Altgeld gives the people in the community access to fresh produce, it is something they can walk to and it is available year round.

“The residents are getting fresh produce that we are harvesting within a 24-hour period,” he said. He added, not only are the students giving back to the community, it is also giving the students opportunities for personal development.

For more information about By The Hand Club for Kids and Bowen Harvest, visit www.bythehand.org.

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