Urban farms bring free, local produce to area food deserts

CHICAGO -- From the street it looks like an overgrown vacant lot, but inside Stephanie Dunn is growing a full-fledged farm, smack in the middle of the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

The 28 –year-old master gardener started three organic urban farms in the area, hoping to bring beauty, health, and economic benefits to people in the neighborhood.

“It definitely keeps you sane when you’re in an urban environment that is sometimes full of conflict,” Dunn said. ”It’s something dependable you can always turn to, it’s something that uplifts you because you can see things growing.”

While the community is labeled a “food desert,” Stephanie and her helpers – many of them special needs students– teach kids and adults in the neighborhood how to grow food to feed their own families or even supplement their income.

Together with resident Godwin Akpan, who manages a neighborhood food bank, Dunn is spreading healthy food across the area. They’re even hosting their first big farmers market this fall, which they hope sales will raise money to expand the urban gardening and farming initiative.

Dunn has footed the bill herself so far, teaching piano and working as an independent contractor for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. But eventually, she hopes to one day raise enough money to start a famer’s co-op in the area.

To help support this effort, check out their GoFundMe campaign to build another urban farm in Englewood.