Farmers for Chicago

“We must strengthen and grow both rural AND urban farming to support a sustainable, secure food system for everyone.”
– Will Allen, Founder and CEO, Growing Power, Inc.

Become a Farmer for Chicago!
Join the Movement that has become a Revolution!
• Are you ready to start farming in the city?
• Do you want to transition into a living wage occupation that transforms you and your community?
• Do you want to see your produce and products on the shelves of a local corner store?

Application Deadline: ASAP

FFC 2017 Dates:
Spring Session: March 30-April 2
Summer Session: June 8-11
Fall Session: October 5-8
Winter Session: December 7-9

The program runs Thursday 1pm to Sunday ending at 4pm, except for the December training which ends Saturday Evening.

Optional Trainings
Summer Intensive: June 12-17, 2017
Winter Intensive: December 11-16, 2017

Farmers for Chicago Application &  Program Description PDF has more information. Please download a copy before filling out your application.

Apply here with our google form and send additional applicant info to  chicago@growingpower.org with subject: Farmers For Chicago & Your Full Name.

Check out the Farmers for Chicago Workshop Series.  Accepted applicants must plan to participate in all four workshops.

Farmers for Chicago (FFC) – New Farmer Incubation Program
Supported by USDA NIFA – Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program

Farmers for Chicago is designed for individuals who have made the decision to grow food commercially in the city, have completed a farm training program, know how to farm, and are ready to get started!

The goal of this initiative is to support emerging farmers and provide incubation for the urban agriculture industry in Chicago. One of the biggest challenges, for any new farmer, is to secure farmland. This is almost impossible in large metro areas, such as Chicago, without a great deal of capital and political support. There are many training programs locally and nationally, but few that incubate urban farmers who are ready to start their operation, on land they can farm on for long term.

Program Components

All Farmers for Chicago (FFC) classes and the tool share will be housed at Growing Power’s Chicago Iron Street Urban Farm, which is situated on a seven-acre formally abandoned industrial warehouse in Bridgeport. Iron Street Urban Farm has the vision to “grow” healthy soil and energy, using closed-loop ecological practices in order to produce local, healthy, and sustainable food year-round for Chicago. Within its first year, Growing Power has already implemented seven hoop houses for year round food production, three 700-gallon aquaponic systems, mushroom production, a roof top apiary, in vessel static composting, and vermicomposting.

Successful trainees will gain an opportunity to participate in Growing Power’s farmer incubation program annually. Participants will have an opportunity to strengthen and implement their farm business plan, manage their own farm (ranging from 20’ x 40’ to 1-acre), and sell their produce.

This program is designed for 3 years of support and offers:

  • Long term access to land
  • tool share program which includes access to tillers, wheelbarrows, seeders and other farm tools;
  • technical support (monthly workshops with seasoned growers);
  • individual on-farm assistance;
  • marketing support (wholesale, retail and farmers’ markets);
  • technical assistance to apply for loans and small grants;
  • discounted rates for compost, plants and seeds; and
  • Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) training and technical support to become GAP certified;

Program Overview

FFC is a three-year program, with weekly curricular activity for the first 12 weeks, including selection and site placement. Farmers for Chicago should plan to attend and actively participate in all trainings. Participants could still maintain a full time job during this time.

The first year of the program is the most intensive. Farmers will focus on acquiring land, building growing beds, and related infrastructure and gearing up to market produce and products. Classes will take place evenings and weekends. Year two provides continued support with a focus on increasing production and added-value products. Year three is a transition year to increased independence, with farmers able to access technical assistance and support.

While the program is designed along a series of benchmarks we want all new farmers to achieve, this is a program designed with the learners in mind and will evolve according to the needs of the farmers involved.

We will focus on the following:

  • Crop planning
  • Farm preparations (land lease begins)
  • Bed building
  • Hoop house construction
  • Successful production and marketing of crops
  • Record-keeping
  • Marketing plan
  • Financial plan
  • GAP training and certification
  • Technical support in loan and financing

Tuition/Program Costs: $1800 per year. Monthly installment plans are available. This is a tuition based program that will be based on current income. Fees and scholarships will be awarded according to a sliding scale.