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What Delta is Doing
Where to Go Next
Urban agriculture is gaining popularity as a strategy to improve public health, engage and educate underserved populations, and provide opportunities for job training and economic development. The strategy is targeted particularly toward the urban poor living in food deserts and those who are at risk of food insecurity, malnutrition and obesity leading to long-term health impairment.
Urban farms can be developed in connection with municipal compost facilities, schoolyard greenhouses, restaurant-supported salad gardens, backyard orchards, rooftop gardens and beehives, and window box gardens, and can even include the production of poultry, livestock and fish. Urban farming is one of the most viable reuse strategies for brownfield redevelopment and can transform abandoned parcels into productive enterprises that provide economic development and green job training opportunities. It can also address environmental issues such as water conservation, biodiversity preservation, and waste reduction. The promotion of locally grown food has the added benefit of reducing pollution levels since food that’s grown, sold, and eaten locally has a smaller carbon footprint than food being transported over great distances.
Urban farming is sprouting up in many communities, cutting across lines of socioeconomic status and ethnicity. It is rooted in the common goal of improving health and nutrition and increasing access to high-quality, fresh food. For example, Chicago has developed Eat Local, Live Healthy, a plan promoting urban farming and sustainable food production in communities impacted by food insecurity. Chicago now has more than 600 community gardens with a variety of educational programs and other services. Some urban farming takes place on green roofs; according to the Climate Institute, Chicago has 300 such buildings with a combined growing space of 3 million square feet.
Urban agriculture is being adopted by the Green Jobs movement and offers agricultural training and workforce development programs targeted to needy populations, such as formerly incarcerated individuals, the homeless, marginalized communities, and disadvantaged youth.
What Delta Is Doing
Delta recognizes that sustainable agriculture offers numerous opportunities for environmental, economic, and community improvement and has developed several models. Delta is:
• Helping urban farming ventures create business plans, develop programs, organize teams, and negotiate land purchases through Delta’s Green Business Development Center.
• Helping with site design, environmental assessment and clean-up of brownfield sites and development of resources (financial and in-kind) to fund urban agriculture enterprises.
• Providing policy recommendations and leveraging partner networks through the Chicago Advocates for Urban Agriculture and other food policy groups.
To explore other green opportunities, visit our Green Economy Navigator.