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Integrated Urban Rural Agriculture


An Economic Development plan for Integrated Urban and Rural Agriculture Production, Composting 
and Ag Training in the heart of Chicago's Pilsen and Little Village Latino Community.

West Side Technical Institute, a Richard J. Daley College,  is one of City Colleges of Chicago's Vocational Education Campuses located at 2800 So. Western Ave.  West Side Technical Institute has a large, 2,000 square foot, modern green house with 36 outdoor growing plots and 2,000 square feet of processing and refrigeration space, which is currently being re purposed for an Integrated Urban Agriculture Project.
MEDA receives large volumns of fresh food from Chicago's International Produce Market, (The Water Market), a modern 26 acre, 436,000 sq. foot state-of-the-art processing and food manufacturing economic development zone, 12 blocks east of MEDA's facility.
Fresh produce, fruits and packaged food arrive each day at MEDA's facility from around the US and the world through MEDA's relationship with The International Produce Market and other trucking companies and producers.  MEDA receives over 1.5 million pounds of food each year and turns down an additional 1.5 to 2 million pounds of food they cannot handle.  To view a 4 minute streaming video (Windows Media) of MEDA's Food Bank, click here.  Over 275 dump trucks a day are hauling produce waste from the International Produce Market to a landfill in Morris, IL.  This food waste is a valuable commodity once it is turned into organic compost for soil enrichment.
MEDA has an Illinois Department of Agriculture AgriFirst Grant to study fresh food access, distribution and disposal of un-used produce for composting and vermiculture compost.  West Side Technical Institute recently formed a partnership with the University of Illinois Extension Service in Cook County to provide training in a number of areas including horticulture, urban gardening, composting and food preparation.  These classes are available at West Side Technical Institute's campus starting this Fall 2006. Click here to view a 10 minute streaming video.  A major focus of the IL Dept. of Agriculture AGRIFIRST Grant is to establish the economic criteria for a commercial scale compost facility in Pembroke, IL.
Olive Harvey College is another City Colleges of Chicago campus on Chicago's Southside with over 30 acres of vacant land.   Arrangements have been made with Olive Harvey College's Chemical Lab for soil science studies on composting and soil enrichment under the AGRIFIRST GRANT.  This project features some of the objectives of the City of Chicago's "Green Chicago Inititative".
The Chicago Botanical Gardens entered into a partnership with West Side Technical Institute to produce starter plants for a project in North Lawndale and for other community garden projects managed by the Chicago Botanical Gardens.  Click here for a streaming video of this phase of the total project.
All phases of the Integrated Urban Agriculture Project  focus on the development of best practices for Urban Agriculture and Food Security and are tied to commercial upscaling this applied research to the commerical scale facility in Pembroke, IL, click here for the Pembroke Phase of this project.  Training materials and courses developed through this program will be available online for Chicago and Illinois residents to access on-demand through the Internet.  Digital Workforce Education Society provides the distance education technology for videoconferencing and live webcasts from the Green House and outdoor plot and from the commercial scale compost facility in Pembroke, IL.

Aerial photo of Pilsen fresh food resources

Typical Wednesday-Saturday MEDA Food Distribution

Westside Technical Institute
4 blocks south of MEDA

West Side Technical Institute's Green House Plants
Chicago Botanical Garden's Starter Plants

Organic Produce grown on organic compost

Westside Tech's Greenhouse and growing plots
36 plots for crop and agro production, click for streaming video

Test plot with compost soil provided by U. of IL
Yard and tree waste compost

Organic food waste compost
Provided by The Resource Center

Digital Workforce Education Society, MEDA, Westside Technical Institute, Olive Harvey College, City Colleges of Chicago, University of Illinois Extension Service Cook County and other partnering organizations are developing an Integrated Urban Agriculture Program that will utilize the waste food from MEDA and the International Produce Market for composting and soil enrichment for organic and urban farmers.  The West Side Technical Institute greenhouse is being developed into a demonstration and training facility for training urban gardeners, urban farmers and organic farmers as well as providing starter plants for urban and rural agricultural organic farmers and horticulturists.