UIC Urban Farming 101

Projected timeline: 1-2 years

Potential budget: $20,000-$30,000

A university campus is a place where students should learn real-world experiences and skills in their discipline. A great way of exercising these skills is through school programs that combine several different disciplines into one program. Programs are made possible through contributions from tuition fees such as UIC’s Sustainability Fee. According to UIC’s Office of Sustainability’s website, a $3 fee per student generates approximately $120,000 for one academic year, and this funds several proposals that aid in creating a sustainable campus.

Farming and sustainable food production has always been the key to the survival and growth of human society. UIC currently has a small urban gardening program under the UIC sustainability fee. It’s average annual budget, according to the UIC sustainability fee reports, is about $60,000. With this current budget, I believe that my proposition could be integrated into the same program.

I am proposing that the Sustainability Department explore this program further to be expanded to evolve into UIC’s very own small urban farm on campus. UIC’s East Campus has several open fields that can be potential candidates for farming use.

On the interactive map below I have outlined possible sites that could work. All measurements are estimates that are based on Google Maps’s scale.

What can a small 1/4 acre farm produce?

In the Backyard Homestead, an example of a 1/4 acre farm is highlighted to explain how small farms can produce a good harvest. The author estimates the following harvest:

  • 50lbs of wheat
  • 280lbs of pork
  • 120 carton of eggs
  • 100lbs of honey
  • 25-75lbs of nuts
  • 600lbs of fruit
  • 2000+lbs of vegetables

These numbers are based on the book’s plan for a 1/4 acre farm pictured below(p.14):

66d894135f640f6383c1233d4f37221c

*note: The number of vegetable beds is limited by the presence of a home directly on land. More beds could be created to produce higher yields.

The possibilities of what can be learned and gained from having a sustainable farm on campus are endless. There could be several benefits from starting a small Urban farm which include: Education among different disciplines, economic development, community involvement, and healthier locally grown food options for students.

Here is a quick description of what the potential benefits could be:

EDUCATION

  • An urban farm can host education in different disciplines.
    • Urban planning and sustainability studies.
      • Teach students in the field more about city planning, design, and land use for a sustainable urban environment.
    • Business
      • Teach students about entrepreneurship and starting businesses.
      • Teach students about managing a business’ finances and profit.
      • Teach students about marketing and selling a business’ product.
    • Sciences (earth, biology, chemistry, engineering)
      • Researching new ideas for creating efficient small scale urban farms.

Economic Development

  • The program could financially sustain itself if planned properly–opening up the Sustainability fee to fund other projects.
    • The produce from these gardens could be sold to surrounding businesses or private consumers or even students.
    • Other than raw produce, several products can be made using the harvest. (i.e. berry jam, prepared salads, salsa, canned tomatoes.)
  • The farm could be a foundation for starting a UIC Farmer’s Market.
    • This could attract community involvement.
      • It could bring people from the surrounding communities to support our sustainability initiative.
      • Could potentially bring other communities together to socialize.
  • We could use this as a model to help and support lower income communities create a healthy, affordable, and reliable food source in their communities.

There is no better way of teaching sustainability than through the use of programs that can sustain themselves.

https://sustainability.uic.edu/campus-resources/sustainability-fee/#FundedProjects

Madigan, Carleen, ed. The Backyard Homestead. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2009. Print.

http://asi.ucdavis.edu/programs/sarep/publications/food-and-society/ualitreview-2013.pdf

 

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2 thoughts on “UIC Urban Farming 101

  1. This is very well sourced and would make UIC a lot more biologically diverse. I think there is lots of potential for this because of the different knowledge and skillsets to be learned from urban farms. I feel like the office of sustainability could grow and implement plenty of internships, gather economic gain, as well as figure out different ways to configure urban agriculture in these environments via experimentation in classes and organizations. Also, this could be a good opportunity for bees, and other bacteria and microbes to grow in the soil and replenish the environment around UIC. The amount of benefits and opportunities is endless.

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  2. The ideas are articulated well having a variety of uses that can to both the long term and the short term. The idea of an urban farm is talked about but should be put more into practice. There is a lot of unused space within cities that could be used for small farm plots. Showing the numbers helps put in perspective of what this can provide by using such a small amount of space. With the added note of including the education aspect can create and generate new ideas and real world experience just by have a place of interaction. As well as, the economic development point to create a sustainable idea to UIC can have long lasting effects on the area.

    Like

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