There is a new urban farm on Perry Street and 57th in Chicago's Washington Park neighborhood. The empty lot it occupies was previously a homeless shelter. You can read more about the project HERE. The lot is a city owned parcel near the historic John Raber estate being leased to a group with previous urban farming experience at the old Cabrini Green site.
I had the opportunity this weekend to make a quick pass though the neighborhood. First, a few notes about this neighborhood.
The Rock Island Line is elevated here, with no stops and no horns.
The tracks are opposite the farm. This empty field is currently nothing more than an empty field. Turning around you will see the farm, fenced in.
In what was once a dense residential neighborhood, now most lots are empty and most home vacant. They were once lovely Victorian style houses typical of early 20th century Chicago construction. Tall homes. Narrow lots.
Boarded up and overgrown.
The piles of tillage are fairly new, I am surprised they are starting something so late in the growing season.
As far as urban farming as a public policy for big cities to pursue? I am rather ambivalent. Taking a vacant lot and making it economically productive is preferable to having it lie fallow and cost the city in upkeep. Yet it seems like a suboptimal use of space, considering the transit options that exist in this area. The proximity to the expressway, a park, and rapid transit are somewhat wasted on farmland. It is similar to having an open lot parking site downtown. The location would be better used with a building on it, but a parking lot is better than being vacant. An urban farm is better than a vacant lot.