Growing Power Looking to Add Bike Component to Urban Farming Program

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Growing Power participant Henry Dumas at Iron Street Urban Farm in Bridgeport on a prototype cargo bike designed by Archeworks’ Mobile Food Collective. Photos courtesy of Growing Power.

Efforts to promote sustainable transportation and projects that support access to healthy, affordable food have a lot in common. Growing Power, a national nonprofit headquartered in Milwaukee, which currently runs several urban farms and community gardens in Chicago, is looking to combine the two. They recently put out a “Request for Collaborator,” seeking a partner to create an active transportation program for their Windy City locations.

Growing Power’s mission is to build “community food systems” for cultivating, processing, marketing and distributing food in an environmentally responsible way. Operating in Chicago since 2002, they farm on over 12 acres of land in seven different locations across the city, from the Altgeld Gardens housing project to Grant Park, with five other locations in the works. In 2012 the nonprofit trained and employed more than 300 teens from low-income households in urban agriculture and community food system development. Next year Growing Power will launch the “Farmers for Chicago” program, which will support dozens of urban farmers and food processors by selling their products to retailers throughout the city.

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The organization recently won grant money to incorporate bicycling into its Chicago initiatives by using cargo bikes to move produce and compost, as well as leading bike tours of the farms and gardens. They’re looking for a partner to run summer and after-school classes to teach youth age 14-21 bike safety and maintenance. Bike education and resources will be made available to adults as well. Growing Power also wants to create “bike to farm” tours and maps showing bike routes to farms and farmers’ markets. There needs to be an income-generating component to the bike program so that it can help pay for itself.

Chicago program assistant Erica Hougland told me she couldn’t provide much more information about the bicycle project at this time, but she sent me the application. “We are open to creative approaches,” it states. “But will be looking for proposals that are financially viable and with practitioners who are able to develop and execute projects in the summer of 2013.” With five different community bicycle shops and bike education centers spread across town from South Chicago to Rogers Park, this city has more than its fair share of qualified candidates for this exciting opportunity. Interested parties can request an application by emailing chicago@growingpower.org.