This month I had the opportunity to see the innovative and vital work of Treana Johnson and The Urban Transformation Network at Metro Farms. Metro Farms is an aquaponics farm on the west side of Chicago that grows food for the community and educates young people in conservation, nutrition and wellness, and urban agriculture.
Mission Statement The Urban Transformation Network’s mission is to support and encourage the establishment of urban gardens on unused land and space while increasing diversity, raising awareness for conservation education, urban agriculture, and wellness, and inspiring and educating youth, adults and seniors to create an economically sustainable future in their community.
I attended the same day as the Girls 4 Science STEM field trip to the farms. Breakthrough Technologies Community Action Network (BT CAN) sponsored the bus trip for Girls 4 Science to attend the farms that day as part of their Marine Biology STEM Summer Program. Our day began with watering the raised beds outside of the greenhouse.
Aquaponics is used to sustainably raise fresh fish and vegetables. Metro Farms Director Treana Johnson led greenhouse tours in small groups and taught us the features of aquaponics farming--a process that combines raising fish in tanks (recirculating aquaculture) with soilless plant culture (hydroponics). The nutrient-rich water from raising fish provides a natural fertilizer for the plants, and the plants help purify the fish water. Metro Farms has over 6,000 fish and a great team of dedicated workers and volunteers that participate in all stages of the work.
Food access and food insecurity are major concerns in Chicago. Research shows that food insecure communities have higher rates of diabetes, cancer, depression, and anxiety. In 2020 the Food Equity Council was established to eliminate barriers to urban farming and support BIPOC food businesses and entrepreneurs to create an equitable local food system. Treana Johnson had the opportunity to turn this piece of unused land on Chicago’s west side into not only a growing space but a classroom. Students learn green collar job training, healthy eating, and nutrition, as well as urban farming practices. Most of what is grown is given back to the community. Metro farms also hosts all sorts of events and activities on the farm, including yoga, blues concerts, and a tree lighting every year.
The tour concluded with a fresh salad that we prepared ourselves using the farm’s delicious lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, and pickled turnips. It was an awesome way to spend a Saturday in Chicago! To learn more, visit their website--and maybe even schedule a tour of your own!
Breakthrough Technologies has plans to support Metro Farms by assisting in the coding of their Farm Bot. We are thrilled to work with this exceptional organization that is contributing to an equitable Chicago.
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