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News & Press: ICA News

An Urban Learning Lab

Thursday, April 24, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Caitlin Sarro
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ICA’s GreenRise Uptown Learning Laboratory began its exploration into the world of urban agriculture during the 2011 Summer Youth Program, when students were tasked with building a hydroponic window garden. The garden now runs as an aquaponic system, using fish in collaboration with plants to create a complete, self-sustaining food production system.

As the projects have evolved, so has the GreenRise. It now houses a greenhouse in the community kitchen, which both provides herbs and vegetables for the community and acts as a food waste hub. GreenRise aims to address environmental concerns through a variety of waste reduction methods with a focus on agriculture.

Methods to cut down on waste include but aren't limited to composting and bokashi (food fermentation process) and working with the intentional community to collect food scraps to create an enriched compost. The compost will be used in conjunction with hyperaccumulating plants in an effort to remediate the buildings parking lot soil to create a sanctuary for wildlife. Through our gardening and waste reduction models, GreenRise looks to be an example to others on the future possibilities Urban Agriculture holds.

The exciting activities within GreenRise join hundreds of urban agriculture initiatives underway all over the country, providing innovative, alternative approaches to food sourcing in urban settings. In March, the GreenRise community witnessed some of these activities in a screening of Growing Cities as part of the One Earth Film Festival. The film followed the journey of filmmakers Dan and Andrew as they traveled to cities across the US to find people who are challenging the status quo through urban farming initiatives, from gardens on rooftops, vacant lots, and inside rehabbed buildings to using a lawnmower powered by rabbits.

The screening, which drew an audience of 75, was followed by presentations from three local urban agriculture initiatives forging new paths in Chicago, including Loud Grade Produce Squad, the Peterson Garden Project and Green Scene Chicago. The audience was then engaged in a lively discussion and reflection facilitated by Learning Lab resident Pamela Bergdall. Pam engaged the audience in thinking about what ideas and practices showcased in the movie piqued their excitement, and how they were inspired to change their own behaviors and actions.

As Chicago thaws from the winter time freeze, the community prepares for the spring planting of the rooftop vegetable garden. The garden will showcase urban gardening models made from low cost and reused materials that work with nature to attract beneficial wildlife. More than an increase in the ICA GreenRise agricultural footprint, the rooftop garden will allow the community to explore innovative Urban Agricultural techniques and their ability to be integrated into just about any space.