Growing Power's Iron Street Farm

by Diana Cortes, Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, Class of 2015

Diana and other CRSM Scholars in front of one of Iron Street Farm's Hoop Houses
On September 21st some of the juniors and freshmen of Cristo Rey St. Martin toured the Iron Street Farm on the south side of Chicago. I decided to sign up for the exposure because I was intrigued by the idea of a farm in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world. We also had lunch at The Farmers Market, where I learned that many things such as soda could be made organically and in the comfort of my own home!

On the outside, the Iron Street Farm looks like an abandoned building. Coincidentally it was previously abandoned for many years, and now it grows various types of vegetables, fruits and even mushrooms. The Iron Street Farm’s employees work all year round, and in the summer teenagers and children can go and volunteer. They put layers of dirt and wood chips on top of the concrete in order to farm in that area. Super markets and schools donate food to the Iron Street farm, and after the food decomposes they use it as compost.  One of the most interesting things was how they grew a lot of their crops vertically in plastic “tents” that worked like green houses, which they built themselves.

Another way they grow food is by using an aquaponics system. Aquaponics is growing plants in a “nutrient solution” rather than in soil. The nutrients in the water come from the waste produced by fish, and because the plants use up those nutrients in order to grow, the water gets purified. It has many advantages because it saves a lot of water, the vegetables and fruit are larger and healthier, and you can grow all year round because it is inside. I was lucky enough to have been in an aquaponics club in middle school so the system was not foreign to me. I am glad I was allowed the chance to see a system that differed from the one I made and worked with. It showed me the diversity in a farming technique that is not very well known.

One of the most important things I learned on this exposure was about “food equality.” We do not have food equality in the United States. In fact, the food you eat is almost directly correlated to your socio-economic background. If your parents make a lower amount of money, you probably live in a place where the food quality is not very good, or you simply cannot afford the high cost of most organic food. Places like Iron Street Farm and The Farmers Market try to engage the community in a healthier lifestyle by providing amazing quality food for a much lower price than at other stores. They also encourage you to make a garden in your backyard and grow your own food, or to simply reduce the amount of processed food in your diet.

I enjoyed this enlightening exposure, and I encourage all of you to visit both The Farmers Market and Iron Street Farm. Be aware of the many ways you can grow food, save money, and become a healthier individual!


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