5 Chicago spots to learn how your family’s food is grown

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 5-year-old daughter Viva, E-I-E-I-O.

March 21s the Agriculture Council of America’s National Agriculture Day. The day began in 1973 to celebrate agriculture’s role in American life. Now, I know that Agriculture and Agribusiness can be controversial topics. I see one board member of the ACA is from Wal-Mart, so I can’t promise the organization doesn’t exist to raise beakless chickens in tiny jails and grow terminator seeds that come from the future to put corn syrup in your tomatoes. What I do know, though, is that without farming, there’s no food. Without constant breakthroughs in farming, we don’t eat. And even though most of us city slickers don’t know how our food is grown, we love to eat. But how DOES that basil get to Trader Joe’s? Are overalls involved? Does it involve some sort of raking apparatus? Are tractors real, or pretend, like Voltrons or Batmobiles? These farm things are all concepts that exist in the metropolitan child’s periphery, but rarely in their reality. So, with spring springing, maybe it’s time to put boots on your kids and get out and learn your miner’s lettuce from your watercress, and how to grow some of those nettles you thought were somehow BORN wilted and blended with ricotta into a delicate gnudi.

Lincoln Park Zoo’s Edible Garden

2001 N. Clark Street

The Edible Garden, a collaboration between the zoo and Green City Market, opens in April.  Family visits involve hands-on lessons in planting, weeding, composting and harvesting, and can accommodate children with disabilities. Weather permitting, the garden is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

City Farm

1204 N Clybourn Avenue

City Farm transforms vacant city land into productive farmland while generating food and jobs. They offer tours of these urban farms for a donation of just $5 a person, and will set up a tour most days of the week.

If you’d like to bring a group or a class to do some hands-on learning, you can contact them at the website about reserving a time and place.

Chicago Botanic Garden Family Programs

1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe

Okay, it’s outside of Chicago but you can get there from here. The Botanic Garden is home to Windy City Harvest, and urban agriculture education and jobs training initiative that helps build a local food system and healthier communities. (You can learn about volunteering opportunities on their website.) This Saturday–and on Sunday, April 2–their Weekend Family Classes are a “pizza party” in which you and your kids can learn about how tomatoes, wheat and herbs are grown and used to make pizza. Participants plant their own herb garden to take home. ($24 per child for non-members)

Windy City Harvest Farm Tours

2800 S. Western Avenue

Speaking of Windy City Harvest, their farm sites (not at the Botanic Garden) offer 45 minute public and group tours, and funds from the tour fees go to their job training education programs. The production headquarters are at the Arturo Velasquez Institute and feature greenhouses, growing beds, hoophouses and aquaponics rigs. (Hoophouse? How can that not be fun?) The tours have begun for the spring and take place on Fridays from 11 to noon. Sign up by the Tuesday prior to the Friday you want to visit. ($7 students, $10 adults)

Lurie Garden

Millennium Park

The beautiful Lurie Gardens are getting ready to burst into verdure. On April 2 from 1-3 p.m., the Gardens are offering a Family Workshop entitled “Over and Under the Garden,” wherein families can walk through the gardens and then create art based on what they find. Registration is free, though you might consider a donation so they can keep it that way. Sign up here.

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