The fall colors are starting, but as the leaves turn red, orange and yellow, The Talking Farm encourages Skokie to think of another color: Green.
From Mrs. Obama's vegetable garden on the White House lawn to previously empty lots across the cities of America, it seems like farms and gardens are sprouting everywhere. Urban farming in the city of Chicago has recently gotten a boost by a new zoning ordinance, supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Talking Farm brings this trend to Skokie with the new Howard Street Farm.
Last Saturday was a chance for the public to be introduced to the new farming project. The Talking Farm hosted a “Hullabaloo”, featuring walking tours of the land, apple cider pressing demonstrations, oil press demonstrations, and an observation bee hive. There were examples of edible products from an urban garden, and straw bale gardening. Music was provided by The Hillions String Band, and visitors could even make their own scarecrows.
An estimated 350 people attended the Hullabaloo.
“The response is wonderful,” said Judy Mendel, The Talking Farm's Administrative Manager.
Farm Operations Manager Linda Kruhmin led walking tours of the land on Saturday, pointing out where the demonstration garden, compost bins, orchards, rain garden, fire pit and vegetable gardens will be.
“We want to keep it as diverse as possible,” said Kruhmin, noting that they have no plans for monoculture.
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The new farm is a project that's been long in the making. While The Talking Farm has been a non-profit organization for several years, and has worked on gardens with schools in Evanston, a space of its own has always been a dream and goal.
The two acre patch of land on Howard Street, adjacent to the Tot Learning Center, is used in agreement with the Skokie Park District. The historical record suggests that the land is a rarity—it appears to have never been developed. The last known use was farm and pasture land. Surrounded by industry, the land remained untouched and uncontaminated.
“For urban land, it's really unusual,” said Kruhmin. The soil has been tested for more than forty toxins, and it's come out clean in all tests.
Still, there's a lot to be done before the farm is up and running. There's soil to amend, and fund raising to be done. The Talking Farm is operating on a five year plan. The first step will be a demonstration garden, designed to showcase what can be accomplished in an urban setting.
“People can look around and get ideas for their back yards,” said Kruhmin. The plan is to increase from there, ending up with an educational and production farm, an example of sustainability, right in Skokie.