Total loan: $7,000
Chicago, IL, United States / Agriculture
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A loan helped our urban farm build a shelf-stable product line such as beet-salsa and veggie chips, extend our growing season through hoophouse construction, and create paid internship opportunities for youth with developmental disabilities.
A farmer is considered a beginner until they have 10 years under their belt. Ten years ago, I was in still in college studying environmental issues and sociology. I had the opportunity to be active in social issues through academics, but I chose to jump out into the world, and become the youngest Master Gardener in the state of Illinois at 22 years old. I worked in dozens of gardens throughout the city of Chicago--broken, ancient forgotten gardens, futuristic rooftop gardens atop high-rises, messy community gardens that had the best tomatoes--but they were always someone else's garden. I knew I needed to create my own, and it needed to be big. In 2014, I was given my own space--7,000 sq. feet. In 2016, the City of Chicago awarded my business the deed to 25,000 sq. ft., and just this year 2018, I was awarded another 25,000 sq. ft. The garden, and the business, has been growing, and it's seen myself meet my husband, get married, have a beautiful son, and now we're expecting a little girl in 2019! It takes a lot of hard work and self-education to grow enough produce in an urban area to support not only our growing family, but also hiring local staff and paid interns. Our detailed record-keeping and close relationships with our customers at farmers markets keep us adapting each year to improve the quality and variety of our produce. My favorite in 2018 was a personal-sized watermelon with orange flesh called "Orange Sherbet." Dreams come true, but then you have to work to make them last and grow. Every year is new and exciting, and we can't wait to unfold surprises in 2019!