Urban Agriculture

This section information for starting, growing, and thriving urban farms and community gardens in Chicago.


Find a Growing Space Near You


Community Gardens

  • The Peterson Garden Project has many community gardening how-to’s on Youtube about planting and watering tips, trellising, harvesting, and pests.  

  • Other info is at https://wecangrowit.org/, the Peterson Garden Project blog.

  • The Community Garden Start-Up Guide from University of California Extension (2001) covers finding land to managing daily operations.  This guide gives a brief overview of the steps to start your own community garden and links to LA-specific and national resources. 


Rooftop Gardening & Farming



  • “What is Sustainable Agriculture?”  from University of California at Davis gives a broad overview of Sustainable Agriculture across a variety of topics, including general practical knowledge on water, energy, air, soil management, animal management as well as economic, social, and political context.

  • SARE National Continuing Education Program offers three online courses program that is designed primarily for Cooperative Extension and Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel but is available to the public.

  • “Sustainable Agriculture Principles and and Concept Overview” explores the conceptual and historical foundations of sustainable agriculture with particular emphasis on its application to the agricultural professional's role in developing science-based information and working with farmers and ranchers on the best approaches to improving their businesses and strengthening rural and urban communities.

  • “Strategic Farm/Ranch Planning and Marketing” covers planning and business development, marketing opportunities and strategies for farm/ranch businesses, and managing the farm/ranch business for long-term success.

  • “Agricultural Ecosystems Management” focuses on how to apply ecological principles in the management of crop and livestock systems.


Tools & Materials

  • The NeighborSpace Tool Lending Library offers gardening and carpentry tools for NeighborSpace-protected sites only.

  • Chicago Community Toolbank rents equipment to nonprofits at 3% of the retail cost per week for up to 6 weeks. According to the website, “ToolBank tools are not available to individuals and are not to be used for personal benefit or profit. Nonprofits, charitable/tax exempt organizations, schools, PTAs/PTOs, neighborhood associations, faith-based groups, civic organizations, and government agencies are eligible to become ToolBank members and borrow ToolBank tools.”

  • Farm Hack DIY ideas for tools and materials from farmers around the world.

  • The Chicago Tool Library is a new tool lending library launching soon.


Reports, Guides & Toolkits

  • The USDA Urban Agriculture Toolkit  (2016) lays out common operational elements that most urban farmers consider as they start up or grow their operations. There are also special sections on resources for developing indoor growing operations, such as aquaponic facilities. For each element, the toolkit identifies technical and financial resources that have been developed by federal, state, and local partners.

  • The Urban Farming Work Book (~2017) gives an overview of Urban Agriculture, its benefits and challenges, and national resources to get started on your own urban agriculture enterprise.

  • The USDA New Farmers Resources contains information tailored to people starting a farm as well as specific information for women, youth, and veterans.

  • Urban Agriculture as a Green Stormwater Management Strategy  describes the need that drives interest in green infrastructure, investigate major issues related to using urban agriculture as a green infrastructure strategy, identify gaps in current research, summarize actions other cities have taken on urban agriculture and green infrastructure, and frame a series of recommendations for next steps.



Advocacy & Resources

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City of Chicago


Advocacy Tools



  • Community Wealth Resources - https://community-wealth.org/content/chicago-illinois Listings of Chicago Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Social Enterprise, Transit-Oriented Development, Anchor Institutions, Community Land Trusts (CLTs), Worker Cooperatives, and more.



Food Access

Locate a farmers market that accepts LINK and local food pantries, and learn about how you can act to reduce food waste and food hungry people in your community.


Food Pantries


The Greater Chicago Food Depository Food Locator allows you to find find a food pantry, soup kitchen, mobile food distribution or shelter in Cook County.

Foodpantries.org provides information on food pantries and food banks across Illinois and the United States.


Mobile food distribution

  • Summer Meal Programs for Children

  • The CPS Free Summer Meals Map allows you to locate summer lunch sites for children by location. Children ages 1 to 18 do not need to be CPS students in order to receive a meal. You can also search for sites that distribute indoors, outdoors (LunchStop), or both.

  • The Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Summer Lunch Bus aims to reach children in neighborhood sites such as libraries, parks and community centers. This webpage lists the lunch bus sites and distribution times, which include locations in the South and West Suburbs. You can also apply to host a summer meal program.


Farmer’s Markets


Healthy Corner stores




Food Rescue


Produce Subscription Boxes

  • Chi City Foods, LLC - All boxes are $15 plus $5 for delivery for a total fee of $20. Boxes are delivered from a farm based on Chicago’s far South Side. Place order here.

  • Lightly Farmed is operated by Lucía León and is a Chicago grown, Woman of Color owned business. LF grows annual vegetables, herbs, and flowers for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and wholesale. LF’s mission is to provide fresh produce to people doing beautiful things in their communities, especially People of Color. Through food, we hope to heal people as they heal their communities. If you are interested in becoming a CSA subscriber, please read more about LF and sign up here.



Food Sovereignty

What is food justice? Better yet, what does Food Justice mean to communities of color and poor people? Read on about the Food Justice and Food Sovereignty movements.


General Resources


"Black Food Sovereignty: Urban, Rural, and International Connections"



Food Startups

Producing food and running a business are two different skills. There are many online resources as well as some free services in Chicago that can get your business on track.



  • The City of Chicago Small Business Center offers various resources and information online. Access information about free Business Education workshops and available commercial real estate in Chicago. You can also schedule an appointment with a business consultant and apply for a business license online.

  • Logan Square Kitchen provides support for emerging food business and shared kitchens in Chicago leveraging owner Zina Murray’s experiences navigating the complex legal, regulatory and financial processes.

  • Accion offers several business programs geared toward helping small businesses prosper. Seed Chicago provides free coaching and personalized assistance for crowdfunders. The Brewing the American Dream program for food and beverage business provides coaching, mentoring, quarterly webinars, promotional opportunities, and access to capital. The Accion website also has a library full of instructional articles, videos, and resources to support various business needs.

  • The Women’s Business Development Center provide services and programs-- such as advising, mentorship, and access to capital-- that help new and established businesses prosper. They also provide online courses in English and Spanish.

  • Become Certified as a Minority-Owned Business through the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council.

  • The EPA’s Urban Farm Business Plan Handbook (2011) is a detailed guide through all of the elements of a strategic business plan, including marketing, operational, and financial strategy.

  • This Overview of FDA’s regulatory requirements that relate to starting a food business do not include local regulations.

  • “How to Start an Online Food Business: The Ultimate Guide,” created by Shopify, goes over the basics of starting a food business, including production and packaging. Because this was created by an online shopping platform, so the are ultimately trying to get more people to use their service. (2017)





Food Waste & Compost

Chicago produces about 55 million pounds of food waste per month. A lot this food waste can be prevented or composted. This section covers reducing and diverting food waste and composting for individuals, businesses, and organizations.


DIY Composting

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  • One page document from Advocates for Urban Agriculture offers composting best practices for urban farmers (English and Spanish)




Composting Services


State & City regulations

  • Urban farms and gardens that accept off-site organic waste must register their site with the Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project (CUAMP). This blog post (2018) by Advocates for Urban Agriculture includes general information about registering your compost operation with CUAMP.

  • (Ask Rodger and, also if there is one not sideways) CFPAC presentation, Understanding the New Chicago Composting Ordinance gives an overview of the background, ordinance language, and impacts on urban farms and community gardens looking to compost in Chicago.

  • AUA’s complete compost Overview and Frequently Asked Questions goes over the basics of Chicago’s new compost ordinance in both English and Spanish (2018).


Food waste diversion



  • USDN Sustainable Consumption Toolkit provides a general overview of urban gleaning, potential city roles in implementation, and a compilation of resources. Some of the links are broken, but you can quickly find them by doing a Google search.

  • The USDA’s Let’s Glean Toolkit (after 2009) offers a step-by-step overview on how to start and run your own gleaning program.

  • The Garden Gleaning Toolkit (2012) offers practical information for both food shelves and produce growers on how to start gleaning from both perspectives.

  • Chicago Community Gardens Association’s guidelines for donating produce from community gardens outlines considerations when identifying a partner agency, options for donation systems, and models for pantry gardening.




There are several funding opportunities for Urban Agriculture projects, both for non-profits and businesses, including grants, loans, and investing opportunities. Get some green for your project!



  • Annie's Grants for Gardens gives $3,000-5,000 grants for edible plant gardens in schools.

  • Fresh Taste is an initiative by ten Chicago-region foundations working together to relocalize the Chicago foodshed and improve equity of access to good food. Fresh Taste's ten member foundations provide grants to projects that promote local food and natural resource protection.

  • The Fruit Guy Community Fund awards grants every Spring ranging from $2,000-$5,000 for projects that help small farms and/or orchards operate more sustainably, both environmentally and economically, as well as strengthen community outreach. Visit this webpage for more information about eligibility requirements and announcements.

  • The Food and Farm Communications Fund is a multi-funder collaboration organized around a shared belief in the power of strategic communications to help transform our food and farm systems for the better. Currently, the website is under construction, so some information is unavailable until fall 2018.

  • The Illinois Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Grant support projects that are intended to expand the availability of fresh, locally-grown produce and strengthen the competitiveness of the state’s specialty crop industry.

  • The Friends of the Park SEED Grant Program is a federal grant program funding Community Development Corporations, including agricultural initiatives, that address the economic needs of individuals and families with low income through the creation of sustainable business development and employment opportunities.

  • Chicago Community Trust Grant Overview contains general information on Chicago Community Trust’s various grant programs for nonprofits and access to their grant portal.

  • The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund receives funds from that downtown development in order to support commercial corridors in Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods. Business and property owners may apply for grant funding that will pay for the development or rehabilitation of real estate and projects that support new or expanding businesses or cultural assets.


USDA Programs

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  • USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Farmers Market Promotion Program grants are designed to increase marketing opportunities for farmers to sell directly to consumers through farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) farms, farm and roadside stands, agri-tourism activities, and other direct marketing initiatives.

  • USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Local Food Promotion Program offers grant funds with a 25% match to support the development and expansion of local and regional food business enterprises to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced agricultural products, and to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets.

  • USDA Institute of Food and Agriculture Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) provides grants to organizations for education, mentoring, and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers or ranchers.

  • USDA Food and Nutrition Service Farm to School Grant Program awards approximately $5 million in grant funding to support efforts that improve access to local foods in schools. Small- and medium-sized agricultural producers, groups of small- and medium-sized agricultural producers, and nonprofit entities are eligible to apply.

  • The Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFP) fight food insecurity through developing community food projects that help promote the self-sufficiency of low-income communities and awards $10,000 to $300,000 for one to three years.

  • Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) in Illinois awards grant to advance a more sustainable food and farming system.







  • Reparations for Black-Indigenous Farmers Map is a project to promote “people-to-people” reparations for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and people of color. To request your project to be added to the map, email love@soulfirefarm.org. The criteria to be listed are (1) Project is led by majority Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, and/or People of Color (2) Project is directly related to land, agriculture, and/or food justice (3) Project/person is connected to NE Farmers of Color Network, National Black Food and Justice Alliance, Soul Fire Farm, or can provide a reference from a POC-led farming organization.



Jobs & Internships

Looking for a job or internship in the good food, fair food and food justice world?  Here are a few websites and e-lists to get started.




Websites for Job listings


Training & Apprenticeships

  • Urban Growers Collective Farmer Incubation Program is a hybrid business-training course that allows participants to learn the hands on fundamentals of farming, while simultaneously developing their business plan. Read more about the schedule and costs, and download the application.

  • The Windy City Harvest Apprenticeship program annually enrolls 15 to 20 students in a nine-month classroom and hands-on certificate course in sustainable urban agriculture that is accredited by the Illinois Community College Board for 31 continuing education credits. Learn more about the training here and get application information here.

  • Growing Home’s 14-week job training program provides paid, on-the-job training  in farm production, weeding, harvesting, washing, and selling organic vegetables. Growing Home helps participants work towards obtaining a permanent job by the end of the 14 weeks through active participation and job search. The secure employment in food service, warehousing, retail, maintenance, distribution, and customer service. Learn more and apply here.

  • Black Oaks - run stands around cc health facilities

  • Site looks old: http://www.blackoakscenter.org/apprenticeships.html


Higher Education

  • Triton College, located in River Grove, offers several Associate Degree and Undergraduate certificate programs in Horticulture, food production.

  • Loyola University’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability offers several bachelors programs in Environmental Studies, Environmental Policy, Public Health, Conservation and Restoration Ecology, and Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture. Learn more about the programs here. There is also a dual degree program that allows full-time students to complete an undergraduate degree from the Institute of Environmental Sustainability and a Master of Public Policy, Master of Public Health, or a Master of Business Administration in five years. Learn more here.




Whether it’s a garden plot in a garden, an un initialized lot, or a backyard, you need fertile land and a few other things to sustainably grow plants and produce.


Getting Land

  • The Adjacent Neighbors Land Acquisition Program (ANLAP), run by the City of Chicago, allows homeowners in certain areas within the city of Chicago to purchase vacant city-owned lots for less than market value. View eligibility criteria and application information here.

  • NeighborSpace acquires and holds title to vacant lots for community groups for community gardens and urban agriculture and maintains a full list of their gardens on their website.

  • The Large Lots Program is an initiative of the City of Chicago. If you own land on the South or West sides of Chicago, you can buy up to two vacant lots from the City for $1 a lot. The lots must be on the same block as land you already own.

  • The Chicago Park District helps people obtain garden plots at parks across Chicago. Learn more and access application materials at this webpage.

  • Cook County Land Bank Authority promotes reuse of vacant, abandoned, foreclosed or tax-delinquent properties. Their website contain application materials and information, but does not address Urban Agriculture specifics.

  • Shared Earth connects people who have land, with people who want to garden or farm. Search listings by area and message with nearby gardeners or landowners.



  • The City of Chicago Urban Agriculture FAQ answers general questions about the rules and regulations related to urban agriculture projects and new zoning regulations.


Soil Remediation & Contamination

  • The EPA’s Growing Gardens in Urban Soils Fact Sheet provides general information about common contaminants, ways to identify contaminants and reduce exposure, improving soils and growing plants in mildly contaminated soil, as well as additional resources.



Markets & Vendors

Whether you are launching a Farmers Market or vending on your own, you will need to understand regulations and licensing guidelines as well as and opportunities, such as Link Up Illinois, that can expand your reach. This section may also direct you to vending opportunities and connect you to other vendors.



  • CFPAC’s information on the Urban Farm Business License Proposal lists comprehensive answers to general questions and mentions other potential licenses for your business.

  • Advocates for Urban Agriculture blog post explaining the most recent Urban Farm Business License Proposal updates.

  • The City of Chicago’s Small Business Center “Business Licensing: What Do I Need?” page gives instructions on where you can apply for a license online as well links to other resources, such as free business consultants and the Venue Licensing Toolkit.


Market Opportunities


Starting your own market

  • While it emphasizes become a California certified farmers market, University of California Davis’ “Starting A New Farmers Market”  manual guides one through the process from forming an organizing committee all the way to managing vendors, bookkeeping, and advertising.

  • The Farmers Market Coalition on YouTube have a wealth of videos on relevant topics, such as market operations, volunteers, and insurance.

  • The Farmers Market Coalition “Market Manager Frequently Asked Questions” is a starting place for current and prospective farmers market managers and organizers looking to develop, expand, and improve their programs.


Accepting SNAP & WIC

  • USDA’s SNAP and Farmers Markets Page contains SNAP application information, equipment information, and resources and webinars.

  • Experimental Station’s Link Up Illinois page provides information on free SNAP consultation to to Illinois farmers markets seeking to accept SNAP or to improve a currently existing SNAP program, match grants that double the value of SNAP benefits used at farmers markets, and accompanying application information.

  • The Farmers Market Coalition SNAP Guide for Farmers Markets page outlines step-by-step information on starting a successful SNAP program at your farmers market as a national resources.


Mobile Markets/Vendors


Community/Shared Kitchens


Cottage Food



Special Events

Creating environmentally sustainable, low waste, large events with local, fair, sustainable and healthy food has its own set of particular challenges.


General Resources

  • Green Wedding Alliance provides a list of recommended vendors as well as a green wedding guide to help you stay green for every facet of your special or any event in Chicago.

  • Bossy Chicago exists to uplift and support women and non-binary small business owners in Chicago. Their online directory is organized by online and nearby businesses.


Diverting and Reducing Waste