E2L’s Incubator Farm (E2LIF) launched in the 2017 growing season to support new urban farmers while they grow their skills, markets, and experience to sustain a viable enterprise. [Info for prospective farmers HERE.]
While they start their farm businesses, an incubator farm offers important support to new farmers: a dedicated growing space with essential facilities, access to tools and to bulk purchases of supplies, a mentor and peer farmers for guidance and assistance, a marketing coach and help connecting with buyers for their products.
The Farm is located just east of the Rock Island Metra, on the site of a former light manufacturing company. The City’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) identified the location and provided project management staff to build the infrastructure for the Farm. They contracted WRD Environmental landscape architects, who worked with neighborhood stakeholders on the Concept Plan for the Farm, in the context of the surrounding streets, church, and (former) school. Then, Conservation Design Forum drew up construction plans. Old Veteran Construction began installation in July 2015 and finished by early September! Their crews moved rubble, installed a liner, graded with clay and gravel, laid pipe for potable water and stormwater systems, and bermed and fenced the perimeter.
Angelic Organics Learning Center bought compost from Lake Street Supply to use as the Farm’s growing medium. We purchased a storage container for shared tools and equipment, and installed one 30×56 square-foot hoophouse to help extend the growing season — out of 4 total that can go on the Farm. To help pay for the first hoophouse, we received partial reimbursement from the EQIP urban pilot.
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP and the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) created the Green and Healthy Neighborhoods Plan to suggest places where urban agriculture might be a good use of vacant land. The E2L Farm and Garden are within the boundaries of the Plan’s Rock Island Urban Agriculture Zone. (Click on the link to see a map of the Zone.) More land in the Zone can be developed as growing sites for farmers who graduate from the Incubator Farm and seek sites where they can continue growing.