Basketball court turned into urban farm after years of care and compost

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CHICAGO — A community garden has grown into Chicago’s only urban farm, spouting in the middle of the city, after years of care and compost.

After coming to the farm as an 18-year-old, Tatiana Shepherd hasn’t left, working on it for nearly 10 years.

“I would stay at my grandma’s house every summer and I need something to do, so she would say: ‘go to the farm stand with your brothers and your cousins,'” Shepherd said.

She spent time planting the crops and eventually harvesting them. After a thorough rinse, they’re ready to sell.

“When you’re harvesting crops time passes so quickly because you’re doing it for such a long time, but you don’t realize it because it’s so peaceful and fun,” Shepherd said. “I didn’t really think anything could thrive like this in the middle of the city.”

What once was a basketball court in Cabrini Green is now a farm. When the Chicago Housing Authority transformed the neighborhood, the 4th Presbyterian Church bought the land and turned it into a community garden.

“This is a completely asphalt growing space so we’ve completely composted every single inch that we’re growing on,” said Alex Cornwell, Executive Programs Director.

Growing 25 different varieties of vegetables plus flowers and herbs, it grew into a fully functioning urban farm 15 in years.

Just as they’ve transformed the space, Chicago Lights has transformed the teens who volunteer here.

“If you don’t know anything you can still work here and you’re going to be learning and things like that so I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here,” Bahja McClatchey said.

It’s not just about the garden. It’s the people who keep these kids coming back every season.

“You always want to come back because you always feel welcome and you always feel like you’re engaged with the community. You feel like you’re helping all the time,” Tatianna said.

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