UIC sponsors a symposium on urban agriculture

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By Robert Felton

The end of January might seem an odd time to think about the growing season, much less agriculture in an urban environment, but that's precisely what's planned this Saturday, Jan. 29, from 8 a.m. till 2 p.m. at the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave.

And you might not expect the 2nd Annual Urban Agriculture Symposium to be sponsored by a city university. The University of Illinois Extension Chicago Fresh program will focus on the growing trends and opportunities related to urban agriculture in the Chicago area. Guest presenters, including Mike Nowak of WGN radio, will provide information on sustainable agriculture, the positive benefits of community-based agriculture and best business practices for a successful urban farm.

Chicago Fresh seeks to bring beauty and vitality back to neighborhoods throughout the West Side through gardening in urban areas.

The program hopes to inspire communities to develop open spaces into productive community gardens that will give residents a source of fresh, healthy food, spur community pride and encourage redevelopment.

The targeted audience of the symposium is anyone currently involved with agriculture or farming, as well as those interested in the urban agriculture movement for individual, social, community or economic reasons.

"The event looks also to promote the importance of healthy eating and growing organic vegetables locally, which will both be of great benefit to the community," said UIC's Rhonda I. Hardy. "If we can impact more agriculture in the community, it guarantees that the places we purchase food, such as restaurants and supermarkets, will offer us fresher foods."

Among the contributors to the event: LaDonna Redmond's Institute for Community Resource Development (ICRD); Harry Rhodes' Growing Home organization; Marshall High School's Carol Williams; The Resource Center, Ken Dunn; and the Cook County Sheriff's Garden, Ed Simmons.

"We want to make sure that everyone interested in agriculture has the opportunity to obtain all the information they need to further explore its possibilities," said Hardy.

Tickets to the event cost $35 per person. This includes lunch, information packet and conferencing with speakers. Tickets can be purchased at the door.

For more information, call 773/768-7779.

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