People were trained in our job training program.
People + Communities Over one-third of our Production Assistants each year are our neighbors in Englewood. After their training at Growing Home, some go on to organize community gardens, engage in advocacy, or start enterprises of their own, paying forward the benefits they received from us.
Community + Farming Our farms in Englewood connect people with their food in a way that many have never experienced before. In touring our farm, buying vegetables from our farm stand, and learning about nutrition, community members see where food comes from for the first time.
People + Farming Working as Production Assistants in our urban farming social enterprise teaches skills such as project management, effective communication skills, personal responsibility, leadership, and teamwork to individuals with employment barriers like previous incarceration, homelessness, and substance abuse.
People + Community + Farming Growing food stimulates individual and community transformation. Growing Home builds opportunities for meaningful and sustaining employment through job training, and builds community by championing local, healthy food options for all.
2016 at a Glance
Pounds of organic produce were harvested from our urban farms.
Neighbors and friends attended our cooking demonstrations, advocacy workshops, and other community events.
Of the produce that we grew made it onto eaters’ plates, compared to the high levels of food waste typical in most farming operations.
Tours of our farms were given to local schools, local organizations, and visitors from around the country and the world.
Organizations and businesses partnered with us to offer wrap-around services to our participants, collaborate on community projects, and advocate for our causes.
When I touch the soil I’m more peaceful. It’s like I’m in a totally different world. I’m still in Chicago, but my mind goes elsewhere because there is something about the soil that’s just calming.Latoya, Program Graduate
Our Job Training Model
Growing Home operates high-production farms to train individuals who are eager to work but need a supportive environment to develop their strengths as employees. Our Production Assistants, who are admitted after a vigorous recruitment process to assess their suitability and motivation, are involved in every aspect of farm production, including planting, harvesting, washing, weighing, packaging and selling our produce to customers across Chicago. Production Assistants work in teams alongside staff, graduates, and volunteers to reach social enterprise sales goals as well as our mission to improve access to healthy food to underserved neighborhoods. Our job training model, which combines rigorous real work experience with an innovative job readiness curriculum, supports Production Assistants in growing personally and professionally.
We know good communication is the key to being an effective employee. On the farm, Production Assistants work in small crews in a demanding outdoor environment. The work is labor intensive, and includes multiple harvest deadlines where hundreds of pounds of produce must be picked and processed by the end of a shift. We emphasize the importance of listening, as well as working as a group, in getting these tasks done efficiently. In the classroom, we discuss communicating with our social networks, active listening and online communication.
Responsibility means completing harvest tasks on time so that our produce is ready for market. It also means being punctual so that the team has enough hands to wash, weigh, bunch and package vegetables in our processing room. We also discuss how responsibility is taking accountability for one’s own actions and understanding how our actions can affect our team, our employer, and our family. Classroom lessons include personal goal setting, identifying personal barriers and confidence building.
While most job skills can be taught, it is much harder to train someone to stay cool under pressure, empathize with customers and act with self-awareness. At Growing Home, Production Assistants work with a diverse group of coworkers in challenging environments to meet deadlines and ensure high quality produce. During this week, we discuss the importance of being mindful of emotions and using strategies for interacting with others. In the classroom, we discuss self-care strategies, conflict resolution and managing stress and anger.
Growing Home believes that the best employees not only get the job done, but do it well. At Growing Home, completing highly skilled tasks like seeding, transplanting and harvesting allows Production Assistants the opportunity to develop transferrable skills for any job. They learn to pay attention to detail, adhere to quality standards, and how to work quickly without sacrificing quality.
Week 8 begins a new daily schedule at Growing Home, including longer days on the farm, and scheduled time for supervised job search. In addition, a new group of Production Assistants begins the program. Veteran Production Assistants are tasked with peer-to-peer mentoring and training to ensure the proper onboarding of the new employees. We emphasize the importance of patience, setting a good example and clear communication with teaching tasks to new employees. This lays the foundation for Production Assistants to develop skills that can be used in managerial positions at their next job.
Since 2005, we have been working in Englewood, a community on Chicago’s South side. Once a bustling commercial hub, the area has suffered from decades of disinvestment and de-population. According to the Chicago Tribune, 42.2 percent of households in Englewood fall below the poverty level, and 21.3 percent are unemployed (as compared with a Chicago unemployment rate of 11.1 percent). Considered a food desert due to the lack of healthy foods available, Englewood’s ratio of fast food sources to produce is greater than four to one. As a result, residents suffer from high rates of obesity, diabetes, asthma, and other serious health problems.
Growing Home brings jobs, job skills, and fresh produce to Englewood. We not only enroll Englewood residents into our training program and help them find jobs to support their families, we also encourage new food-based businesses by partnering with like-minded community organizations through coalition-building. We seek to make our vision of healthy people and communities a reality for our neighbors.