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Urban Farm At Old Robert Taylor Homes Site Collects First Harvest Of 2017

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A South Side neighborhood that once was notorious for poverty and crime has become the home of a new urban farm that helps teach youth how to grow food responsibly.

The Legends Farm site sits on land that was once part of the Robert Taylor Homes public housing complex, at 45th and Federal. Where high-rise Chicago Housing Authority towers once stood, there are now upscale town homes surrounding a two-acre farm.

"It's a highly productive area, and it's super-active today, even on this cold and blustery day," said Eliza Fournier, director of urban youth programs for the Chicago Botanic Gardens, which runs Legends Farm as part of its Windy City Harvest Youth Farm.

The largest farm in the Windy City Harvest program, Legends Farm serves as an incubator for six farm businesses run by graduates of its apprenticeship program and a business and entrepreneurship course. The site includes eight 1/8-acre raised beds, three hoop houses, a 1/4-acre production training farm, a wash-pack station, and a 28-bed community garden.

"I think it's very special, because this is an urban agriculture site that touches on all of the issues that urban agriculture really addresses: economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, and health," Fournier said.

Windy City Harvest
One of three hoop houses at Legends Farm, part of the Windy City Harvest Youth Farm project run by the Chicago Botanic Garden. The urban farm sits on the former Robert Taylor Homes public housing site. (Credit: CBS)

The farm had its first harvest on Friday.

"These incubators here are doing their first harvest of spinach and radishes right now," Fournier said. "You can see, through the radio, rows and rows and rows of lettuce being grown right now."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin visited Legends Farm on Friday, and joked around with the staff and young farmers.

"I've got some strongly-held views on kale. … I can't take it. It's a decorative plant," he said. "I want to tell you, kale and quinoa, lethal."

Chicago Botanic Garden president and CEO Jean Franczyk said the Garden has 12 urban farms in Chicago.

"Last year, we produced 100,000 pounds of produce," she said.

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