Much of the produce, fruit, herbs and microgreens prepared by our culinary team and served to our youth and their families comes from our extensive network of gardens, including our 8,600 square foot rooftop garden, environmental education garden, indoor hydroponics lab, and our 1.75 acre urban farm featuring various hoop houses, annual vegetables, perennials, fruit trees, bee hives and more.
Our one of a kind, nationally-recognized urban agricultural department provides a full range of planning, growing, distribution, training and educational programming on the Comer Education Campus with a focus on innovative youth-led social enterprise. Among them is a thriving honey production business powered by over half a million bees and our young people who earn beekeeper certificates each year. Each year, we cultivate over 15,000 lbs of fresh produce that is distributed through our kitchen and restaurant customers, sold on a sliding scale at our bi-weekly farmer’s market or donated to local food pantries and community organizations fighting against food inequity.
Our innovative urban agriculture programs not only help address food access inequalities and strengthen local food systems, but they provide our young people, apprentices, interns and part-time staff foundational life skills, college readiness and valuable workforce training for all types of fields beyond horticulture. Over 1000 young people have participated in our Career Discovery Exploration program learning skills relating to STEM, environmental protection, culinary arts, social justice, sustainability, civic leadership and more.
Last month, Students from 9 city and suburban high schools came together on the farm for our inaugural Urban Agriculture Career Development Summit to test their knowledge and earn certifications! Competitors identified different plants, evaluated the health of various vegetables, micro-greens, flowering plants and herbs, determined the best soil conditions and environments to plant different vegetation around the farm, designed a plan to safely harvest and package produce and even delivered a business pitch to an esteemed panel of judges about how they would use an acre of land in the city for agricultural purposes.