The Yisrael Family Urban Farm
In South Oak Park, across from the recently closed Fruit Ridge Elementary School, beds of leafy vegetables grow among fruit trees. Orange trees and herbs like horseradish and aloe vera sit in front of the Yisrael family’s home, but the majority of their urban farm is in the backyard. Chanowk Yisrael and Judith, both 38, along with their children nurture the half-acre plot of land. For the Yisrael's, farm-to-fork is more than just a fad. “For us, (farm to fork) is something we do every day,” said Judith. “It’s a way of life.” In pre-recession 2007, Chanowk worked in the computer field and heard rumors swirling about economic collapse. He wondered what sort of impact a national financial meltdown would have on his family, and how he might provide for them. “I just designed the scenario if it did happen,” he said. “What if I was cut off from grocery stores? How would I support myself? How would I support my family? That’s when I became more self-sufficient.” He began transforming his yard into a garden to grow food. He wasn’t successful initially, but Chanowk began studying urban farming. He realized Oak Park was considered a food desert with a shortage of grocery stores offering healthy foods. A food desert is defined as an urban neighborhood without access to fresh, healthy and affordable foods in a one-mile radius or a rural town without access in a 10-mile radius. Along with Oak Park, the U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies neighborhoods like Land Park and Florin and sections in Carmichael, Rancho Cordova, Rio Linda and Antelope as food deserts. Chanowk, reinvigorated by this discovery, began again and this time, the Yisrael Family Urban Farm started to bloom. The farm has over 40 fruit trees producing fruits like Asian plums, persimmons and figs. Several beds produce vegetables such as kale, beets and collard greens. Cacti grow prickly pears while a pecan tree from next door overflows into the yard. Clucking free-range chickens roam in their own section and lay eggs. A nearby honeybee hive sits abandoned due to colony collapse disorder last year. “Some people say they can’t believe they’re in Oak Park,” he said. “The stigma of Oak Park – people think someone might kill them if they come here.”
- There is growing evidence that children are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. Without direct experiences in nature, research fndings suggest that children are missing opportunities to enhance their health and well-being. In an increasingly urbanised world—with television, computers, and extracurricular activities competing for time—fewer children have the opportunity to enjoy playing in nature.
- Through team building exercises, hands-on projects, and field trips, Project GOOD (Growing Our Own Destiny) is the vehicle we will use to cultivate the youth and plant fertile seeds in the soil of their minds. Through group mentor-ship, skill-building workshops, and neighborhood organizing, The Yisrael Family Urban Farm improves the food security, self-reliance and health of our community. We have worked alongside volunteers and neighbors in the construction of backyard and co.
- Project G.O.O.D. (Growing Our Own Destiny) brings youth together to have fun while learning where food comes from, how it is grown and how to prepare it. Careful mentoring, meaningful work, humor and kindness are at the center of all we do at The Yisrael Family Urban Farm!
- Youth will find value in real work, experience first-hand what it means to be stewards of the earth, reconnect with food and reconnect with nature.