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.
in our paid, robust employment training program (max. capacity)
grown at our farms for sale & donations
served on average through our food access programs, activities and events
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 Employment 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, Roots of Success Environmental Studies Curriculum and the TIP Emotional Resiliency Curriculum (below) supports Production Assistants in growing personally and professionally.
Major Components of the Program
Job Readiness Training
All Production Assistants participate in a comprehensive Job Readiness curriculum while at Growing Home. Topics and skills covered in the curriculum include interview prep, cover letter and resume writing, professional communication, managing workplace conflict, developing executive skills, basic computer skills and many others.
On-The-Job Paid Farm Training
Production Assistants will engage in hands-on training on our urban farm located in the Englewood neighborhood. This includes experience with all aspects of the crop cultivating and harvesting processes. Additionally, the expectations of Production Assistant on the farm are representative of and help prepare Production Assistants for their post-graduation employment. The possibility for this in-person component is reevaluated regularly in accordance with Covid health and safety protocols.
TIP “Transforming Impossible into Possible” is a psychological self-sufficiency program that Growing Home facilitates in a group-work context. Developed by Dr. Philip Hong at Loyola University, the program helps participants identify barriers and forward-moving Hope Actions as tools for setting TIP goals and achieving positive outcomes.
Roots of Success Certification
All Production Assistants will participate in the Roots of Success Environmental Literacy and Work Readiness curriculum. This curriculum covers material on environmental challenges and environmental justice and connects the work being done on the farm to the science behind agriculture and food systems. This program intends to prepare participants for entry level jobs in the green economy.
While enrolled in the program, all Production Assistants have available to them the support of a Case Manager. Growing Home firmly believes that employment stability cannot be achieved if there are other persisting social service needs. The Case Manager is able to make referrals for and provide support around housing, healthcare, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, childcare and any other needs that might arise.
It is Growing Home’s goal that all Production Assistants have post-program employment plans in place prior to graduation from Growing Home. In the second half of the program, all participants will receive individualized job search and application support to work towards this goal.
Growing Home has a long-standing partnership with Cabrini Green Legal Aid and all Production Assistants are eligible to receive free services from CGLA regarding the sealing and expungement of existing records.
Program participants will have the opportunity to complete a ServSafe Food Handler’s Certification during their time in the program. This certification is needed for most food service or food production jobs.
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.