Helping Hands

Friday Farm Day

It takes a lot to run a farm. Make your Fridays that much more fun by joining in and lending a helping hand! Each week you can exercise that green thumb and watch the fruits of your work, literally! On each given Farm Day a volunteer can expect to be doing the following: pulling weeds, planting, and harvesting, turning compost, spreading mulch, and anything else that may need to be done that day.

Water will be available, but please be sure to bring a water bottle to fill up. The OK Farm also has sunscreen, gloves, and any farm/garden tools we will need. Also, be sure to wear clothes that can get dirty, closed-toe shoes, and a hat is recommended.

FROM OUR FARM TO YOUR TABLE

CSA MEMBERSHIP

 As an extension to Warrior efforts as growers, Knockout Farm has created a mutually beneficial partnership, where diverse farmers can connect and serve community supporters providing both with an equitable return on investment. 

Est. 2015

HISTORY OF THE OK FARM

OUR PURPOSE ON THE FARM IS TO LEARN, GROW AND CONNECT WITH OUR COMMUNITY WHILE WE PRODUCE HIGH QUALITY VEGETABLES TO FEED OUR ENTERPRISES AND FUEL OUR WELLNESS PROGRAMS.

The Knockout Farm was conceived in late 2015 as a way to give the Warriors a role in the local sustainable food movement by creating a ‘seed to jar’ experience with our Knockout Pickle
production. The idea was to plant, grow and harvest the key supply requirements in order to produce a locally grown and locally made pickle.

The Farm was launched in April through a land partnership with our friends at Reuse Depot and a tremendous amount of support from many others in terms of volunteer hours,
landscape/garden supplies and equipment. In a short period of time, we turned a 2,500 square foot field off Madison Street into lush, handicap-accessible urban farm.

Of course, the Warriors were in on the action every step of the way. Teams from both Life Shop and After Opps shoveled dirt, planted seeds, watered, weeded and harvested crops throughout the summer and fall. A generous donation of crushed gravel enabled us to convert muddy alleys between beds into pathways that were handicap accessible and remained usable during rainy
periods. We also created 22-bed feet of raised boxes that provided crop access to participants in wheelchairs or with limited mobility.

Knockout Impact

FARM STATS

Our purpose on the farm is to learn, grow and connect with our community while we produce high quality vegetables to feed our enterprises and fuel our wellness programs.

Total LBs of produce - 2020 Season

Total LBs donated to the public & the Beyond Hunger food pantry

total # of Busy Bees

Total # of Crops Produced

Biodiversity

The Warrior Way of Farming

We believe the farm serves a purpose in our mission to help us facilitate a high quality and fully-accessible experience. We have built a stage that creates an opportunity for Warriors to perform, create and interact in a meaningful way. Our farming practices are organic and we believe in biodiversity. The farm is an ongoing work in progress and we continue to build systems that promote an enviornmentally responsible food system. Check out some of the things we do by scrolling thru the grid below.

Accessibility

We continue to invest in the infrastructure of the farm so that all who come to it have the ability to connect. In that, we have established fully accessible walkways & raised beds. We are also working to landscape paved paths to reach the upper berms of the farm. The work continues!

Organic Growth

We grow with organic practices. We do not use any chemical fertilizers, pesticides or artifical agents. Our soil is sourced from our own compost system and from a third-party partner that guarantees organic constitution.

Water Reclamation

With guidance from our friends at the U of I Ag Extension and funding from the Oak Park Community Mental Health Board, we’ve installed a rainwater catchment system that captures rainwater from the Reuse Depot’s downspouts so that we can reuse for irrigation at the farm.

Composting

We grow our own produce for 5 out of 12 monts of the year. When we are pulling food from the farm, it goes straight to your plate. Salads, sides, apps and vegetarian-based menus come from seed to harvest.

Seed Starting

Growing from seed not only gives you a much larger selection of vegetables and flowers to choose from – including unusual varieties you’re unlikely to find at a garden center – it also lets you get a jump on the growing season by starting many plants indoors. Generally speaking, annual flowers and vegetables are the easiest to grow, and their seeds germinate quickly.

Beekeeping

Knockout Farm received its first batch of Italian, varroa mite resistant bees. We worked with the ReUse Depot to strategize placement for the 10,500 busy bees installed in May. Bees will not produce honey during the first year, however, in the following season Warriors may be able to harvest our first small jars of honey to taste and wax to experiment with value-added products for the farm such as lip balm, candles, soaps, etc.

Innovation

Warriors at Work

Our approach to the catering experience features high quality, fresh ingredients and a scratch made menu. In addition to that committment to great food, is a committment to creating quality experiences for Warriors to do quality work.

Top Skills

Meet the Warrior Farm Team

Our aim is to sustain meaningful and gainful vocational skill-building opportunities, while also producing a revenue stream to support OK operations. Our Knockout purpose is to support an environment where Warriors can showcase and grow their abilities, while working in a collaborative team setting to make and serve high-quality food.

Aniki Coates

Farm Coordinator

Program Leader for Opportunity Knocks

She is a certified beekeeper, a Master Urban Farmer through the University of Illinois and a graduate of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest Sustainable Urban Agriculture program as well as an Environmental Literacy Educator. She is also a professional chef and Culinary Nutritionist with a focus on plant-based cuisine and food literacy. The Knockout Farm is “operated with love at its core and incorporates a mission of plant and people growth in its practices.” As a certified Horticultural Therapist, she enjoys incorporating programming activities to develop Warriors in vocational and social skills and while providing physical therapy. Aniki is currently pursuing her graduate degree in clinical mental health counseling. She infuses her Love Warrior mentality and lifestyle into creating effective, holistic programming and methodologies that uproot any notion of lack or incapability for participants. “We all came here as a gift, a solution, as an answer. When we learn to void the internal distractions that try to block this truth, we more readily receive guidance and empowerment to do and become. The world is groaning for us to become.”

Jonece Dansby

Farm Warrior

Jonece began with Opportunity Knocks as a volunteer referred through ‘The Answer Inc program located in Forest Park, IL. Her effervescent personality and heart for others has served Opportunity Knocks diligently for nine years and counting. In 2019, Jonece became the first official Warrior employee of the Knockout Farm where she is honing her skills in sustainable urban agriculture. Aside from learning to grow plants, vocational skills learned at the farm such as record keeping, beginning project management, and paying attention to details are invaluable and transferable to any work she chooses to do in the future! “I love to make people happy and feel good,” Jonece said when asked what was her favorite activity at Knockout Farm. Of all Jonece’s learned skills at Opportunity Knocks, what emanates instinctively and without measure is what she came to share with us and the world, her love for others. Jonece is currently in training to for food farm safety and sanitation and insect and pest management (IPM).

UP & RUNNING

New Projects

Despite the struggles of the nationwide pandemic, OK has worked tirelessly to provide a safe and sanitized environment in order to keep new big ideas underway

Community Supported Agriculture – CSA

What is Community Supported Agriculture? Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a production and marketing model whereby consumers buy shares of a farm’s harvest in advance. Consumers become CSA members by paying an agreed amount at the beginning of the growing season, either in one lump sum or in installments.

By paying at the beginning of the season, CSA members share in the risk of production and relieve the farmer of much of the time needed for marketing. This allows the farmer to concentrate on good land stewardship, growing high-quality food, and most importantly growing the Warrior Mission.

Beekeeping Debut

Knockout Farm received its first batch of Italian, varroa mite resistant bees. We worked with the ReUse Depot to strategize placement for the 10,500 busy bees installed in May. Bees will not produce honey during the first year, however, in the following season Warriors may be able to harvest our first small jars of honey to taste and wax to experiment with value-added products for the farm such as lip balm, candles, soaps, etc.

Farm Coordinator, Aniki Coates, became a certified beekeeper under the tutelage of the Chicago Honey Co-op Training Center. Beekeeping certification covers honeybee biology and life cycle, pests and diseases, foraging habits and beekeeping equipment and techniques. Coates also joined the Cook DuPage Beekeepers Association and a local west suburbs beekeeping group, Westside Apiary eXperience (WAX Bee Group). This has aided in growing KO Farm’s knowledge base and community partners. Over time, Knockout Farm has benefited from the support of the Dominican University Beekeeping Initiative (Ellen McManus – English, Tama Weisman – Philosophy, and Scott Kreher – Biology), the River Forest Sustainability Commission, and the Manaaki Foundation. Newcomers in beekeeping support, Matthew Bachnacki and Bruce Faland, also members of WAX, have been phenomenal and detrimental to our first-year effort.

Helping Hands

Partners

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO BUILD A FARM

We are deeply grateful to the many volunteers, donors and partners who have showed up throughout the first few seasons of the farm to transform a barren grass field into a highly productive urban farm. Our partners have given endlessly to help us build the infrastructure of the farm. We have called in the pros we know to do so many things. From testing soil and water, to consulting on logistics, water conservation and aggregate acquisitions; to hauling, excavating, landscaping, patio paving, carpentry and more.

That amount of support does not even include our volunteers! We have been fortunate to bring so many friends to the farm to help us with site prep and construction to planting, weeding and harvesting and every other farm job in between. We have received an enormous amount of support from neighbors, friends, staff, community and corporate partners. It has been a community effort in every sense of the word and we are convinced that it takes a village to build a farm!

Sponsors & Partners

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