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 OK 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 # of Crops

Total # of Volunteer Hours Worked

total # of cucumbers

Total # of KCC Menus

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

Some of our desserts are wrapped in bacon. Some of them are just regular, non-bacon-wrapped delicious. Our sweet treats are a growing menu, but we have to offer tried, tested and true. Bacon and brownes!

Beekeeping

Sandwiches of all kinds. Burgers. Pulled meats. Etc. Meats that are delicious on their own, but made even better by the addition of the line of Knockout Pickles. Dill-icious pickles and delicious meats.

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.

Joe Hart

Head Chef

Knockout Catering Coordinator

Joe has been the lead culinarian at OK for more than a few years now. With his culinary degree in hand, he has brought a passion for cooking into all aspects of OK programming. He  has also been a force in developing the social enterprises. He sees food and service not only as a way for our Warriors to gain employment but to also carry what they learn into their home environment.

THOMAS ZAINO 

Sous Chef

KNOCKOUT PICKLES COORDINATOR

Thomas role at Opportunity Knocks has grown from the roots. He started out as a part time staff in our programs and his responsibilities has grown ever since. He not only makes pickles for Knockout Pickles but he is also a member of the Knockout Catering team. He brings experience in the kitchen as well as an open mind to learn new skills and help develop opportunities for Warriors. 

MADELEINE GANCER

Warrior Chef

Madeleine lives in Oak Park and loves being at Opportunity Knocks. In addition to Warrior Catering Company Madeleine works at Scratch restaurant in Oak Park as a hostess and front of house employee. Her favorite parts about WCC is serving the food and taking people’s orders. Madeleine feels that her knife safety skills have improved. She enjoys interacting with customers.

Don’t Miss

Our News And Events

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Programming on the Farm

We believe the farm is a space that can connect with so many of the things we are aiming to do as an organization. It is the ultimate equal playing field for our community of Warriors to be together working with their hands in the dirt. We have established the farm as an ongoing initiative in our After Opps and Life Shop programs. When the farm is in season, we are out there nearly every day of the week enjoying the labor and the therapy of these hallowed grounds.

Enterprise on the Farm

We started the farm with a firm belief in the benefits it would bring our wellness programming, but we were equally committed to the potential it had to embed as the centerpiece or our enterprise programming pursuits. We believe in the importance of growing and eating healthy. We also believe in the abilities of our Warriors. What better space to build so that our purpose could play out with these Warriors at work showing off their skills as peers in the local food system, taking high quality food from seed to harvest to table.

Grower’s School

Learning and growing go hand in hand on the Knockout Farm. So much so that we have developed our own approach to educating Warriors about farming by way of The Grower’s School curriculum. This 8-week program aims to educate about farming and instill a sense of ownership in the Knockout Farm. Warriors wil take a comprehensive approach to learning, focusing on food systems, biodiversity, wellness, nutrition, composting, soil anatomy, plant anatomy, pollination, local and seasonal foods and more!

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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