The OK Farm

 THE HISTORY OF THE OK FARM

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.

The inaugural growing season for the OK Farm was a tremendous success:  Not only did we grow a significant portion of our cucumber and dill requirements for pickle production but we also harvested lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, squash and root vegetables.  This enabled us to create a farm to table food system within the Opportunity Knocks programming (cooking classes, lunch, and meals) as well as sell excess produce at local farmer’s markets.  By the end of the season, 25 different crops and nearly 800 pounds of produce were harvested from our modest farm, including a whooping 450 pounds of pickling cucumbers.

During the offseason, other projects are underway to expand the production and yield of the OK Farm, including winter garlic, an indoor seed-starting system, worm composting, low-tunnels and additional raised beds. As our farm grows it will continue to enrich the lives of Warriors and the surrounding communities.

OK FARM MONTHLY WORK DAY SIGN-UP

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, close-toed shoes, and a hat is recommended.

The OK Farm is in full swing and we need volunteers to come out and get their hands dirty! We will be on the farm from 5:30-7:00 pm on the first and third Tuesday of every month starting on June 5th.

Volunteer tasks range from pulling weeds, planting and harvesting, turning compost, spreading mulch, and anything else that may need to be done that day. (You will be notified by 12:00 pm in the case of inclement weather if the work day will be canceled).

Please Note: Warriors are welcome however, staff will not be provided for these work days. Please email natalie@opportunityknocksnow.org for accommodations and questions.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO BUILD A FARM

We are deeply grateful to the many volunteers who showed up throughout the season to transform a barren grass field into our garden oasis!  From site prep and construction to weeding and harvesting, we received an enormous amount of support from neighbors, friends, staff and corporate partners.   It was a community effort in every sense of the word!

We would like to recognize the following supporters who generously donated supplies, labor and equipment to lay substrate, build boxes, haul dirt and build accessible pathways around and through the Farm.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO BUILD A FARM

We are deeply grateful to the many volunteers who showed up throughout the season to transform a barren grass field into our garden oasis!  From site prep and construction to weeding and harvesting, we received an enormous amount of support from neighbors, friends, staff and corporate partners.   It was a community effort in every sense of the word!

We would like to recognize the following supporters who generously donated supplies, labor and equipment to lay substrate, build boxes, haul dirt and build accessible pathways around and through the Farm.

IN-KIND LABOR & CONSULTING

Reuse Depot
Landscape Design & Labor
Reuse Depot
Machine Rental & Operation
Milburn LLC
Machine Rental & Operation
Lever Interactive
Volunteer Crew
Forest City
Volunteer Crew
U of Illinois Extension
Consulting & Resource Provision

EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES

Anning & Johnson
Raised Beds
Lakeshore Recycling
Crushed Stone
Bulley Andrews
Various Farm Implements
McAdam
Landscape Entryway Paver
Kelty Lawn Care
Mulch
Republic Services
Crushed Gravel
MJA Plumbing
Water Meter + Labor

THE OK FARM BLOG

After Opps – 2018 Summer 2 Recap

Warriors had another fun-filled After Opps session in Summer 2! Check it out! Mondays: The Water Sports group enjoyed the dog days of summer by heading to Washington Park in River Forest for fun with water balloons, water guns, and a variety of...

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BIG THANKS to Legends Farm of Windy City Harvest!

Life Shop Warriors ventured down south to visit Legends Farm - a farm affiliated with Windy City Harvest of the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Windy City Harvest’s largest farm is a 2-plus acre site that serves as an incubator for small farm businesses...

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After Opps – 2018 Summer 1 Recap

Warriors had another fun-filled After Opps session in Summer 1! Check it out! Mondays: The Swimming group had some summer fun enjoying the pool, water-slides, structured activities, and sunshine at the Forest Park Aquatic Center. Cartoon Club explored the...

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Farm Updates Galore!

Things have been busy at the OK Farm. Life Shop and After Opps Warriors have been picking, planting, and pruning vegetables that are used in our Life Shop and After Opps programs, as well as Warrior Catering Company events. In...

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After Opps – 2018 Spring 2 Recap

Warriors had another fun-filled After Opps session in Spring 2! Check it out! Mondays: The Preserving group learned how to preserve produce through fermentation. They also prepared and sampled a variety of pickled foods including Knock-Out Pickles, pickled...

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It’s been a bountiful Spring on the OK Farm!

The veggies are poppin' on the OK Farm! After Opps Spring 2 finished the session strong with a harvest of 51 pounds of produce. Crops harvested included spring veggies such as spinach, radishes, a variety of lettuces, beet tops, kale, and garlic scapes! Warriors...

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Warriors harvest their first crop of the season!

Warriors had a great day on the OK Farm today. Life shop braved the first heat of the summer to make their first harvest of delicious spinach! It's really rewarding to finally get to taste the produce we have all worked so hard to grow! Some Warriors...

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After Opps – 2018 Spring 1 Recap

Warriors had another fun-filled After Opps session in Spring 1! Mondays: Gala Spotlight Moment group worked on their performance for the 2018 Night for Opportunities Gala. Warriors brought the house down with their rendition of the Cha-Cha Slide and music...

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Warriors are workin’ hard on the farm!

Warriors have been hard at work gearing up for the 2018 farming season! So far we've planted a wide variety of veggies including cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, leeks, onions, garlic, lettuce, spinach, carrots, radishes, pak choy, kale, beets, and...

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After Opps Visits DU Greenhouse

Last Friday, the After Opps Farm Program paid a visit to the Dominican University Greenhouse! We helped harvest delicious buttercrunch lettuce from their aquaponic growing system. Warriors helped pick and wash the lettuce and even got to taste some. It was...

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SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

OK maintains 3 initiatives under the umbrella of our social enterprise programming. These 3 initatives aim to sustain meaningful and gainful vocational skill building oportunities and jobs for the Warriors, while also producing a revenue stream to support the organization's programs.

  1. Knockout Pickles
  2. Warrior Catering Company
  3. OK Farm.

A social enterprise is a business created to further a social purpose in a financially sustainable way. At Opportunity Knocks, we created our social enterprise for two primary reasons:

  1. To augment the revenue stream from our programs so that we would become more financially self-sustaining.
  2. To provide opportunities for Warriors to practice important vocational skills in a meaningful employment setting.

Like most things at OK, each of our businesses developed organically out of our Warrior-focused program efforts in the culinary arts. As planning, shopping and meal prep are integral components of all our programs, it was a natural extension that our enterprise efforts would capitalize on these important life skills. It was also imperative that our Warriors would be involved in all facets of the business operation, from sales and marketing to production and distribution, so that such skills could be utilized in the pursuit of other vocational interests.

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