All of the activities listed below will take place at The Plant, 1400 W 46th St in Chicago, IL

Also check out the other activities we are planning for the weekend on our Beyond the Workshops page.

Please see descriptions of the panels and bios for the speakers below the schedule.

Saturday, March 10

7-9a: Breakfast (Free!), networking, and set-up

8a: Resource Fair opens

9-9:15a: Welcome address from the MWUF Crew

9:15-9:45a: Brief presentations on the the state of urban ag across the region (please email us if you are interested in presenting about your city or state)

10-11:30a:  Workshop Session 1

  • Holding Contradictions and Building Accountability Across an Urban Agriculture Practice
  • The Praxis and Poetics of Healthy Soil
  • Subscription Models That Work: Partnering With Local Farms & Restaurants
  • Compost and Soil – How to Make Sure You’re Getting the Good Stuff

11:30-12:30:  Lunch (Free!)

12:45-1:45p: Keynote Conversation w/Rep. Sonya Harper, Rodrigo Cala and Christy Webber. Moderated by Plus Sign

2-3:30p: Workshop Session #2

  • Urban Agriculture and Community Ownership: A conversation with Getting Grown Collective
  • Growing Farmers: Engaging Youth in Urban Agriculture
  • Farm Record-keeping to Increase Profitability
  • Minimizing Pests, Maximizing Biodiversity, and Creating an Ecosystem on the Urban Farm

3:30-4p: Networking Activities

  • Tool Share — everyone is invited to bring and share their favorite and/or most useful farm tool.  Tool is used broadly and can include things such as fliers, notebooks, spreadsheets, etc.
  • Urban Ag Research and Resource Sharing with Plant Chicago — Plant Chicago offers a unique opportunity to be a part a diverse group of growers, thinkers, and experimenters. Come learn what projects we have been undertaking lately, and discuss what ideas we can explore together for the future of urban farming.

4-5:30p: Roundtable conversations

  • Topics for all of the roundtable conversations will be decided on at the summit based on people’s interests and questions.

5p: Resource Fair Closes and Plant tour

  • $10 donation requested for the tour. Meet Nick Lucas in the front lobby to join.

5:30-7p: The Plant remains open for networking

5:30-10p: Stick around for some beers at the Whiner Tap Room


Sunday, March 11

8-10a: Breakfast (Free!), set-up, and networking

10-11:30a: Workshop Session #3

  •  Starting a farm in Chicago
  •  Farm Financials: getting started with bookkeeping
  •  Transforming contaminated land into a healthy ecosystem
  •  Farm Fundraising

11:30-12:30: Lunch (Free!)

12:30-1:30p: What is the future of the MWUF Summit?

  • How do we want to continue to share and support one another over the next 2 years?
  • Do we want to seek funding for future summits or programs?
  • How was the summit valuable, and how could it be improved?

1:45-2:15p: City Roundtable Conversations

  • We will breakup into groups based on where we live and work to discuss what we have learned and want to take back home with us.

2:30-4:  Plant stays open for networking, clean up and break down



Saturday 10-11:30 am

Workshop Session 1

 * Holding Contradictions and Building Accountability Across an Urban Agriculture Practice

facilitated discussion with:

Caroline Devany – Stone’s Throw Urban Farm
Annelise Brandel-Tanis- based in Minneapolis, MN
Eric Rodriguez – The Urban Canopy Co-Founder

Want to talk about your lived experiences around the intersections of gentrification, labor justice, whiteness, gender identity, (etc. etc,) within urban agriculture?

This workshop grew out of the desire to step beyond savior narratives and non-profit industrial complex metrics for project success. How can we begin to build accountability, within ourselves and across projects, to shift out of familiar but patterns? Facilitators will open the space through sharing of their own experiences grappling with contradictions, intuition, and decision. Through a variety of facilitated activities we invite participants to speak, listen to, and support each other in holding the contradictions we see in our work and imagining new possibilities.


 * The Praxis and Poetics of Healthy Soil

discussion with hands-on material and demo

Lora Lode, BFA chapter co-leader/community gardener, artist
Kerem Sengun, co-founder of Earnest Earth

Lora will introduce the Bionutrient Food Association (BFA) and their mission to share practices that support growers in building high functioning biological systems in their soil. Protocols include: soil testing / analysis, soil amendments, foliar feeding, inclusion of organic matter, minerals and other amendments, as well as best practices for cover crops, mulching and watering to support a thriving biological system. Materials and demonstrations will include: sample soil reports, amendments to apply, protocol handouts, data collected from local growers as well as a nutrient reading demo using a refractometer (Brix test).

Kerem will talk about his specific experience in building a half-acre farm primarily using reclaimed materials followed by a season of cover cropping. He will discuss EE’s bed building methods, plant selection, irrigation system, fertilization program as well as challenges he foresees going into their second year.


 * Subscription Models That Work: Partnering With Local Farms & Restaurants

presentation & discussion

Jen Rosenthal, grower & founder, Planted Chicago
Noah Link, grower, City Commons and owner at Food Field

Learn how farms in Detroit and Chicago developed different CSA and subscription programs for successful sales! Hear from Noah Link about City Commons CSA, a grower cooperative of 7 farms, and from Jen Rosenthal of Planted Chicago, which grows for local restaurants through a subscription for specific crops. Each will present on the logistics of their selling models, getting started, recruiting and retaining members, and pros and cons of running a CSA/RSA, followed by an open discussion.


 *Compost and Soil – How to Make Sure You’re Getting the Good Stuff

presentation & discussion

Breanne Heath, farmer and owner, The Pie Patch
Dale Hubbard, CEO, Nature’s Little Recycles

Not all compost is created equal – or maybe you’ve already learned that the hard way. In the first part of this presentation, we will start with things that can and have gone wrong with compost, whether made on your farm or purchased with your hard-earned money. With a farmer and compost producer, we’ll discuss:
-buying compost and soil: an overview of different suppliers, requesting and understanding a compost or soil analysis, obtaining samples for your own germination testing, and inspecting and refusing a delivery
-essential ingredients for great compost – why inputs matter for plant growth
-remedying compost: what to do if you already have a bad batch

In the second half of the presentation, we will discuss using compost and soil on your urban farm:
-when do you need compost, and how much?: when do you want to pile compost on top of woodchips, and when do you want to incorporate with soil?
-how to create the ideal conditions for growing healthy and productive crops: cultivation techniques for creating and preserving the ideal soil structure and texture
-how is soil different from compost, how is compost different from fertilizer, and what is organic matter?



Back to Saturday Schedule


Saturday 12:30-1:30p

Keynote Conversation

with IL State Rep Sonya Harper, Rodrigo Cala of Shared Ground Farmers Marketing Cooperative in Minnesota, and Christy Webber of Christy Weber Landscapes.

Plus Sign will lead a conversation with these three community leaders to explore the ways urban agriculture influences and is influenced by local government, rural farmers, and local businesses.

Rodrigo Cala

Rodrigo was born on a small Family farm in Mexico City, and moved to Minnesota in 2004. In 2005, he joined the Minnesota Food Association where he successfully completed the Big River Farms Immigrant & Minority Farmer training. The training is focused in organic farming and Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) training. In 2008, Rodrigo and his brother Juan Carlos purchased their farm: Cala Farm “Origenes”, LLC, in Turtle Lake WI. They sell certified organic produce to various customers in Minneapolis-St. Paul. He also works as a trainer for the Latino Economic Development Center; he is founder member of Shared Ground Farmers Marketing Cooperative, a multicultural farmers-owned marketing business base in St. Paul, MN.

Rodrigo nació en una pequeña granja familiar en la ciudad de México y se mudó a Minnesota en 2004. En 2005, se unió a Minnesota Food  Association donde completo con éxito el programa Big River Farms Immigrant & Minority Farmers. El entrenamiento consiste en agricultura orgánica y Buenas Prácticas Agrícolas (GAP). En 2008 Rodrigo y su hermano Juan Carlos compraron su granja, Cala Farm “Orígenes”, LLC en Turtle Lake WI. Ellos venden vegetales certificados orgánicos a varios clientes en Minneapolis-St. Paul. Rodrigo también trabaja para el
Centro para el Desarrollo Económico Latino como entrenador de agricultores principiantes y él es miembro fundador de la Cooperativa Shared Ground Farmers Marketing; un negocio multicultural para la venta de vegetales orgánicos con base en St. Paul, MN.


Representative Sonya Harper

Sonya Marie Harper has been a community activist on the South Side since she was 16 years old. Her passions include promoting community, economic development and civic engagement in an effort to create more peaceful and prosperous neighborhoods.

Sonya runs a public relations and community organizing consulting firm, Sharper PR Communications. She is the Executive Director for Grow Greater Englewood and for nearly 3 years served as Director of Outreach at Growing Home, Inc. Prior to that she spent 10 years working in television news as a producer, writer and reporter for NBC, FOX and CBS affiliates throughout the Midwest. Sonya began her journalism career as a legislative reporter covering state capitol news and issues in Jefferson City, Missouri. Sonya returned home to Chicago, specifically West Englewood, to help non-profits and community organizations there with their communications and public relations needs. As a community organizer, she has also worked for local and national political and issue based campaigns.

An advocate for food access and education, Sonya co-founded the Wood Street Meet & Greet Community Garden and spearheaded the Grow Greater Englewood Coalition, a non-profit organization which advocates for and advances development projects, economic and educational opportunities related to food, urban agriculture and healthy living. Committed to youth leadership development and under the direction of Imagine Englewood If, she created Growing Citizen Leaders, a community organizing training program for teens in Greater Englewood.

Sonya is a member of the leadership team for the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, serves on the Appointed Local School Council at Lindblom Math & Science Academy, a co-founder of the Englewood Votes! Coalition, and leads efforts to organize the yearly neighborhood clean-up, Greater Englewood Unity Day.

Sonya Marie Harper resides in West Englewood, with her 5 year old daughter. She is a member of The Faith Community of Saint Sabina Catholic Church and proudly serves as the External Relations Manager for Trinity United Church of Christ.


+ ( pronounced “Plus Sign”) 

President of Utopia; a rapper, educator, and writer who likes to play a lot of games!


Back to Saturday Schedule


Saturday 2-3:30p

Workshop Session #2

 * Urban Agriculture and Community Ownership: A conversation with Getting Grown Collective

* Growing Farmers: Engaging Youth in Urban Agriculture

interactive discussion

Kris De la Torre, Windy City Harvest Urban Garden Lab & Short Course coordinator
Jan Christensen – Riverwest Community Garden School Manager
Nick DeMarsh – Groundwork Milwaukee Food Systems Director
Alex Hagler – Young Farmers Program Educator

Join Groundwork Milwaukee and Windy City Harvest in a rousing discussion about youth urban agriculture programs that focus on entrepreneurship and pathways of opportunity for youth matriculating into more advanced programming. Learn about what each organization is doing to engage youth through urban agriculture. This discussion includes plenty of audience interaction. Bring questions, and your own stories of success and struggle.

 * Farm Record-keeping to Increase Profitability


Darius Jones, Garfield Produce Company
John Hendrickson, University of Wisconsin and Stone Circle Farm

Urban farmer Darius Jones will share his experience creating detailed crop plans, planting schedules, and maximizing yields/rotations through executing that crop plan using spreadsheets as well as the Agrilyst software/database program.University of Wisconsin program manager and part-time farmer John Hendrickson will describe the Veggie Compass spreadsheet, a profit management tool to help you understand your cost of production and profitability by crop and by market, enabling you to make smart decisions about crops, markets and pricing.

 * Minimizing Pests, Maximizing Biodiversity, and Creating an Ecosystem on the Urban Farm


Sarah Jane Mallin, Owner of Pyrite Sun and Farmer at The Physic Garden

This presentation will present detailed and holistic approaches to pest control and plant health on the urban farm.

Strategies covered include:

· Planting specific herbs and flowers to attract and nurture the life span of specific beneficial insects

· Nurturing ideal soil structure to promote microbial balance and beneficial predator organisms in the soil

· Supporting the plant’s innate defense mechanisms by creating the right balance between organic matter, compost, and top soil for moisture and nutrient retention

Presenter Sarah Jane Mallin will also share images and insights about how an herb and flower garden (The Physic Garden) interacts with an ecosystem of Bike a Bee’s hives, millions of beneficial insects and animals, vegetables, the bountiful berries and fruit trees of The Pie Patch, and the surrounding community in Back of the Yards, Chicago.

Back to Saturday Schedule


Sunday 9-10:30 am

Workshop Session 3

 * Starting a farm in Chicago


Adam Pollack, Founder of Closed Loop Farms, a farm that grows microgreens at The Plant for sale to Chicagoland Restaurants.

Steve Hughes, Otis Fresh Market

2 stories on building a farm in Chicago. A side by side comparison and discussion of Steve’s experience in community gardening and Adam’s experience starting a community garden- turned for profit microgreen farm. The discussion will include topics such as permits, finding volunteers and staff, engaging community, finding customers, understanding your market, deciding what to grow and determining price of sale.

 * Farm Financials: getting started with bookkeeping


Clare Schaecher, Mike and Clare’s Farm

This will be a beginner’s guide to bookkeeping for farmers with an emphasis on QuickBooks. We’ll go over record keeping strategies and organization, how to get started with Quickbooks, and how to run reports and what they mean.

 * Transforming contaminated land into a healthy ecosystem

 * Farm Fundraising


Elise Robison, Chicago Patchwork Farms

Alex Poltorak, Co-Founder The Urban Canopy

Elise and Alex will talk about the various ways they’ve been able to raise capital over the 7 years each of their farms have been in business.  They will discuss private grants, public grants, community-based fundraising and lending, city contracts, crowd funding, and developing creative revenue streams. They will present their experiences, share the tricks and tips that have worked well for them, and leave room for questions and answers.

Back to Sunday Schedule