Sunshine, Bug Bites and Sweat
Today’s post is about an environmental internship at Chicago’s Resource Center-City Farm. It comes from Dylan Reynolds, one of the staff at our Chicago store who took part in one of Patagonia’s coolest programs. Jenny Demitrio and Ron Hunter took the photos.
The staff at Patagonia’s store in Chicago decided that after a hiatus of several years, it was high time to organize another summer environmental internship. We wanted to take advantage of the opportunities Patagonia offers its employees to volunteer for nonprofit environmental groups, learn about themselves, and work on behalf of our environment. After a thorough review of our options, we proposed an internship with Chicago’s Resource Center-City Farm.
Located just a mile from our store, City Farm is an experiment in sustainable urban agriculture situated at a unique economic and cultural crossroads. Adjacent to the infamous Cabrini-Green housing projects, City Farm offers an example of alternative land use in a rapidly gentrifying area of Chicago. The city looms large above the site, providing a modern and dramatic backdrop for otherwise traditional farm labor.
City Farm supplies organic produce to the public and to local restaurants. Some of the restaurants that use its vegetables reciprocate by ‘donating’ their green scraps to the farm's on-site compost. The farm also organizes community events and offers a space for work and socializing within the context of urban food production.
Taking cues from pioneering efforts in the projects of Detroit, City Farm provides a resource for people to educate themselves about what can be done with dilapidated corners of blighted neighborhoods. Seeking to educate and inspire, while remaining firmly rooted in the day-to-day business of farming, we think the Resource Center shines as an ideological mirror to Patagonia’s mission of using business to inspire solutions to the environmental crisis.
During the course of the several-month internship, 16 Patagonia Chicago store employees worked on the farm and at all levels of City Farm’s urban agriculture project. The work involved weeding, hoeing and planting, as well as community outreach. Though everyone described it as back-breaking work, our staff relished the opportunity to learn about City Farm and its mission, while enjoying the sunshine – all the while getting paid by Patagonia to do so.
We made every effort to participate in our internship in a carbon-neutral fashion, with each staff member riding a bike or walking to the farm. The farm’s proximity to the store made it easy to participate. We contributed pure sweat and received sunburns and bug bites for our efforts.
We chronicled our work in a journal at our store that includes photographs, drawings, recommendations, observations, and at least five different names for the farm cat that so many of us fell in love with [Ed Note: The photo at right came to us with the caption "Tina with 'Killer'."] We also talked up our internship efforts with customers, praised the company that made it all possible, and appreciated every opportunity to work outside for a cause that we all came to hold dear.