Tucked amid the big buildings of the Illinois Medical District is a city farm that sells fruits and vegetables one day a week.
Growing Solutions Farm lies on 1.2 acres at Leavitt Street and Campbell Park Drive, just south of the Easter Seals building on Harrison Street. From 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each Wednesday, vendors sell organic farm produce in the farm’s blue and white tent. A nearby greenhouse is helping along a crop of tomatoes.
The farmers and sellers belong to Urban Autism Solutions, a vocational program for young people with autism. “We serve up to 30 young adults per summer,” said executive director Julie Tracy. “We have all different abilities here.”
Many attend Al Raby High School or an Easter Seals program. Some are college graduates. All are low-income and need a hand making their way to independence.
“We have placed 20 people in jobs so far,” Tracy said, noting that more than 90% of the farm interns win placement in other jobs after they complete the program.
The garden contains onions, potatoes, lettuces, and a variety of flowers. One young man said his favorite plant is carrots. Another said his favorite job is pulling weeds. They will harvest three tons of produce this summer.
Urban Autism Solutions also offers dog-walking and dog-washing services on the Near West Side,
near its residential facility.
On Sundays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., adults ages 18 to 35 with highfunctioning autism or social and communication challenges can meet at Pompeii Bakery, 1531 W. Taylor St., in a program run by Urban Autism Solutions. Urban Autism Solutions is a program of the Julie and Michael Tracy Family Foundation at 1212 W. Flournoy St.
For more information, log on to the website www.jmtf.org.
— Susan S. Stevens