Bowen Harvest: Chicago’s Only Youth-Led Container Farm

Bowen Harvest flourished from the desire to bring sustainable youth-led solutions to food access for Altgeld Gardens. In order to address the community’s stark food needs, By The Hand Club partnered with Kenilworth Union Church to envision Bowen Harvest, a first-of-its-kind hub for youth entrepreneurship and nutrition education. In January 2022, By The Hand received a transformative gift from the church’s “Gilbert and Marlene Bowen Christian Outreach Fund” to launch Bowen Harvest.

Of the 77 Chicago neighborhoods, Altgeld Gardens residents have the lowest annual household income–less than $9,000 per year and the closest grocery store is over three miles away, with no direct public transportation routes. Food is the greatest need in the community.

In the summer of 2022, we began teaching our students how to grow their own food indoors using the renowned Green Bronx Machine curriculum. Through this curriculum, students learn aeroponic gardening and nutrition principles, improve reading, science and math skills, and additionally have increased students’ vegetable intake by 157% over the past two years.

Hydroponic container farms yield four acres of produce in just 500 sq. feet annually and can operate without harsh chemicals or weather concerns. Chicago experts in container farming, Freight to Plate, came alongside us to bring this advanced technology to our community. In January 2024, 13 students became our inaugural Bowen Harvest entrepreneurs. They planted lettuce seedlings to prepare for the first harvest.

In March 2024, the container farm’s first harvest yielded 4,400+ bags of produce! All produce grown at Bowen Harvest will be distributed by youth entrepreneurs to members of the community, their families, local food banks and other partner organizations throughout the year.

Timeline

December 2021

By The Hand received a transformative gift to launch Bowen Harvest

January 2022

The Bowen Harvest Vision

A first-of-its-kind hub for youth entrepreneurship and nutrition education

Summer 2022

Green Bronx Curriculum

Green Bronx Curriculum

Teaching students how to grow their own food indoors

August 2023

Farm Camp

Farm Camp

High schooler, Vernell Daniels, paved the way for our entrepreneurs and flew to Boston to attend Farm Camp

January 2024

Farm Camp

13 Students Became Bowen Harvest Entrepreneurs

March 2, 2024

Ribbon Cutting Celebration

Ribbon Cutting Celebration

March 2, 2024

Farm Camp

The First Harvest

Container farm yielded 4,400+ bags of produce

Words From an Entrepreneur

“I'm learning entrepreneurship, community, how to work in a group, how to farm and everything that comes with farming!”

Shania Pickett, Founding Member of Bowen Harvest

“Bowen Harvest means a lot to me. It's a great feeling to be able to give back to the community through fresh produce because we don't have a lot of real grocery stores.”

Keanna Flowers, Founding Member of Bowen Harvest

“I wanted to be a part of Bowen Harvest so I could be able to give back to my communities and help my friends give back to the community.”

Derek Outen, Founding Member of Bowen Harvest

“I am learning how to grow fresh produce, how to build teamwork and I am learning about entrepreneurship.”

Vernell Daniel, Founding Member of Bowen Harvest

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