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Urban Farms: A Great Source for Herbs

by Letitia Star

Tags: Urban Farms, Local, Locavore, Tips, Letitia Star,

It's been wonderful to write for The Herb Companion, Natural Home and GRIT. I'm excited about my herb cooking feature on quick pickling in the September issue. To date, I've written over 1,000 published articles, including features on gardening, green living, travel, beauty, healthy cooking and good eating.  You can reach me at

When interviewing Chef Bruce Sherman for the July 2009 article, "Herbal Escape: North Pond Restaurant in Chicago", I was impressed by his reliance on herbs. Although he and his staff regularly pluck a rich, fragrant variety of herbs from the restaurant's own kitchen garden, he also relies on local farms for outstanding in-season herbs and other produce.


City Farm, Chicago; 

One of his suppliers is City Farm, just a short drive from his famous Lincoln Park eatery and the Chicago's Magnificient Mile. An ardent supporter, Chef Sherman is lavish in his praise of the organic offerings from this green oasis which thrives on only one acre by the intersection of Division Street and Clybourn Avenue. You can buy fresh, organically grown herbs at the City Farm farmstand, located on its site which borders the diverse neighborhoods of Cabrini-Green and the Gold Coast.

City Farm grows organic herbs on Chicago's near north side. Here Tim Wilson (left) and Ken Dunn (right) examine new fall turnips.

Sustainable urban farms such as City Farm are literally sprouting up all over the country. (Please forgive the pun.) This is excellent news for herb enthusiasts because many of these community-minded ventures grow and sell herbs, as well as herb plants. Urban farms can be an excellent source of formal or informal gardening instruction, which often includes herb cultivation. Also look for handmade herb-based products from the farm's own workshop.

Homeless Garden Project, Santa Cruz, California; 

Do you particularly love lavender? Not just the scent, but also the taste, color and texture? You can buy an amazing, creative array of lavender offerings from the Homeless Garden Project, located in Santa Cruz, California. This innovative program provides homeless men and women with job training and transitional services. The Homeless Garden Project cultivates organic herbs, produce, flowers -- and hope. Go to the online store at to buy Lavender Shortbread & Herb Biscuit Mix, Lavender Shortbread Cookie Mix, lavender sachets and more.

Greensgrow Farms, Philadelphia; 

Another inspiring urban farm is a one-acre gem located near the heart of downtown Philadelphia. What's remarkable is that this pesticide-free farm was once a former toxic steel industrial site. Mary Seton Corboy, hailed as an urban agricultural hero, and her partner Tom Sereduk founded Greensgrow Farms over a decade ago -- making it one of the first urban farms in the nation. Today, Greensgrow Farms cultivates produce and flowers for Philly's grateful urban dwellers and restaurants. It also operates a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program with 65 local farms, a successful nursery, a farm stand, green roofs, and many community and educational programs. Of particular note are the herb plants that Greensgrow sells in its prolific nursery.

Urban Farms Near You

Throughout the nation, there are many urban farms that very much want and need your support. A quick way to find farms in your area is to conduct an online search for "urban farm" and the "city name." Also go to

Do you have a favorite urban farm? Please share your thoughts with other readers in the comment form.