Source: Chicago State University submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Sep 1, 2011
Project End Date
Aug 31, 2014
Grant Year
Project Director
Block, D. R.
Recipient Organization
Chicago State University
9501 S. King Dr.
Chicago,IL 60628
Performing Department
Neighborhood Assistance Center
Non Technical Summary
Using and further developing existing resources, Chicago State University will propose the development of two parallel tracts of study. The first will be an Urban Agriculture option within the current B.S. in Biology. The second will be an Urban Agriculture option within the current B.A. in Geography. Students in both majors will also receive strong backgrounds in Biology, Chemistry, Geography, as well as Management and Entrepreneurship. The two tracts will share a set of core courses oriented specifically around urban and global food systems. These shared courses will utilize CSU's new aquaponics center and an adjacent plot that is to be developed into an agricultural learning center and urban agriculture incubation site as teaching sites. The center and adjacent plots will also be used as sites for learning in other related courses throughout the programs, as will area farms that are current partners. This new curriculum is part of an overall effort to build Chicago State as a nexus of study and expertise in urban agriculture. The program will help further connections between CSU, two community colleges, and community youth programs. As such the program will also include continuing education workshops, the creation of models for aquaponics and other technologies for urban settings, and developing CSU's facilities as a center for a growing community of urban agriculture practitioners in our region.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
Goal One: To develop diverse, interdisciplinary, problem-based, experiential academic programs (majors, minors, and certificates) designed to increase the number of minority students educated to: envision, research and implement agriculture in urban settings to produce high quality food; address societal issues regarding food access, justice and security; pursue advanced academic degrees in agriculture and agriculture-related disciplines. Includes: 1. Increase the number of community college students transferring to CSU majoring in agriculture related disciplines (ongoing); 2. Create a faculty professional development program (10/12); 3. Revise existing majors and minors within biological sciences and geography to incorporate urban agriculture (1/12); 4. Develop internship experiences(1/12); 5. Implement Study abroad opportunities focusing on urban agriculture practices(6/13). Goal Two: To create a model urban agriculture network (Consortium for Urban/Rural Agriculture and Alternative Energy - CURA2E) connecting the university to community gardens and for- and non-profit farms that can be implemented in a variety of urban settings. Includes: 1) Developing partnerships networks with commercial urban and rural agriculture firms (ongoing); 2) Expand relationships with local high schools and the surrounding community to include urban agriculture studies (ongoing); 3) Develop partnerships to provide support to community gardens and non-profit farms (1/12).
Project Methods
This proposal is particularly innovative in its urban, multi-disciplinary approach to STEAM education, using urban agriculture as a link with programs housed in a College of Arts and Sciences at a non-land grant university. CSU is a leader in the production of minority, particularly African-American science majors in the five state regions of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio. However, these students have been primarily focused within the traditional majors of biology, chemistry, and physics. Urban agriculture and food access, however, are topics of increasing interest throughout the region, and creates an opportunity to build linkages between youth-serving organizations, community colleges, and CSU, and potential employers. These linkages, we hope, may excite students to the potential of a career in agriculture and related disciplines. The training for these careers is, by nature, interdisciplinary. Students will receive training in biology, geography, chemistry and management while receiving problem-based training among these disciplines. The new classes developed for the program will include hands-on problems that incorporate not only the biology and chemistry of agriculture but also the economic geography of local and global food markets, and the place that entrepreneurial efforts might play in addressing food deserts. Through this interdisciplinary, problem-based approach, we hope to train students who are strong in their STEAM core fields (and thus ready for further studies), able to productively fill positions in urban agriculture and related fields, or begin their own business ventures. These efforts will be evaluated through an analysis of the new curricula created, connections and assistance to community organizations and companies, and students both joining and completing the program.

Progress 09/01/12 to 08/31/13

Target Audience: We had four major target audiences for the Sept. 1, 2012-Aug. 31, 2013 period. First, the project focused on informing faculty at Chicago State University about the urban agriculture program. The primary focus of this outreach work was to the Department of Biological Sciences, one of the host departments for the program, which needed to incorporate the urban agriculture program into its curriculum. Second, the project targeted Chicago State students, through internships, the Urban Agriculture Club, as well as student leaders. Third, the project focused on building the Urban Agriculture and Aquaponics programs as hubs of a growing South Side Urban Agriculture Network, through meetings and workshops with community organizations and existing local food systems networks. Fourth, the project began outreach to other universities, including the University of Illinois, DePaul University, and Loyola University, towards development of permanent connections around partnerships around urban agriculture curriculum. Changes/Problems: The major problem we have encountered is, as of yet, a lack of interest among students in the Urban Agriculture concentrations we have created. This is most likely the result of a low amount of marketing for the program and a lack of research dollars in Urban Agriculture at Chicago State that would provide for undergraduate and graduate research opportunities. An additional issue is that professional development for CSU faculty on using Urban Agriculture and Aquaponics in classes needs to be performed and additional partnerships with high schools need to be made. To assist in addressing these issues, we are starting conversations with the University of Illinois to partner to strengthen our program as well as to build links to the University of Illinois' Plant Sciences program. In addition to this, the study abroad portion of the project has been dropped from the project since it was out of place with the rest of the project, which is particularly community focused. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided? Training and professional development has focused primarily on two groups: community gardens and urban farming organizations; and CSU faculty. The main focus has been on community gardens and urban farming organizations. Through the Roseland-Pullman Urban Agriculture Network, the project has sponsored monthly meetings that include discussions of social marketing, as well as tours of local gardens. The Network also sponsored two community workshops, one led by project partner God's Gang, who presented on a school or community project building micro-terrariums, and the second led by Emmanuel Pratt, the director of the CSU Aquaponics Center, who spoke on small scale aquaponics programs. For CSU faculty, we spoke at the Biology Colloquium, presenting the new curriculum to the full aquaphonics faculty as well as discussing the aquaponics center. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest? Since a major goal in this grant is to help Chicago State become the center of a South Side Urban Agriculture network, dissemination of information both about the network and about the new urban agriculture curriculum is a major part of the project itself. In addition, information about the project needs to be disseminated on campus. Dissemination about the curriculum and network has occurred through the Roseland-Pullman Urban Agriculture Network, as well as through Chicago-wide venues such as the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council's listserve. Information has been spread on campus through the Biology Colloquium, student clubs such as the Biological and Geographical Society, as well as the Aquaponics Club. Dissemination by project director Daniel Block about the project as a whole to the outside scholarly community has occured through participation in a panel at the annual meeting of the Assocation of American Geographers in April 2013 entitled "Race, Community Geography, and the Development of an Urban Agriculture Curriculum and Community Partnerships at a Predominately African-American University." Additional presentations on food access occurred at the annual meeting of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society, the University of Illinois at Chicago Food Forum, and St. Xavier University. Block also gave a community presentation at the Field Museum of Natural History, and was worked with community and university partners on developing university-community linkages around food access issues at two universities in Georgia, Columbus State and Georgia State. At Columbus State, Block met with university officials, a local agriculture extension agent, geography professors, and a dean. Since this time, a group of Columbus State students have released a community food access project and have further developed a partnership around community garden and food issues. At Georgia State, Atlanta activists have teamed with the Geography program to similarly develop community food mapping projects. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? 1) Continue community work. Work with project partners Growing Power and Black Oaks Center, as well as existing network leaders, to help strengthen the Roseland-Pullman Urban Agriculture Network and to provide additional workshops. 2) Build on existing connections to high schools through the Aquaponics Center to develop connections directly to the Urban Agriculture program. 3) Further outreach to CSU students to increase enrollment in Urban Agriculture program classes and, through this, the Urban Agriculture concentrations in the Geography and Biology majors. 4) Promote student interest and awareness of the concentration through presentations, aquaponic open houses, and other events. 5) Build a partnership with the University of Illinois to promote exchanges of students and faculty members to help bring expertise as well as research assistant dollars to Chicago State, and to build interest in graduate studies in Agricultural Sciences at the University of Illinois. 6) Students and faculty attend national conferences on agriculture and agricultural education sharing and learning from the Chicago State experience. 7) Further attempt to develop connections with area for-profit urban and rural farms.

What was accomplished under these goals? Major accomplishments for the year beginning Sept. 1, 2012 include: 1) Completing the revision of the existing majors within biological sciences and geography to incorporate urban agriculture. While this began in the previous year, due to changes in the Biology major classes in the new concentration in Biology were first taught this year, and the new concentrations in both Geography and Biology received final approval to become part of Chicago State's course catalog. 2) Internship experiences were created for three students within the Geography MA and BA programs and the College of Education at the CSU Aquaponics Center and doing outreach to community partners. Of these students, one has gone on to receive a RA position for this year with another grant for her work on urban agriculture. Three additional students were funded through the university for RA positions with the aquaponics center over the past year. Three Geography MA students are focusing their theses on urban agriculture. The grant also assisted in our partnership with Chicago Greencorps and Chicago Audubon Society in which our Urban Environmental Science students researched, designed and learned how to plant trees, shrubs and perennials in an urban migratory bird habitat that links our urban area with the broader environment (Chicago is a stopover for over 300 species of migratory birds each spring). Greencorps and Audubon were involved in purchasing habitat plants and preparing and implementing the site. About 12-15 local youth that were being paid as part of Greencorps did much of the planting and site prep.3) Seven students attended the 2012 Growing Food and Justice for All conference in Milwaukee sponsored by Growing Power with registration paid through the grant. 4) While relationships with local high schools still need to be further developed with the academic Urban Agriculture program, the Aquaponics Center has sponsored many connections, including a summer internship program for three students from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences at the CSU Aquaponics Center. 5) Partnerships with community gardens and non-profit farms in the surrounding area have been strengthened, including support of the ongoing Roseland-Pullman Urban Agriculture Network, and support of community workshops on developing small scale aquaponics and "microaquaponics" systems. In addition, seed grants supported by the project were carried out by four partner organizations. 6) Evaluation techniques were finalized with our evaluation partner, DePaul University, and project evaluation is currently being completed.


  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Accepted Year Published: 2013 Citation: Block, Daniel R. and Nadya Engler. Race, Community Geography, and the Development of an Urban Agriculture Curriculum and Community Partnerships at a Predominately African-American University. Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, April, 2013, Los Angeles, CA
  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Published Year Published: 2013 Citation: Alkon AH, Block D, Moore K, Gillis C,DiNuccio N, and Chavez N. Foodways of the Urban Poor. Geoforum 48 (2013) 126-135.

Progress 09/01/11 to 08/31/12

OUTPUTS: Major outputs include: 1)Design of Urban Agriculture concentrations within Geography and Biology majors. 2)Development of mini-grant RFP. 3)Development of South Side Urban Agriculture Initiative team, with assistance by City Colleges of Chicago; Growing Power; Black Oaks; and God's Gang. Goal: to develop a South Side Urban Agriculture educational network. 4)Intensification of evaluation relationship with DePaul Egan Center. Meeting held with minigrant recipients and network to develop network priorities. 5)CURAEE on-campus collaboration further developed by teaming South Side Urban Agriculture Initiative grant team and Biology-led Dept. of Education grant team that is working to develop CSU's aquaponics center. 6)Monthly meetings of Roseland-Pullman Urban Agriculture Network continue, with a speakers including grant consultants. 7) New curriculum presented at Agriculture, Food, and Human Values annual meeting, New York University, "If We Built it Will They Come Creating an Urban Agriculture Program and Fostering Community at an Inner-City, Predominately African-American University." PARTICIPANTS: At Chicago State, the key personnel included Daniel Block, the project PI, who oversaw the development of the Geography/Biology Urban Agriculture curriculum, led the creation of the minigrant RFP, worked to implement the contracts with the project consultants, and coordinated South Side Urban Agriculture Network development and meetings. Dr. Block teamed on campus with a number of individuals, including Biology chair, Dr. Juanita Sharpe, Arts and Sciences Dean Dr. David Kanis, as well as faculty from Biology and Geography, including Drs. Karel Jacobs, Ache Gana, and Andrew Masaeli from Biology and Drs. Arthur Redman and Louis McFarland from Sociology and Emmanuel Pratt, who is also aquaponics director. This team also became the committee that judged the minigrants. Emmanuel Pratt was also important in helping lead the connection to the aquaponics center itself. Off campus, the main accomplishment of this year was building the connections within Chicago South Side Urban Agriculture Network. Project partners Growing Power, through Chicago director Erika Allen, Black Oaks, through director Fred Carter, and God's Gang, through director Carolyn Johnson, assisted in this development, and are currently helping develop a series of trainings for the first half of 2013. Fred Carter presented a lecture Urban Agriculture education through examples at Black Oaks. DePaul evaluator Nadya Engler is an active partner, who is working with the team to develop goals and needs for the network, as well as evaluate its effectiveness. All of the eight mini-grant awardees have attended network meetings and four are regular attendees. TARGET AUDIENCES: Target audiences can be divided into on-campus and off-campus. On campus, the goal of the project is to put in place a new urban agriculture curriculum that is inspired by (and utilizes) Chicago State's aquaponics center, as well its strong community orientation. In order to do this, we need to target faculty in Geography and Biology and related fields who might take part in or support the curriculum. Support is particularly important in terms of getting the curriculum, which is new to Chicago State, passed by relevant committees on campus. This has been accomplished in Geography and is in process in Biology. The merging of this process with the Dept of Education grant supporting aquaponics is important because it supports brings in a wider group of scientists from the Biology Department in particular and has widened the knowledge of the possible benefits of the program to the university of the urban agriculture curriculum. Chicago State is a Predominantly Black Institution, with about 85% of the students being African-American. It is also a key institution on Chicago's South Side. A key goal of the project is to increase African-American interest and participation in STEAM, through capitalizing on the increasing interest in urban agriculture on the South Side. In order for the program to succeed, CSU must become a hub of urban agriculture activity. While traditional marketing for the new program will also be used, by developing connections with off-campus community organizations, as well as being a center of urban agriculture learning for the community, it is hoped that the new program will begin to thrive. The microgrants play a key purpose here, as well as the development of workshops that will occur at CSU and at partner organizations. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: The only major change is to the timeline. Due mainly to the process of working with the Biology Department to shape the curriculum to its specific needs, the curriculum will now begin in the spring 2013 semester, with the Urban Agriculture, Food, and Sustainability class being taught in fall 2013 for the first time. Marketing for the new program will begin once the Biology curriculum passes the university curriculum committee.

Major outcomes and impacts include: 1)Approval of Geography concentration by college and university curriculum committees, publishing in current university catalog 2)Approval of new multidisciplinary (Biology and Geography)sophomore level course "Urban Agriculture, Food, and Sustainability." 3)Approval of a new capstone course for the Urban Agriculture curriculum. 3)Attendance at Growing Power's Farm Conference/Good Food for All in Milwaukee by 9 students, and 4 community partners 4)18 application for mini-grants, 8 selected, 7 awarded (1 still needs additional documentation for approval by USDA). 5)Mini-grant process helped develop South Side Urban Agriculture Initiative. Team members helped suggest policy changes supporting urban agriculture for the City of Chicago, including a "tool sharing" program and an urban agriculture incubator. The tool sharing program is planning to be adopted by grant partner Growing Power. The incubator may be adopted by the City of Chicago in team with Growing Power.


  • Block D, Food systems, in A Cultural History of Food in the Modern Age, Amy Bentley, ed. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers, 2012 (47-67).
  • Block D, Chavez N, Allen E, and Ramirez D. Food Sovereignty, Urban Food Access, and Food Activism: Contemplating the Connections through Examples from Chicago. Agriculture and Human Values 2012; 29:2 (203-215).