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CCFB News» December 2022

Students attend CCFB Ag Leadership Academy at Green Era Sustainability

12/05/2022 @ 1:15 pm


On November 2, 15 students from four Cook County schools attended the Cook County Farm Bureau’s Ag Leadership Academy, held at Green Era Sustainability, 650 W. 83rd St. in Chicago.


Participating schools included Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, Rolling Meadows High School, Rich Township High School, and Michelle Obama School of Technology and the Arts.






During the program, the students learned about food safety practices and preventative approaches to food safety from guest speaker Todd Diel from Illinois Institute of Technology. Diel is the manager of academic programs and initiatives and an adjunct industry professor of food science and nutrition at IIT.


The students also learned about agricultural-related careers, urban agriculture, the importance of growing fresh produce in food desert locations, and how greenhouses work from Green Era's mission development manager, Vernon Fleming.



Fleming told the history of the brownfield that Green Era is located on. The brownfield was used as a tire storage field, a car lot, and dumping grounds for decades. A greenhouse will be built on the seven-acre urban farm so fresh produce can be grown year-round. By 2024, the location will also have a Community Education Center which will feature a teaching kitchen, classrooms, and operational space for both Green Era and Urban Growers Collective.


A tour was given of Green Era Sustainability, which is home to the Midwest’s first self-sustainable anaerobic digester, which will divert millions of pounds of food waste from landfills to produce clean energy and nutrient-rich compost.


The facility is planned to be operational by the end of the year. When operating, the digestor will divert 55 million pounds of Chicago’s food waste monthly, create more than 300 new jobs, and offset 42,500 tons of carbon dioxide.


During Ag Leadership Academy, students were able to stand inside a brand-new storage tank, which will be able to hold more than five million pounds of liquid waste. When the facility is operational, the liquid waste storage tank will be sealed and in use daily for at least 15 years.


When reflecting about the program, students wrote about what they learned and experienced. Topics the students learned include recycling, sustainability, the difference between the USDA and FDA, and how food is grown, produced, shipped, and regulated.



Students’ responses included:


“I learned how serious food-borne illnesses are and how many people a year are sent to hospitals because of it. In the future, I will make sure to be more careful about the things that I eat.”


“[The program] was helpful with my interest in agriculture and [deciding] if I wanted to follow this career path.”


“It gave me a different insight into how waste is managed and how me and my family can create a more sustainable home.”


“This will impact my future because I will now know all of this information for the future, if I want to study food science or something with sustainability.”


“This was helpful because it shows where our resources and food come from.”


“It was helpful because I may want to go into biochem one day. I learned a lot.”


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