Farm Credit Affiliation
Angela Mason, associate vice president of urban agriculture for Windy City Harvest at the Chicago Botanic Garden, is an entrepreneurial leader changing the future of rural communities and agriculture for the better.
Windy City Harvest is an urban agriculture education and jobs-training initiative that works with youth, ex-offenders and adults, many of whom face barriers to employment. In more than 12 years leading the program, Angela has grown it from one site to 13. One site is a youth farm where at-risk teens learn and earn through sustainable growing, healthy cooking and eating, farm-stand selling and community service. Another program offers an apprenticeship that provides an accredited training certificate in sustainable urban agriculture. There is also a job corps that provides training, transitional jobs and an educational pathway for justice-involved youth, the formerly incarcerated and others. Finally, an entrepreneurship and careers program offers evening courses in industry-specific topics, such as aquaponics and local foods entrepreneurship.
“My goal is to help build a more resilient community that is healthier and a safer place to live, learn and work by providing a training program that focuses on food, jobs and access to fresh, organically grown produce,” Angela says. “The success of our students is what drives me; seeing a young man who has been given a second chance become the general manager and shareholder of a new farm enterprise, a teen being the first in her home to go to college, or an adult who is reentering the workforce after serving our country, that inspires me.”
Angela is a certified National Foundation for Teaching Young Entrepreneurs instructor and served as an adjunct faculty member at Harold Washington College in Chicago. She was named an Environmental Hero by the Illinois lieutenant governor, and was appointed by the governor to the Illinois Workforce Investment Board. She also serves on the board of OAI, Inc.
“I strongly believe that the growth of the local food movement is here to stay. People want to know where there food is coming from, how it was grown and if it is safe,” Angela says. “When rebuilding a local food economy in a city like Chicago, we will need to re-localize food micro-processing, manufacturing and production. Chicago has a strong history of local food production and manufacturing, and we need to bring that back.”
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