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Loyola student works outside at farmers market

Urban Agriculture

Developing future food system leaders

We offer students the knowledge and skills to build equitable and resilient food systems that empower communities.

The Urban Agriculture program aims to inform, energize, and help students participate in building a stronger and more equitable food system while also learning about how to be a food producer.

We teach the groundbreaking concept of a "circular economy, using waste material from one process as an input for another process.

The Loyola University Chicago (LUC) Urban Agriculture program includes a diverse team of student interns, program assistants, and SES staff working together to develop skills and knowledge of sustainable agriculture methods. These include tasks and projects including the maintenance and operation of:

  • Aquaponics
  • Hydroponics
  • Mushroom cultivation systems
  • Greenhouse production
  • Outdoor food production
  • Compost systems
  • Loyola Farmers Market
  • The program also supports projects for faculty and student researchers as well as labs and course-based projects. The program is housed within Loyola’s School of
  • Environmental Sustainability and led by the Sustainable Agriculture Manager, Kevin Erickson.

Our Program Assistants (PA) often have previous experience in food production. And they develop leadership and managerial experience through working with a team of interns who rotate through all of the program areas. Some of these areas are seasonal or new to the program.

Read more about internship opportunities.

By the Numbers

3000+

Harvested lbs of produce annually

500 lbs.

Donated lbs of produce annually

About 30

crops sold per year

Main Program Areas

Outdoor production at Winthrop Garden

Students manage a site with 40 raised beds for annual and perennial crop production, beehives, native bee rearing, drip irrigation, and composting systems. Crops are produced using Organic principles including cover cropping, crop rotation, and fertilizers.

Aquaponics

SES facility features two Aquaponics systems. Students maintain systems and troubleshoot issues. The design of this system allows fish production (aquaculture) as a pathway for fertility for plant production (hydroponics).

Hydroponics

This system is similar to aquaponics, but doesn’t feature fish. Hydroponics systems are the leading source of indoor-produced fruits and vegetables.

Mushroom Production

Part of a broader category called “Controlled Environment Agriculture” (CEA), students lead a mushroom cultivation operation including developing skills in all areas of production including inoculation, sterilization, substrate preparation, harvest, and data collection.

Farmers Market

Students obtain customer service skills and interact with community members at the weekly farmers' market. We sell a variety of products produced in our program.

Greenhouse Management

Students develop crop plans for production spaces, learn propagation, seeding, and transplanting methods. Students develop strategies for integrated pest management and plant disease mitigation. Students maintain all indoor planter areas in SES outside of the Greenhouse including the green living wall adjacent to SF Hall.

Annual Events

Plant Sales

We help distribute edible and native plants to the local community, highlighted by a major Spring event.

Farmers Market

We join the Glenwood Sunday Market, one of the larger markets in Chicago featuring many other local food vendors.

Archie’s Café

During the non-Farmers Market season, we sell to Archie’s Café near campus.

Plant donations

We work with local community groups to increase native plants in local landscaping which serve as a habitat and food for native birds and insects.

Sustainable Food Week

We play a leading role in this event series. Most recently, we hosted a Mushroom Production 101 workshop.

Why is this work important?

Agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Our food system is also not equitable among all people including in our own city of Chicago. Both access to fresh food and access to grow one’s own food is not a right that is granted to all people and we aim to help address this.

Land used for agriculture is also responsible for loss of biodiversity as diverse and longstanding ecosystems have been suddenly altered into monocultures. Water use is a big problem in agriculture that must be addressed as water shortages and drought become a more common reality. Agricultural workers are generally the lowest paid employees in the US workforce and are often subject to abuse on the job.

Intern Project Examples

  • Beekeeping-honeybees hive preparation and design
  • Native bees- rearing leafcutter and mason bees for a native pollinator option on campus
  • Pest management- observing, finding solutions based on sustainability aspects for treating pests.
  • Mushroom Cultivation Design- Develop design for bigger mushroom operation including budget and list of supplies
  • Fish health and well-being- Develop protocol for observing fish behavior, develop methods to increase activity to limit boredom that may cause physiological issues.
  • New garden proposal- Find new spaces on campus for future food production. Develop a plan for building the site including light access and a crop plan.
  • Crop Planning- Students participate in data analysis of our crop production and revenue data to determine optimization of production space.
  • Automated water sensors- Students developed an automated water sensor system to collect data for our aquaponics system (pH, temp, dissolved oxygen).
  • Plastics reduction- Observe plastic use in the program and develop a list of alternatives with comparisons.
  • DIY fish food. Students developed a method to produce fish food using ingredients grown on-site.
  • Energy auditing- Students collected data on energy use in our systems and looked for ways to reduce energy.
  • Aeroponics- Students developed a plant production system using atomized mist to deliver fertilizer water to plants, drastically reducing water use.
  • Light energy management- Students are required to learn about light quality and how to measure it.
  • Mushroom production using waste inputs. Several students have developed projects that include using waste inputs for mushroom cultivation.
  • Fish waste fertilizer- student developed a project to process fish waste into useful fertilizer.
  • Food Safety- Developed protocol for Good Agriculture Practices food safety guidelines.

Career Opportunities

  • Food distributor/sales manager
  • Farmers Market Manager
  • Hydroponics system design specialist
  • Hydroponic production Manager
  • Rooftop production manager
  • Winemaker
  • Cannabis cultivation
  • Livestock farm manager
  • Flower Farmer
  • Greenhouse Manager
  • Mushroom Production Manager
  • Mycology researcher
  • Youth Program Educator
  • Lab Technician
  • Aquatic Ecologist

Why is this work important?

Agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Our food system is also not equitable among all people including in our own city of Chicago. Both access to fresh food and access to grow one’s own food is not a right that is granted to all people and we aim to help address this.

Land used for agriculture is also responsible for loss of biodiversity as diverse and longstanding ecosystems have been suddenly altered into monocultures. Water use is a big problem in agriculture that must be addressed as water shortages and drought become a more common reality. Agricultural workers are generally the lowest paid employees in the US workforce and are often subject to abuse on the job.