INTRODUCTION

According to USDA the number of African American farmers in the US peaked in 1920, when there were 949,889. Today, of the country’s 3.4 million farmers, only 1.3%, or 45,508, are African American. Combined African Americans own a mere 0.52% of America’s farmland.

F.U.T.U.R.E. Foundation has launched efforts to develop an Organic Market Farm and Food Hub Business Incubator (OMFFHBI) to address small Ag-business development, agricultural employment, career opportunities and access to high quality foods in under resourced communities and neighborhoods throughout the South Suburbs. When fully complete, operations will encompass approximately 40,000 square feet and include food production, storage, office and retail space and provider a wide array of products and service primarily targeting African-American entrepreneurs with an interest in the small organic farm industry.

The term “Business Incubation” refers to a process that increasing the changes for a successful business startups by providing entrepreneurs with an array of targeted resources, products and services. Food Hubs on the other hand are “businesses or organizations that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demands . Food Hubs and Market Farms are uniquely designed to support local and regional economic development and long- term health strategies in some emerging economies.

The OMFFHBI site is located on 1.25 acres 3 blocks South of Lincoln Highway on Drexel Avenue in Ford Heights, Illinois. In 2005, a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment was completed by Weaver Boos Consultant and it was clear of hazardous materials. The soil on this is Frankfort Silty Loam, perfectly suited for the proposed project. The site contains a 10,000 sq. ft. facility built in 1949 and constructed on a cement slab with cement block walls and wooden bow trust roof.

The village of East Chicago Heights (now Ford Heights) was first settled by onion and fruit farmers in 1848, then a short time later the area was used as a stopping point during the Underground Railroad, this brought African American farmers to the village after escaping slavery in the South. The area then developed into a farming community as Polish, Lithuanian and Italian immigrants came to the village at the turn of the century. During World War I, more African American families settled in the area, as they migrated from the south. Ford Heights is located about 35 miles southeast of downtown Chicago at the intersection of Lincoln Highway (Route 30) and State Route 394 (S.R. 394). The community is bordered by Steger to the South, Chicago Heights to the West, Glenwood to the North and Lynnwood and Sauk Village on the East. The US Census American Fact Finder estimates the population in Ford Heights at 2,754, median age of 33.1, median household income of $21,050, and 45.3% of the residents are living at or below poverty.

F.U.T.U.R.E. Foundation Inc., is a not-for-profit organization established in 1987 to promote, encourage, and foster products and services designed to improve the quality of life.