July 2020 - Parks & Recreation - 15

Feeding Glenview
Park and recreation leaders provide essential services during COVID-19 pandemic

W

hen the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Glenview Park District
in Illinois was forced to close its facilities and halt inperson programming as physical distancing and stay-athome orders were implemented to protect the health and
safety of residents. Despite these obstacles, park and recreation professionals in the district remain committed to providing essential needs to the
community. Staff that manage one of the district's assets, Historic Wagner
Farm, are keeping that promise by expanding agricultural education to include food production to address food insecurity in Glenview.
An active dairy farm dating back
to the 1840s, Wagner Farm was acquired by the park district in 2000.
According to Jonathan Kuester, the
farm's director, its mission for the past
two decades has been teaching agriculture. " The farm is set up as a 1920s
living history farm, so we did a lot of
1920s activities, " he says, " but we also
did a lot of modern agriculture education as a subcomponent of that. "
However, those activities were disrupted by the outbreak. The crisis
compelled the Glenview community
to create a local taskforce to monitor
the coronavirus situation and share
updates from the local hospital system, food pantry and other local
government agencies. Jena Johnson, director of brand strategies and
community engagement for the park
district, says, " When we started experiencing the shutdown...the food
pantry continued to report increasing numbers of first-time families
visiting the food pantry. So, we did
hear and see that there was an increasing need in our community for
food. And, at the same time, we had
closed our facility, but that doesn't
mean chickens stop laying eggs. At a
farm, things just keep moving. "

The farm's 80 pasture-raised hens
continued to produce eggs - more
than 1,000 - and fruits and vegetables continued to grow. Because
of the livestock and land that was
being actively farmed, " it was decided at the beginning that we were
going to maintain those assets, "
says Kuester. " We were directed to
keep growing and keep the livestock
healthy and doing what they do. Beyond that, we really weren't given a
lot of direction. We were focused on
closing everything down and trying
to make everything safe. "
Kuester took on this initial challenge while his staff of more than 50
employees was reduced to only three
members due to the economic impact of the pandemic. Yet, even with
a highly reduced workforce, Kuester
and his employees were determined
to do more than keep the farm afloat.
" My staff...decided that we could just
do chores and call it 'good,' or we
could try to do something, " he says.
So they decided to do what they knew
how to do - grow food.
The pasture will now support 100
chickens, 25 Thanksgiving turkeys,
10 lambs, eight hogs and one beef
steer - an expansion that allows

PHOTO COURTESY OF GLENVIEW PARK DISTRICT

By Lindsay Hogeboom

A camp director and camper
weed the community garden
at the farm.

for greater food offerings - and the
eggs and produce harvested become
a weekly donation to the local food
pantry. The farm has also partnered
with the Northern Suburban Special
Education District on a Community
Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. According to the park district's
press release (tinyurl.com/y9rqclyx),
farm staff hope to produce more than
20,000 pounds of fresh produce and
6,000 pounds of meat and eggs -
enough food to feed nearly 50 households every week for the entire season.
Johnson asserts, " Our vision is
to help everyone in our community
appreciate nature and experience
health and happiness on a daily
basis, so we've...tried to use that
[vision] as inspiration for how we
do that in a new format. I think this
farm transition is just one piece of
that overall transition we're making as an organization. "
Lindsay Hogeboom is Associate Editor
for Parks & Recreation magazine
(lcollins@nrpa.org).

P A R K S A N D R E C R E AT I O N . O R G | J U LY 2 0 2 0 |

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July 2020 - Parks & Recreation

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July 2020 - Parks & Recreation - 1
July 2020 - Parks & Recreation - 2
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