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Old Posted Jul 23, 2010, 6:53 PM
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Prairie Crossing in Illinois: The ‘urban’ farm of the future?


20 Jul 2010

Read More: http://www.grist.org/article/food-pr...ng-in-illinois

Quote:
It takes almost an hour to drive from downtown Chicago north on I-94 to the town of Grayslake, Ill., home of the Prairie Crossing residential development -- "A Conservation Community" -- and its core farm, Sandhill Organics. Though billboards, office "parks," and standard Interstate culture dot the highway, the tall, mixed prairie grasses native to these Great Lake Plains become increasingly expansive. The approach from the interstate to Prairie Crossing tells a modern American story. A natural lake with tree snags, lily pads, and marsh grasses covers a depression between a rim of trees and wild, hip-high grasses. A mile down the road, a fresh slab of pavement holds a large parking lot and a shopping center with chain stores. Then more open land, some large cornfields, and a walled development of cookie-cutter homes with multiple pitched roofs, elaborate garages, and lots of short, non-native grass to mow.

If you've been following this series, you're surely familiar with the lament over lost farmland replaced by shoddily designed and developed, uniformly average orgies of square-footage known as the modern American house. It sounds elitist -- probably is -- but it's true and, unfortunately, it's happening and it will continue happening for a while, at least, because the American dream for many people remains cars that get driven all day, double-vaulted ceilings in the foyer, your own lawn to mow, and safety in homogeny.

As long as we're critiquing, Prairie Crossing has its place in this suburbanization of the rural world. It is a planned community of large homes that only a certain economic strata can afford, and it plowed over some prairie land to make it happen. But now the good part. Prairie Crossing was developed to conserve prairie, and it's not just a marketing slogan. Vicky and George Ranney, the developers, set aside 60 percent of the 677 acres in a land conservation easement; another 3,200 acres are protected within the Liberty Prairie Reserve, a conglomeration of public and private land connected to the community.



Matt and Peg Sheaffer run Sandhill Organics in Prairie Crossing.(Michael Hanson)

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