Synthesis Technology volunteers at City Farm Chicago

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The Synthesis crew thinning out a row of basil.

The Synthesis crew thinning out a row of basil.

By Katie French

Synthesis Technology recently began a corporate volunteer program. We believe in empowering our employees to give back to their communities, and our first group of volunteers headed to an urban farm to do just that.

Synthesis Technology volunteers at City Farm Chicago

Mid-morning on Saturday, July 26, a small group of Synthesis employees and their significant others met at City Farm Chicago to work at the urban farm. Located in Lincoln Park, City Farm is a haven of green surrounded by brand-new buildings and construction sites. With a few core farmers and lots of volunteers, City Farm provides produce to hundreds of local restaurants, as well as maintaining a market stand on site and visiting a Logan Square farmer’s market once a week.

The Synthesis folk were quickly put to work taking care of the overflowing rows of basil, and after several hours of gardening we joined another group of volunteers for a tour of the farm. Dave, one of the farmers, showed us how they alternate crops to keep the soil healthy, and told us a bit about the types of vegetables they grow at the farm.

Most urban farms don’t grow very many habanero peppers because they are too hot to sell at farmer’s markets, but Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill, one of their oldest customers, will buy as many as they can grow (which turns out to be half a greenhouse dedicated to just habaneros!). The nonprofit also collaborates with Chicago residents; a local beekeeper houses one of her hives on the farm in exchange for the pollination her bees provide the farm’s plants.

Dave leads volunteers on a tour

Dave leads volunteers on a tour

City Farm is partnered with the Resource Center in Chicago, which was one of the first recycling programs in the city, and remains active today – hauling away and providing drop-off locations for recyclables and compost. The compost Resource Center collects is the compost in which all the plants at City Farm are grown. Since the soil in Chicago is often full of heavy metals and other toxins left over from construction, the farm lays down a layer of heavy clay that the crops’ roots can’t penetrate before covering the ground with their own compost and nutrient-rich soil.

A mural of the farm decorates a flatbed trailer that doubles as storage and a shield from the busy street

A mural of the farm decorates a flatbed trailer that doubles as storage and a shield from the busy street

In a city where green space is precious, it was wonderful to be able to get out in the dirt for a few hours. One of our volunteers said about their experience: “We particularly liked the mix of actively helping out with learning about the farm and its operations. We don’t have outdoor space (let alone a garden) at our apartment, so it was a pleasant way to spend a summer Saturday morning.”

All of the Synthesis Technology volunteers at City Farm Chicago enjoyed their time there (even though everyone smelled like basil for the rest of the weekend), and are looking forward to the next opportunity to participate in supporting the wonderful city we call home.

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Synthesis provides intelligent automation technology solutions for investment management firms. Our technology is regarded as a top automation platform for document production like fund factsheets and commentaries, sales enablement solutions like pitchbooks and personalized emails, and fund data management. Find us on twitter @synthesistech.

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