Deep in the heart of the Corn Belt, a different kind of agriculture is taking root in the city of Peoria, Illinois. With the help of a 2016 Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, a vacant lot in downtown Peoria has been transformed.
Deep in the heart of the Corn Belt, a different kind of agriculture is taking root in the city of Peoria, Illinois. With the help of a 2016 Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, a vacant lot in downtown Peoria has been transformed into green infrastructure, an urban forest, and a working farm.
“CIG is all about innovative solutions to natural resource challenges,” said Cohen. “Greenprint partners and the city of Peoria are showing that they are on the cutting edge of marrying green infrastructure with agroforestry and farming.”
Well Farm is one of the nation’s first stormwater farms, capturing stormwater runoff while growing harvestable timber and growing vegetables. The farm is fully instrumented to measure the site’s success in managing stormwater.
Greenprint Partners' Vice President of Programs, April Mendez, emphasized that her team’s deep partnerships with local organizations were critical to shaping the project design to maximize community benefits. ”Our benefits-driven design approach to green stormwater infrastructure requires us to put down roots in the community,” she says. “As we scale this practice across the US, we'll continue to seek the kinds of local partnerships that made the Well Farm a success.”
Well Farm, covering 1.5 acres, was engineered and contoured to optimize stormwater management. Vegetables and flowers are grown in raised beds and later sold at the Peoria farmers market. The planted trees are hybrid poplars, a fast-growing species that take up a lot of water and can ultimately be harvested for timber.
Partners in the CIG project include the city of Peoria, the GITM Foundation, and the AKRF engineering firm.
The CIG project was funded as part of a cohort of conservation finance projects. NRCS is interested in conservation finance as an emerging sector that seeks to bring non-Federal sources of funding to natural resource conservation.