Soil Remediation Techniques in Urban Agriculture

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2018: $14,975.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2020
Grant Recipient: Dirty Boots Flowers
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
Casey Sabatka
Dirty Boots Flowers

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health, toxic status mitigation
  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life, sustainability measures, urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    Problem: Most of the land under feet and dirt in the air in Chicago is highly contaminated with heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. Therefore, in order to grow food inside the city the first obstacle is to build a clean farm. Most farms purchase expensive and depleted top soil and have it trucked hundreds of miles to their land. Two years ago, we discovered that the chickens at Chicago Patchwork Farms were able to transform wood chips and farm waste into 75 cubic yards of clean, healthy soil. This made us wonder how else we may be able to affordably remediate the toxic land in our communities.

    Solution: This project aims to research a solution to the contamination problem in urban soils. We will explore two possible solutions: 1. Binding the bioavailability of the lead through the use of fish bones (Apatite II). 2. Extracting the contaminants via Phytoremediation. Once the soil from the flower farming portion of the farm (Dirty Boots Flowers) has been remediated from hazardous toxins and is food safe, it will then be cycled over to the agricultural part of the farm (Chicago Patchwork Farms).

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Test the ability of Apatite II to bind lead in contaminated top soil so that it is no longer bio-reactive
    2. Test the ability of phytoextraction and disposal of contaminants at hazardous waste facility to lower heavy metal levels in soil
    3. Share discoveries and insights after the first year through social media, website postings and community presentation
    4. Cycle the newly decontaminated soil to the agricultural portion of the urban farm that shares the same land
    5. Have a follow-up presentation to Chicago community after the grant cycle to present the project in its entirety and ways forward
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.