RSO Spotlight: Phoenix Farms

Phoenix Farms is a new RSO which runs both a farm and a beekeeping operation.

By Sarah Lewis

Phoenix Farms is one of UChicago’s newest RSOs, dedicated to promoting urban farming and beekeeping on the South Side. A Clinton Global Initiative University Commitment, the RSO hopes to widen education and outreach programs for bee conservation, and to increase student research on the matter.

Created by cousins Nick Lyon, a current student at UChicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, and John Havlik, a fourth-year biology and neuroscience major, the RSO runs a farm in Jackson Park, beehives located on the 14th-floor rooftop of the Harper Court building, where it keeps over 150,000 bees, and works closely with UChicago coffee shop Grounds of Being, which has purchsed much of Phoenix Farms' Honey. Under the leadership of Lyon and Havlik, Phoenix Farms has grown to educate students and the community on the importance of gardening and growing fresh crops.

Phoenix Farms recently won a community engagement grant from the Mansueto Initiative, which supports research and programs geared towards civic involvement in the local Chicago community. The grant is worth $5,000, and Phoenix Farms plans to use the funding for school visits, winter supplies for preserving the bees, hive metric costs, and other travel expenses.

Specifically, the RSO hopes to create an interactive set of programs with Splash! Chicago, a student-run group which organizes educational programming outside of school hours for Chicago area high school students. Funding will also be allocated towards hive winterization supplies such as hive wraps, hive temperature monitors, and wax moth preventatives. Another expense is BroodMinder beehive scales, tools which accurately estimate honey production based on hive weight. Finally, the grant will support travel to Detroit Hives, the leading beekeeping initiative in Detroit.

Going forward, Phoenix Farms hopes to extend and deepen their relationships with local beekeepers and the RTW Veteran Center Garden —  an Illinois nonprofit dedicated to serving veterans and their families as well as further their education and outreach efforts.

“We believe that bringing access to the hives will educate and inspire students and community members, and posit the hives as a fixture in the community within the broader goal of continued sustainability,” said fourth-year Director of Publicity Sophia Zaller.