Knockout grant for River Forest nonprofit

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Knockout Farm, which is a therapeutic urban garden operated on the site of ReUse Depot, 50 Madison St. in Maywood, was one of only three therapeutic gardens across the country to win grants and in-kind donations from several sponsoring organizations.

The 2,500-square-foot space is an arm of Opportunity Knocks, a River Forest nonprofit that serves young people with developmental disabilities in Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest. 

The nonprofit has operated the Knockout Farm through a land use partnership with ReUse since 2016. Knockout Farm is one of three social enterprises that Opportunity Knocks operates.

Renee Rotatori, Opportunity Knocks' development director, said on Nov. 4 that the organization submitted an application for the National Garden Bureau's Therapeutic Garden Grant program in the summer. In September, the NGB announced that Knockout Farm was among three finalists for grants totaling $5,000, in addition to in-kind donations of tools from one of the sponsoring entities.

According to Greenhouse Grower, four nonprofits -- the National Garden Bureau, American Meadows, Sakata Seed America and Corona Tools -- administered an online voting contest for the three finalists. Corona Tools donated (drum roll) … the tools.

"Through the NGB Therapeutic Garden Grant program, we hope to expand the knowledge and benefits of gardening to everyone," Diane Blazek, NGB's executive director, told Greenhouse Growers. "These benefits are especially important to individuals suffering with physical, mental, or emotional burdens. Gardens and gardening are therapeutic in the truest sense of the word."

Rotatori said that the grant money will support the farm's operations and help Opportunity Knocks with various infrastructure improvements. Participants in Opportunity Knocks benefit from a range of programming at the farm, including an employment program that pays participants to help grow and bring to market the enterprise's branded artisan pickles, called Knockout Pickles, which are sold locally in jars and distributed in area restaurants and retailers like Sugar Beet Food Co-op in Oak Park.

"We're looking to extend our growing season through tunnels, install some paved areas that open up classroom space for our programming, so our participants have shaded areas to sit while we conduct programs on the farm site," she said.

For more information about Opportunity Knocks, or Knockout Farms, visit


Michael Romain  


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