Why we can't Afford to bring an Urban Farmer to Chicago

On August 19th GapersBlock posted Bring an Urban Farmer to Chicago. It
was a call to drum up support to bring Novella Carpenter, author of
Farm City, to Chicago to teach workshops about urban farming. I’ve read
nothing but good things about Farm City and I’m sure Ms. Carpenter is a
very nice person who has a lot of information people would benefit
from, but I question the need to bring an urban farmer to Chicago.

I replied via Twitter:

Instead of bringing an urban farmer to Chicago, lets support the urban farmers who live here and better the city.

The GapersBlock account asked:

Can’t we do both?

My reply was:

Not in this economy, Daddy Warbucks.

It was my attempt at humor, but there is truth to it. Unfortunately, there is no government bailout for the groups and people who are working in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods to better communities. I’m not in a
position to support some of my favorite urban agriculture projects in
like I wish I could. Although, I have tried to support them by
blogging about their events, workshops and fundraisers (here on Chicago
Garden and on Twitter) in the hopes that the extra exposure helps.

couple of weeks ago I made a post about a video segment on Growing Home’s Wood Street Urban Farm
and mentioned the office supplies they need. This week Growing Home posted a plea
for help to bridge their $100,000 funding gap. It reads in part:

Most foundations that supported us in the past have continued to
support us, but some lowered the amounts of their grants, and others
kept the amounts stable even though our need has grown. Despite the
efforts of all of our staff, and the support of many wonderful
organizations, and hundreds of individuals like you,foundation funding
is about $100,000 below what we budgeted for this year.

I’m thinking of cutting off my internet connection at home to save a few bucks. I’m freaking out because of the changes that would create for my life that has become so tethered to the Internet. I can’t imagine running a program like Growing Home and pondering what a shortfall for them will mean to people who are worse off than I am.

No disrespect meant to either GapersBlock or Ms. Carpenter, but in this economy we can’t afford to
“pony up” cash to bring an urban farmer to Chicago when we have plenty
of them. It seems counter intuitive to me to do so when our own urban farmers, who provide job training and
alternatives to life on the streets, are hurting. If you’re worried
about the “riots” in Uptown, the beatings of bikers or the Lakeview
support Chicago’s urban farmers. Buy the things they produce
here in Chicago, attend their workshops & fundraisers, volunteer or
donate at community gardens, this will provide Chicagoans: jobs,
training and alternatives. If you’re not worried then bring Novella
Carpenter to Chicago. Just remember that she gets to go home to California, you have to
stay and deal with this mess.

If you don’t believe that plants and gardens can create change see the video on the Cook County Boot Camp Vegetable Garden.

Know of other urban agriculture projects in Chicgao in need of help? Leave a comment and I’ll link them in this post or I’ll add info about fundraisers and workshops in the “Chicago Gardener Events” post I put up on a monthly basis.

Update: The Chicago Honey Co-op is in need of a new printer after their last one used to print product labels died. “Color laser with duplex printing, capable of 1200×1200 resolution.”  


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  • The thing that bothered me about the Gapers Block post was the implied assumption that we need to be taught about urban agriculture; that Chicagoans are somehow sadly behind the curve on the subject. As long ago as 2003 I began to hear of people who moved to this city specifically because of it's vibrant, active urban ag. movement. There was something in the air. Maybe the Gapers Block folks just need to attend the next Advocates for Urban Agriculture meeting in September. I'd drop a link here but I know how you hate that.

  • In reply to Sydney:

    LOL, I only hate the link dropping on Blogger blogs because there is no recourse for spammers or link builders other than to delete the comment. Or because people don't bother to learn HTML to or use a URL shortener to keep the link from messing up the comment.

    But now that you mention it I'll post the link myself.

    Also, I saw that the Honey Co-op printer broke and you're looking for a new one. If that is still the case let me know and I'll add your need for the donation to the post.

  • In reply to Sydney:

    Right on! Apparently community gardening (urban farming) started in Detroit, but I see tons more evidence of it in Chi Town than I do here. Also, you've fondly put me in mind of a favorite song from Prince, circa 1981 (good times!), Controversy (musically more than lyrically, aside from the title). :)

  • In reply to Sydney:


    I woke up thinking about your comment and how you interpreted bring in the writer as sort of a dig at the local ag movement. I hadn't thought of it that way because I'm not involved in it like you are , so thanks for adding your perspective.

  • In reply to Sydney:

    i have only seen 3 Victory Gardens in my area, Oak Park. Is there a network of others digging up their lawns and planting vegetables in the Chicago area?

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