The state of urban agriculture and new environmentalists

May 26, 2013

The state of urban agriculture in Chicago

Ten years ago, if you had said that the City of Chicago might someday be known for its farms and farmers, I’m pretty sure that people would have looked at you as if you had misplaced your meds. But just a few weeks ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Growing Power announced the formation of an“accelerator farm” called South Farm Chicago. It’s part of an initiative called Farmers for Chicago, which is all about training farmers. Here. In Chicago. Really.

If you’re even a casual listener to my show, you know that I’ve been talking about the rise of urban agriculture for years. And I’m not talking about community gardening, though that is a huge part of the effort. I mean real, working urban farms like Growing Home, City Farm, Windy City Harvest and, of course Growing Power.

As the number of farms and gardens has increased, so have the organizations that address the needs of a new breed of farmer. One of those groups is Advocates for Urban Agriculture. If you’re somebody who wants to take advantage of growing opportunities in the city, AUA has a Resource Guide that provides information on

How to Get Land
Seeds, Compost, Soil, Building Materials, and Other Supplies
Education and Training
Livestock – Bees, Chickens, and more
Composting and Vermicomposting
How to Start a Community Garden
Grants and Funding
Neighborhood Greening Groups
How to Set Up a Farmers Market

and more. Billy Burdett is coordinator for AUA, and a few weeks ago he presented a report about what he called the “State of Urban Agriculture” in Chicago. Today, we’ll talk to Billy about where we are headed in this brave new growing world.

The next generation of environmentalists

I can’t believe it’s been almost four years since Michele Hoffman was on the show. She is an educator, speaker, author, photographer, and consultant with over fifteen years of experience and education in marine science and law. She is on the faculty at Columbia College, the School of the Art Institute and Roosevelt University, and now she is making a documentary about the microscopic universe in the ocean and its impacts.

It’s called Microcosm and its Kickstarter campaign has already been successful. But with 5 days to go, I’m sure that Michelle won’t mind if you add a few dollars to the coffers of the project. As she describes it, “A really big issue here is that we are talking about the world we don’t see, and though it produces well over 50% of our planetary oxygen supply, it is largely undiscovered, under discussed, and certainly not protected in any way.”

Unfortunately, there are so many parts of our natural world that are under assault that it’s hard to know where to start. That’s why we need all hands on deck, including the next generation of environmentalists. Michelle is joined in the WCPT studios this morning by Megan Isaacs, who is a fourth year undergraduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

Megan is involved in a couple of environmental student groups at SAIC. One is called the Chicago Youth Climate Coalition (CYCC), an intercollegiate youth coalition dedicated to ending the consumption of fossil fuels and creating a just and sustainable society. It includes members from Columbia College, Roosevelt University, DePaul, UIC, Northwestern and SAIC. The other is SAIC for the Future.

Megan says that both groups have the goal of a more sustainable world and support Fossil Free, the nationwide divestment campaign that Bill McKibben and his group have started. Megan and her allies have nothing less in mind than to get the School of the Art Institute to divest from companies that profit from the use of fossil fuels. She says that the group has already gotten more than 1,000 student, faculty and alumni signatures on a divestment petititon.

I talk to Michele and Megan as the Illinois General Assembly is discussing the future of fracking in Illinois and there is a rally planned for next Wednesday in Chicago to get President Barack Obama to say no the Keystone XL Pipeline.