Tonight is the night! Come out and support eco-Andersonville and ADC at HamBINGO Night. You could win prizes from some of our great local businesses like the Coffee Studio, Painted Light Framing, Sifu Design Studio, Marguerite Gardens, Kopi Cafe, and more. Don’t miss out, come to Hambuger Mary’s at 7pm tonight.
Photo: Piush Dahal Progressives don’t have much love for former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel. He’s been blamed for weakening health-care reform, killing the climate bill’s chances, and generally pushing Obama to the center (and Oh, the profanity!)
But Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emmanuel? He seems to be giving progressives, particularly food progressives, a bit more to chew on. He’s committed to addressing the city’s many food deserts (although perhaps with too much help from Walmart). Chicago public schools continue to find creative ways to improve school food. And significantly, when Emmanuel came into office, he declared that he would end restrictions on urban agriculture, which the city zoning laws had in a legal gray zone.
Earlier this month, thanks to Emmanuel’s backing, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance officially legalizing urban ag and allowing growers to sell what they produce. It’s the latest in a series of ag-friendly zoning changes taking place around the U.S. — in cities like San Francisco, Kansas City, and Seattle.
Erika Allen, head of the Chicago branch of her father Will Allen’s urban agriculture organization Growing Power, explained the importance of the new law to Crain’s Chicago Business magazine:
It legitimizes urban agriculture as an enterprise or a business that hasn’t been on the books before. Chicago always had farms within the city limits, but the new ordinance creates a space where we can begin to create economic opportunities within our communities, especially in areas where food deserts are a direct result of unemployment and little economic opportunity.
These policies are needed so we can legally operate urban farms and community gardens with parameters around where they can and can’t be located. I’ve been in a leadership role in the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council since 2001, and I can tell you that you don’t know there are barriers to urban farming unless you’re trying to operate a business where there’s a need in the community.
I love the argument extolling the benefits of pulling urban ag out from the gray market economy and increasing the tax base while creating jobs. And you get stuff to eat, too! Bonus!
Seriously, though, Grist has followed the odd opposition some town and city planners have against food growing. So it’s good to see America’s Second City embracing it.
One of the first business to take advantage of the new law was Chicago’s O’Hare airport [okay, not really — the garden is indoors]. Chicago’s Department of Aviation just announced [PDF via the Associated Press] the O’Hare Urban Garden, which is meant to highlight issues of sustainability and improve the quality of food at the airport. It’s an “aeroponic garden” that will supply several of the airport’s restaurants with fresh herbs and veggies and like Swiss chard, lettuce, peppers, and green beans.
Yes, gardens like this are mostly symbolic. But in this case, it’s a symbol that will be seen by millions of travelers. And that, combined with Chicago’s new official embrace of urban ag, might just convince more cities to follow suit.
If you’re like a growing number of Americans, this weekend you’ll visit a farmers market to get fresh local produce, meat, cheese and other goods that nearby farms have to sell. That trend is expanding as new markets are started across the country, spreading economic benefits as well as fresh veggies.
With more public focus on healthier eating, sustainability and generally taking food more seriously, you’d expect farmers markets to sprout widely. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported that their numbers have expanded at an astonishing rate—more than 1,000 new farmers markets were recorded this year compared to last year, for a grand total of 7,175.
The biggest growth took place Alaska, Texas, and Colorado, but the states with the most farms were California, New York, and Michigan. Some 4,000 community-supported agricultural (CSA) operations now exist as well; these organizations allow people to support farms by paying for the regular delivery of fresh produce.
In 2007, direct sales of agricultural products to consumers was a $1.2 billion business, and the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that its expansion could help boost jobs around the country. In a recent report, one researcher argues that modest investments in farming infrastructure could help create tens of thousands of jobs.
Those investments could be as simple as ensuring that there is a working Electronic Benefits Transfer machine at the farmers market to allow people receiving state and federal food assistance to shop for fresh produce just like they would at the supermarket.
The UCS report contrasts the limited public support for farmers markets with the massive subsidies that go to highly profitable agribusiness, and suggests that there is more bang-for-buck, not to mention health benefits, in fostering competition and regional food infrastructure than continuing public funding to factory farms.
While political haggling over how best to support farmers markets will continue in Washington, the best way to support them is to patronize them. The USDA maintains a catalog of markets on their website that can point you to the most convenient place to buy local goods.
Andersonville Green Week Screening SeriesCo-sponsored by Eco-Andersonville and Mightybytes MultimediaFriday, July 15, 2011 - 8:00pmLocation: Chicago Filmmakers
Special Guest: Forrest Jehlik, Engineer for theCenter for Transportation Research at Argonne National Laboratories
“Although it contains its moments of doom and gloom about the potential effects of climate change, the excellent documentary Carbon Nation is an inspiring look at the many recent advances in clean energy and green technologies. Director Peter Byck covers an impressively wide range of ground as he introduces us to a stirring cross-section of pioneers, researchers and innovators committed to helping the world reduce its carbon footprint. Byck hopscotches across America and beyond interviewing such notables as Richard Branson, former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, Earth Day founder Denis Hayes and charismatic environmental advocate Van Jones, among many others, who weigh in on the issues, problems and solutions surrounding the climate change phenomenon.” – Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times (2010, 82 min.)
Forrest Jehlik leads a Green Racing program at Argonne National Laboratories to promote adoption of renewable fuels and advanced technologies. Previous to joining Argonne, Mr. Jehlik was employed at General Motors Research & Development in Detroit, MI from January 2001 – July 2005. Find more information here.
Follow this link to our freshly PDF’ed 2011 Green Week events brochure.
Check out one of the newest additions to the Green Week line up. Local filmmaker Michael Silberman and his crew will be discussing and previewing parts of their new documentary A Sustainable Reality: Redefining Roots at Alley Cat Comics on July 16th. Come out and enjoy refreshments and learn about the film.