A Correction and a Commendation

Re: “The Four-Story Farm: John Edel of Bubbly Dynamics is bringing vertical agriculture to the south side,” by Mike Sula, August 19

Blake Davis is with IIT—Illinois Institute of Technology—rather than ITT. —Patty C

The editors reply: We apologize for the typo.

John Edel is truly crazy. He could be out sailing around the world or sitting in a luxurious mansion overlooking the lake. But rather, this guy decides to re-invest all of his time, energy, and money into making Chicago a better, greener place. Nuts, huh? Several years ago, I was all set to move back to the South and get out of Chicago; I had become disenchanted with the myth of new green spaces becoming available for artists in the city. And then I just happened to see a listing for a green building in Bridgeport. I had to look twice at the listing, thinking it was a scam. Now almost three years later, I have a wonderful (heated!!) studio space in the Bubbly Dynamics building, complete with a community garden plot out back. I was also able to give in to my nerdy bird watching tendencies and started a little bird sanctuary out back, which is now home to a family of Indigo Buntings . . . in the heart of the manufacturing district in Chicago. Who would have thought it possible? Only someone truly crazy enough to have the vision and perseverance. Thanks for being a visionary, John. —dolangeiman

Supply and Demand

Re: “From Farm to Food Desert: Black farmers need customers. Black Chicagoans need healthy food. Connecting them isn’t as easy as it sounds,” by Topher Gray, August 19

Evidently, we have all been mistaken in our belief of the capitalist free market system. It has been my experience that whenever a demand exists, suppliers will be competing against each other to meet it. And yet we are being led to believe that there are hundreds of thousands of residents of Chicago’s south and west sides who are hungering for fresh fruits and vegetables, only to be denied access to these nutritious food choices. Really? Couldn’t it be that the truth of the matter is that these residents would rather eat fast food and other heavily processed fare? How would you like to be the chump who invests hundreds of thousands of dollars into a grocery store only to watch your fresh fruits and vegetables rot on the shelf while the KFC across the street puts you out of business? This is America. Somebody will ALWAYS jump at the opportunity to make money. Clearly, no demand exists. Open a corner liquor store instead. —geoteb9000

@geoteb9000: Clearly you’re confused. But since this is inherently an economic issue, and since you’re such an expert on capitalism, I have faith you can figure it out. I’ll speak slowly.

People in these neighborhoods are accustomed to eating this junky “processed” food because that is all they have been able to afford for a long (multigenerational) period of time. Fresh, nutrient dense foods are far more expensive, and in most cases poor people (by definition) cannot afford them. That is not a “choice.”

We’re using words interchangeably here, but it is important to recognize the difference between ready-to-eat food (fast/junk food), and ingredients (fresh fruits and vegetables). The ability to turn ingredients into food is a skill set unto itself that requires specialized equipment (which costs money), an opportunity to learn how to cook (which requires time and family/community connections), and time to do so on a regular basis. While you no doubt take these things for granted, they too are luxuries those in the lower socioeconomic tiers often cannot afford.

Transitioning away from a fast-food-dependent urban poor is going to be a long process (as is any cultural shift), and cannot be accomplished by simply opening a new grocery store. Demand for fresh produce in these communities is going to lag far behind supply. Which is why the only people trying to make this happen are people who have more invested in these communities than just capital.

Going down this road may not be immediately profitable, if it ever is. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

If you, like so many others that worship neoclassical economics and the free market, are entirely comfortable with a system that values bottom-line profits over the health and well being of an entire class of disadvantaged people (a class that, I might add, is growing ever larger due to the wonders of said free market), then that’s on your conscience. But please don’t be so disingenuous as to presume that you don’t know how it works. —mr.smitty

I would support this operation for sure. I live in Bridgeport and believe it or not most of my neighborhood is a food desert too! Wondering if they will set up at Pilgrim Baptist on 33rd and Indiana, maybe in the back lot? Would be there in a heartbeat! Tried calling the number listed, but only a message about CEDA/LIHEAP. Will try during the week. Good work! —mfs3757

What aggravates me about this story is that it seems like a marketing gimmick for Rev. Sampson’s markets. Which, in itself is a good thing, but, not the whole story. It mentions the poor farmer that is “organic” this season because he couldn’t afford agri-business chemicals, and the young man that didn’t know what zucchini is. There is no mention of the large and growing movement of year after year organic farmers in the Pembroke area. Basu Natural Farms, Iyabo Farms and Black Oaks Center have been increasingly organic and there are young people who not only know about vegetables, but also permaculture principles, herbal supplements, native and introduced, where eggs, milk, honey, and meat come from. These groups have been practicing and teaching organic and permaculture practices, spreading food security, and working together to deal with corporate economic abuse and the coming climate change and carbon descent. LINK and SNAP are welcome @ the Healthy food hub every other week at Betty Shabazz charter schools. Blessings to Rev Sampson and his church based markets, but they are not the only pebbles on the beach. —moosenik