Chicago Green Jobs

Urban Food, Green Jobs
February 24, 2009, 3:59 am
Filed under: Local Food

In my last post I talked about the necessity of investing in green jobs and industries that can’t be easily outsourced. For example, solar panel installation vs. solar panel production.  Growing organic food in city vacant lots may be the World’s Least Exportable Job, and Chicago has a small but thriving local food movement.   Windy City Harvest, Growing Power,and Growing Home all offer training programs for budding urban farmers, and they offer job placement as well.

“Urban agriculturist” is a sterling example of an idealized green collar job:  aspirants require training rather than expensive degrees, and in under a year pros can be out beautifying neighborhoods and providing healthy organic produce to communities that don’t have much in the way of grocery access. Consider this fact courtesy of Mari Gallagher’s Research & Consulting Group: over 500,000 Chicagoans live in a food desert, a dismal place where fast food is close at hand but grocery stores are distant if they exist at all. Urban farms are a direct and effective way to put produce on the menu – with all the health benefits that implies.

There are dozens of urban farm plots in Chicago, but it’s not clear how many jobs are in that space (yet – I’m on it).  However, the beauty of urban farms – like many green enterprises – is that their worth isn’t measured in jobs alone. How many people get to enjoy fresh produce and improved health because of Growing Power?  How many have learned what “organic” means and why it matters because of Growing Home? If we want to get our city and our country moving towards building a green economy, we can’t afford to have “sustainability deserts” in our neighborhoods.