James Bishop was running one day in Washington Park. After jogging a quarter mile around the park, he became extremely hot. A light bulb went off, and that’s when he came up with the name Quarter Mile Sauce Runnin’… “Hot” for the uniquely flavored hot sauce that his family has become known for.
By now, many of us are aware of the increasing conversation around “food deserts” in Chicago and across the country. Food deserts are typically defined as low-income areas in which a significant portion of residents live a mile or more from grocery stores and supermarkets. In Chicago, the majority of food deserts are in predominantly African-American neighborhoods lacking accessibility to fresh food options, with much easier access to fast food, liquor, and convenience stores. While a great deal of the momentum that has emerged around the issue has focused on increasing food accessibility, many of these proposed solutions—including the proposal to increase grocery stores in the city—actually operate within the status quo and fail to make structural change.
At 11:30pm last Wednesday, a group of fifteen people was standing on a street in West Town, watching for the arrival of a truck. They were members of Chicago Animal Save, an animal anti-cruelty group, and they were holding a monthly vigil to protest the animal cruelty that goes ignored in slaughterhouses. Each member was ready to stand until the truck came, which might not happen until four in the morning. The truck would be bringing chickens for slaughter.
Instead of being rural and vast, these farms are a couple-acre lots enclosed by major streets and railway lines. Instead of shipping produce long distances, these farms serve their local, South Side communities. Instead of owning the land, these farmers tend to it with their community in mind. Instead of using a top-down structure of organization, these farms are cooperative, owned equally by the farmers themselves and the City of Chicago. These are cooperative farms, the new crop of urban agriculture on the South Side.