This blog is about creativity and the things that inspire it. Though recently my posts have focused on travel, (which is relevant because travel provides incredible stimuli for creative work), today I want to share an inspiring story of a new company that is creatively tackling a mighty challenge. What is the challenge? Creating lasting and meaningful jobs for disenfranchised people in urban Chicago. What is their solution?
Drumroll…Start a farm!
Unusual? Definitely. A pipe dream? Definitely not. Garfield Produce emerges out of the confluence of people needing good work and people needing good food. Meanwhile, Chicago is full of empty lots, old buildings, and unemployed people. Garfield Produce sees these as assets, not liabilities. The Garfield team has devised a way to use these neglected spaces, employ people in the community, and make a sustainable farming business thrive in strained inner city neighborhoods. Through hydroponic technology, Garfield can grow crops indoors year-round and supply grocers and restaurants with healthy, local alternatives, while simultaneously creating opportunities for people to develop new skill sets and find new livelihoods.
This is serious out-of-the-box thinking that continues to inspire me. When my friend Steve told me about his businesses, his passion was contagious. I wanted in on this creative flow. Specifically, I wanted to tell this story. The challenge was how. There were many different angles to take. Should I focus on Steve’s personal story? He is the child of immigrants who had to reconcile his family’s expectations with his own longing to serve others in innovative ways. Or should I focus on the diversity of the group? The staff could hardly be comprised of more different people: a Chinese American 30-year-old engineer, two suburban retirees, and one middle-aged African American gentleman starting his life over. Or should I talk about the hydroponic technology? It miraculously recycles 95% of the water! As you can see, I had a lot to noodle through.
In the end, I realized that the reason Garfield is unique is because it’s not just about the food; it seeks to bring redemption and renewal into people’s lives. The story of Larry, their first employee, exemplifies this purpose, and therefore it was his story I needed to tell. See what you think! Enjoy!