Cows, Food Deserts, and Urban Ag in Chicago

Daniel Block, Professor of Geography at Chicago State University will be giving a dynamic lecture at the PEAS Farm on Friday, July 11th at 8:00 AM. His talk, “Cows, Food Deserts, and Urban Agriculture in Chicago” will highlight different issues surrounding agricultural production in a growing city. Sponsored by the Environmental Studies Program, this is a great opportunity to learn about what’s happening in U.S. cities to bring food back in.


As described by historian William Cronon and others, Chicago’s early development was often based on the processing and pricing of the output of its natural environs. In its first century, Chicago grew from a village to a city of over three million. Provisioning such a growing city with staple foods was a difficult task – tied to the city’s relationship with its immediate outlying areas, public health questions and local land use. In general, agricultural production was split from the city. Today, such issues have re-emerged as Chicagoans look for ways to re-integrate agricultural production into urban places, in particular in “food desert” locations.


This paper is a historical overview of agricultural production within the city of Chicago, looking at the separations of production from the city, the pattern of low food access or “food deserts” – existing in many areas of the city, and current attempts to bring production back. Particular focus will be placed on the disappearance of the “city cow” from Chicago, the subsequent production of milk by the health department, the current absence of food sources in many Chicago communities, and urban agriculture responses along with the challenges to these responses.

Take Advantage of This Great Educational Opportunity on Friday, July 11th!