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Evolving stories About Growing Food in a Big City

Tom Tresser, Green Party candidate for Cook County Bd. president, talks urban agriculture

Cassandra West

Seeding Chicago met Tom Tresser, Green Party candidate for Cook County Board president, last Saturday following a live broadcast of “The Mike Nowak Show” (WCPT 820-AM), held at Third Unitarian Church in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. The special radio broadcast, called “Growing in Austin,” featured urban agriculture activists and community development groups, including CEDA (Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, Inc.), from all around Chicago discussing ways to bring more green (veggies and cash) to under served city neighborhoods.

Tom Tresser, Green Party candidate for Cook County Board presidentGiven the topic, it was no surprise that a Green Party candidate was there. Tresser, who had turned out to listen to the panelists just as we had, caught our attention with the large green-and-white campaign button pinned to his shirt.

Unaware of Tresser’s campaign or his platform, we wanted to know what are his thoughts on making Chicago more agriculture friendly. “I’m here with members of the community who are talking about one thing, how to take vacant land, of which there are many in Chicago and across the county, and turn them into productive farms for food,” Tresser says.

Tresser, who lives in Lincoln Park, is an educator, organizer and activist. He teaches a course, “Acting Up: Using Theater and Technology for Social Change,” at DePaul University, and was lead organizer of No Games Chicago, which fought the city’s 2016 Olympics bid. He says a major part of his platform will focus on fighting corruption, but he also wants to address grass-roots community issues.

“We have a lot of problems in this county and across America in [access to] affordable food.” Tresser says. “People have no access to healthy of fresh food. We have obesity, rampant unemployment, and I think [urban agriculture] is a magic seed to deal with really quite a few pressing issues.”

The Mike Nowak show

Tresser’s campaign will open an office in Logan Square in the next few weeks, he says. In the meantime, he’s doing the homework to get a deeper understanding of urban agriculture’s possibilities. “I’m knitting together my facts right now,” he says. “I believe that candidates should get out and do the research themselves. I plan to unveil, probably in about a month, a major initiative that talks about turning vacant land inside the County of Cook into farm production using hard-to-employ people and then generating revenue and turning that food back into the community as well as into our institutions such as schools, prisons and hospitals. So it’s a win, win, win idea. That, I think, is quite exciting.”

Listen to podcasts of The Mike Nowak Show here.