Nov 3, 2021 - Business
The Fix: Solar flower farms on the South Side
A photo of two people holding flowers.
Two Southside Blooms participants show off freshly picked tulips. Courtesy of Southside Blooms

Welcome to The Fix, our series on potential solutions for big Chicago problems.

The problem: Violence, poverty and blight in disinvested neighborhoods of Chicago.

Potential solution: Southside Blooms, a nonprofit that trains and pays at-risk young adults to "transform blighted urban lots into solar powered flower farms," founder Quilen Blackwell tells Axios.

How it works: Participating youths work in four flower farms on the South Side and one in Gary, Ind., that have beehives and solar panels. They tend the flowers, make bouquets, collect and package honey and work in the flower shop.

  • The youth "learn work, life and interpersonal skills that keep them out of violent situations while also rebuilding their communities in an environmentally friendly way," Blackwell says.

The track record: "We have converted nine acres of inner city Chicago land into urban flower farms that generate hundreds of kilowatts of solar power and divert tens of thousands of gallons of rainwater each year," Blackwell says.

  • Southside Blooms has also created jobs for 15 for local youths.
  • "Some have left gangs and others say the program has kept them out of gangs," he says.

What's next: "Community leaders who want to start sustainable urban flower farms can contact us via southsideblooms.com," Blackwell says. "The public can support that mission by ordering flowers and local handmade products from the website."

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