Words by Tess Becker
A sustainable “farm-to-vase” florist is taking over the South Side of Chicago, turning vacant lots into flower gardens and helping provide at-risk youth with something to occupy their time.
They're trying to beautify the city of Chicago with flowers.
The project was started by the non-profit Chicago Eco House, founded by Quilen Blackwell and his wife Hannah Bonham Blackwell. The organization was founded in 2014 with the goal to end poverty with sustainability.
Now the project in the South Side, called Southside Blooms is helping see that goal to fruition.
Flowers blooming in the concrete
The flowers they produce are what they call “beyond organic” because of the stringent process they go through to avoid things like pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers. They also put a massive focus on all things sustainable working to use biodegradable, recyclable, or reusable items whenever possible.
All of the profits from the flowers go directly to help combat poverty, and they take inspiration from the city around them in their work.
“Our urban chic designs draw from the resources and creative inspiration of the inner city– where all our blooms are grown,” they say.
“Every purchase directly contributes to job creation for at-risk youth and young adults in some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods.”
Outside of Chicago they also have small test programs in Detroit and a partnership in Gary, Indiana.
“We really want to be able to grow as much as possible and as fast as possible, so that inner cities of America can change,” Quilen told People Magazine. “This is about eliminating the ghetto as we know it.”