Chicago Honey Co-op

A Visit to the… Chicago Honey Co-op… July/07

Just as Chicago became one of the largest urban ‘melting pots’ as people from around the world flocked into the cities, so did flowering weeds as trains, trucks and people crossed this bustling city.  As a result, the bees in the city have hundreds of varieties of flowering plants (some called ‘weeds’) to visit in their search for nectar and pollen. The result is some of the most unique tasting and rare honeys available on the market today. The honey from this Chicago Co-op is considered a premium honey…! Who would have thought?

Michael Thompson in one of the inspirational people behind the Chicago Honey Co-op.
The vision of the Co-op is to train the under-employed and support community gardening/agriculture.


We have to remind ourselves, we are in a solid urban environment. That’s the Sears Tower in the background.


On this once industrial lot, Michael and the others have placed up to 100 hives. With tens of thousands of bees happily employed, they are producing gallons of honey per day.


Around the grounds are several tanks of water with wine corks floating on the surface. Why?
The bees need lots of water. The corks give the bees something to land on while they drink.


Michael harvested these tomatoes early because they were starting to crack or split due to a recent rain. They will redden just fine on the counter or windowsill at home.


Michael and I sat down for some lunch together. I bet there wasn’t a healthier meal in all of Chicago.


Half of the old industrial lot is either the concrete slab or this soil, laden with gravel, broken glass and cinders.


To compensate for the poor condition of the soil, Michael (the garden co-op’s farm manager) and the others have accepted generous offers of truck loads of horse-stable bedding which they let red worms break down into a rich growing medium. They then pile it high on the ground in rows and plant directly into it. Works Great…!


There are now about a dozen families and/or individuals that are using part of the space
to grow their own vegetables. 


Neva here is a first time gardener. She, along with other new gardeners are learning as they go with the help of the more experienced in the co-op. This is the beauty of a co-operative, where community support and the sharing of experience and skills is woven right into the venture.


Most everything in the garden looked really good to me. Okra anyone?


An interesting twist emerged as the truck loads of stable bedding began to pile up on the concrete. Volunteer weeds began to grow in it. Michael and others thought, ‘why not put things in it that we would like to grow?’. They did.


Today, growing on 18 inch high piles of this broken-down bedding are squash, peppers, lettuce, flowers…


…okra, sunflowers, pumpkin and many other varieties of plants.
One of the big successes are the sweet potatoes. Michael said, “You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to harvest them. We basically just loosen the soil a bit and then pull the entire plant out of the ground by hand.”
For all of us who have harvested sweet potatoes before… this is a miracle!


It’s hard to remember sometimes that Michael is standing in the middle of the city of Chicago…!!!
Another reminder of what inspiration and change just a few individuals can make.
Thank you Michael.

Here is the link to the Chicago Honey Co-op
which will give you a list of where you can find their delicious honey to purchase.

The Rare & Genuine, Chicago Honey…!!!

Above Pictures and Text by Bill Wilson of Midwest Permaculture

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