Hello Diallo kenyatta. I currently live on the west side of Chicago. As you may know, a lot of neighbors that African Diasporans live in have an abundance of old factories. I’m interested in buying a old factory and using it to grow food using urban aquaponics as a form of community development. This is a idea that I been dwelling on for the longest and I know it can be done but I don’t have the funds to do it. What you you recommend for someone who is wanting to do something like this?

You have a number of options available to you for seed capitol, from venture capital, cooperative funding/ownership, grants to crowd funding, even guerrilla and squatter options are workable depending on the path you are willing to take, you just have to do the front end work.  You have to know what formation this enterprise will take, will it be for educational purpose and training, will it be a for-profit enterprise, will it be a public facility with open access to the general public?  They way and purposes in which you wish operate your project will dictate how you fund it and who you should partner with. 

I recommend, if you haven’t done so already, that you do some research.  There are a number of such project already in operation throughout the city.  You can even volunteer at some of them to gain some insights into the operations.  You will need to know the zoning and food production policies of your target area.  It will go without saying you’ll need to be cultivating your agricultural and aquaponic skills.  You should be growing right now, even if you only have a small window sill or a little patio.  Get growing, and expand your knowledge and expertise, right now.

Once you have done the needed research and have determined what you intend to grow, what materials and resources you need to set up, you’ve assembled a component, professional, and loyal team (if you are a Not-for-profit, a cooperative, or a corporation; your foundational team must be chosen carefully, they will be the difference between success and failure), then you’ll need to constuct your mission, a detailed business plan, a comprehensive time-line, make the necessary introductions to the aldermen, and other public officials, and agencies (this is extremely important, make sure they know your organization and you know them).

Since you are Chicago I’d be willing to meet with you for a more detailed discussion because I understand that local food production, infrastructure, and development are key to not only improving the community but in overall empowerment. 

Send my an email: diallokj@gmail.com and I’ll shoot you back my phone number.