Driving for hours to photograph some small farms featured in Good Earth, Joe Wigdahl knew when he had arrived. “Some of them are surrounded by huge commercial farms,” he says. “There’s nothing but cornfields for miles.” In contrast, the small farms grow dozens of different crops, and—because the farmers avoid pesticides—butterflies, grasshoppers, and moths abound. Wigdahl spent hours hanging out, watching chickens run around, discovering the misconceptions of the organic-food crowd, and, finally, packing his trunk with great provisions. Except at one farm. Tim Ifft, a poultry farmer, told him, “I can’t really give you a live chicken to take home.” See a slide show of Wigdahl’s farm shots, with his commentary, at chicagomag.com/farmers.
KIM THORNTON poured out her virtual desk drawer to find pieces for her layout of Choose Your Own Summer Adventure. She rediscovered a font (Moped) she’d socked away for a sunny day. And she built a color palette from a found photograph of a line of bottled sodas. “The palette is summery and poppy and colorful and fun,” says Thornton, a graphic designer for Chicago. The article offers six interwoven summer itineraries, for which Thornton’s design gives readers a sense of the paths they’re traveling—sometimes branching, sometimes jumping, but always heading toward the next warm-weather pleasure.
At first, MARCIA FROELKE COBURN stumbled over explaining to people what exactly it is that Bruce Mau—the subject of her article The Transformer—does. “I found his conceptual approach to design to be very hard to capture in words,” says Coburn, a senior editor at Chicago. “It took me a while to get into the Mau zone.” Once she did, she liked it. Now she’s enacting some of the aphorisms from his Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. She says, “A few of them I already have down: ‘Don’t clean up your desk,’ ‘Stay up late.’”
Farming is in the blood for KARIN HORGAN SULLIVAN, the writer of Good Earth, which profiles six farmers who bring local food to Chicago. “I spent every weekend as a child on my grandparents’ farm in Ohio,” she says, “listening to my grandpa tell all kinds of stories about fixing the tractors.” She translated her farm love to city living, growing chard, onions, and lettuce, among other things. With the growing popularity of local food, Sullivan sees promise for farms like the one she remembers. “I hope that we’re on the brink of saving the family farm,” she says.
In two consecutive issues, BRYAN SMITH has profiled people in Rod Blagojevich’s orbit: May’s The Long Fall told the story of the fundraiser Christopher Kelly. This month’s Mighty Mouth presents the defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr.—“yet another character in this growing theatre of the absurd,” says Smith, Chicago’s writer-at-large. Adam carries a reputation for razzle-dazzle in the courtroom, and he’s purposely letting Blagojevich run wild—the story calls it the blather defense. The trial is scheduled to start this month.
“Between the potential for Blago to go rogue and the verbal pyrotechnics of Adam, it’s going to be a hell of a show,” Smith says.
Photography: (Wigdahl) Joe Wigdahl, (Thornton) courtesy of Kim Thornton, (Sullivan) courtesy of Karin Horgan Sullivan