Rooftop Farm — Uncommon Ground — Edgewater

Rooftop Farm - Uncommon Ground - Edgewater

Chicago’s 1st Certified Organic Rooftop Farm! (M.O.S.A. Oct, 2008)



Chicago, IL, 2009 — What began as an innovative idea hatched from a passion for sustainability has grown to become a 2500 square foot certified organic rooftop farm, rising 30 feet above Devon Avenue on the north side of Chicago.

The Midwest Organic Services Association designated the farm organic on October 16 th. 2008, making it the first certified organic farm in the United States that resides on a rooftop. The organic farm boasts a grocery list of produce, from Nardello Peppers to Black Prince Tomatoes, which fuel the restaurant below. For over 18 years Uncommon Ground has upheld a farm to table mentality, building relationships with farmers from the Great Lakes region who follow sustainable and organic methods. In 2007 the owners of Uncommon Ground, Helen and Michael Cameron, decided to expand and in finding the second home for their restaurant at 1401 W. Devon they were inspired to bring local food even closer to home. Not only do they now grow vegetables on the roof, they also employ 5 solar panels that heat up to 50% of the water for the restaurant, house 4 beehives that will eventually produce over 200 pounds of honey, and teach urban agriculture classes to local school groups of all ages, ranging from grade school to grad school. The rooftop has been busy since mid-summer of 2008 when the construction finished and the farm opened its planter boxes for planting and eventual harvest. "There are many green roofs in Chicago," said Helen Cameron, "but they are not necessarily geared for full-on production and used as an educational tool. We made an enormous investment with the idea of producing food for the restaurants and using it to teach and create awareness about the possibilities of urban agriculture. That’s the biggest difference between us and other green roofs."

The extensive remodel at 1401 W. Devon began with digging down into the basement an extra five feet to accommodate for heavy-duty steel beams that could support a rooftop farm. Every effort is taken to make the restaurant as “green” and sustainable as possible, including the interior tables, which are made from re-claimed wood out of Jackson Park and are designed by local furniture makers. On the organic farm there are 28 raised bed planter boxes that were designed and built by local craftsmen and hold a total of 640 square feet of organic soil (nearly 6 tons). The planter boxes rest on top of a deck that is made entirely out of a recycled plastic and wood composite material, making it durable to the daily duties of farming. Beyond the green materials and products that the restaurant uses, the idea for a sustainable community hub is important to Helen and Michael Cameron. There is a weekly organic farmer’s market, complete with live local musicians and artists displaying their goods. And, once a month Uncommon Ground holds an Eco-mixer hosted by local green organizations with the intent of developing opportunities for networking and growing a sustainable community of like-minded individuals. Just down the street is Loyola University and Uncommon Ground has paired with a bio-diesel class and now supplies their Environmental Science department with used vegetable oil. Helen and Michael hope that their endeavor can be an example to other restaurant owners and educate their clientele about the importance of locally produced goods and the value of growing your own organic produce, even if it’s on the roof. “Our mission is to stand as a working model for other restaurants, businesses and home owners,” Helen says, “to show what is possible within an urban environment.”

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About Uncommon ground

Uncommon Ground operates a community based restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and ­­­­­­­ advocates the principles of local, sustainable and organically produced food and contributing to the community that they reside in. The Uncommon Ground Roof Top Farm is committed to a long-term organic gardening program that hopefully will be used as a model for other roof top gardens and farms in comparable environments. We hope our Roof Top Farm will become a beacon for our community and raise awareness of the power of local production and what is possible in urban agriculture.

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