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Uncommon Ground: Chicago’s Certified Organic Roof Top Farm

3p Contributor | Wednesday May 19th, 2010 | 4 Comments

By Dayna Reggero for Chicago Green Festival

The first Certified Organic Roof Top Farm in the United States, owned by the restaurant Uncommon Ground, illustrates how green agriculture is possible and functional in an urban environment. The farm, which sits on a 2500 square foot deck of recycled composite material, includes 28 cedar and steel-framed planter boxes and is bordered by 5 solar thermal panels to heat water.

“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,” says co-owner Helen Cameron.

The planter boxes 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 Cameron.

Uncommon Ground hosts a weekly farmer’s market, complete with local musicians and artists displaying their goods. The farmer’s market starts Friday, June 4, from 4 to 8 pm, at 1401 W. Devon Ave. in Chicago.

Green Room Session, or eco-mixers, are hosted once a month by Uncommon Ground and local green organizations, with the intent of developing opportunities for networking and growing a sustainable community of like-minded individuals. Thursday, June 10, will feature the topic “alternative transportation.” Electric vehicles, bicycles and more will be on display in the parking lot at 1401 W. Devon Ave. in Chicago.

Cameron and Dave Snyder of the Chicago Rarities Orchard Project (CROP) are speaking about varied urban agriculture models and how different models can help each other out at the Chicago Green Festival.

“My farm director, Dave Snyder and I, will be speaking about growing food in different ways. We are working together towards creating community orchards in Chicago. The orchards will be community gardens that include fruit varieties that are nearly extinct and this effort will keep these rare varieties alive. The first community orchard is slated for Logan Square in Chicago. An orchard takes about seven years before you can start harvesting. It is a long-term community project that will create a greater awareness of sustainable food system and show how we can grow our own food in an urban environment,” Cameron says.

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Chicago Green Festival features renowned authors, leaders, educators, eco-friendly businesses, workshops, social justice films and kids’ activities to celebrate sustainable topics and ideas at Chicago’s Navy Pier the weekend of May 22-23. The nation’s premier green living event, a project of Global Exchange and Green America, attracts over 300 exhibitors who model their products, services, and practices on an ethical responsibility of sustainability, minimal environmental impact, and fair trade. Green Festivals also provides 150 speakers with a platform for education, debate, and conversation, featuring many presentations on living a healthier, more impactful and sustainable life and making a difference in one’s community.


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  • Gabriel

    This is amazing.

  • Suz

    Regarding the orchard in Logan Square, it is perhaps contemplated. “Slated” is a stretch as it does not have the necessary community support, not to mention ownership of the property.

  • Kate Drane

    This is so encouraging! I love that Chicago has this great example of urban agriculture.

  • Kate Drane

    This is so encouraging! I love that Chicago has this great example of urban agriculture.

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