Thursday, August 7, 2008

Chicago: Urban Farming

Chicago is actively supporting urban agriculture initiatives, from farmer's markets throughout the city to actual urban growing operations. Farmer's markets take place in almost every neighborhood in the city, and there are independent markets such as Green City Market (of Top Chef fame) that also operate in the city. In addition, both public and privately supported initiatives are exploring food production in the city.
Here are some images of two different urban farm projects. One is "City Farm,"and the other is a rooftop organic garden at my office, Conservation Design Forum.
City Farm is an urban farming initiative by an environmental non-profit in Chicago known as The Resource Center. Its goal is to provide local jobs and affordable, healthy produce for disadvantaged residents. It currently straddles Cabrini Green (a notorious area for failed public housing initiatives, although a new, much improved project opened adjacent to City Farm)and the Gold Coast (one of Chicago's elite neighborhoods). Ongoing gentrification will likely push it out of the community to another vacant lot somewhere, but it is booming right now and receives volunteer labor from all over the city. People willingly give up sat. mornings to help grow food in the city. I bought a cucumber, garlic and some peppers during my visit, and they were delicious and cheap. More info can be learned at and at
The other project is at the firm I am working for this summer. They installed green roofs on their offices in 2004 with the help of an EPA grant. After various vegetation initiatives, they decided to use the more intensive roof space to experiment with organic agriculture on rooftops. This summer we have harvested carrots, assorted tomato varieties, various greens, peppers, radishes and cucumbers. While not the same yield compared to traditional methods, it is amazing how well they have all done in only 8 - 12" of soil, and how good the produce has been.
-Brent Jacobsen

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