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Chicago’s Urban Farming Boom

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Chicago’s Urban Farming Boom

Urban farming is an interesting lens through which cities can be explored. It invites people into communities, to meet the locals and learn more about a place from an organic perspective.

Chicago is experiencing a boom in urban agriculture projects, and the Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project captures that growth. It is an ongoing collaboration between individuals, businesses and social organizations that inventories and maps urban agriculture across the Chicago Metropolitan Area. Entries encompass a range of urban farming projects from small residential gardens through large commercial urban farms.

Here are some highlights:

O’Hare International Airport Urban Garden
In the summer of 2011, the CDA and HMS Host Corporation collaborated to install an aeroponic garden in the mezzanine level of the O’Hare Rotunda Building, a first in the world. 

In O’Hare’s aeroponic garden, plant roots are suspended in 26 towers that house over 1,100 planting spots. A nutrient solution is regularly cycled through the towers using pumps so that no water evaporates or is wasted, making the process self-sustaining. No fertilizers or chemicals are used in the garden. Produce from the garden supplies a number of airport restaurants. Source

Ticketed airport visitors can view the garden from the lounge area.

6700 Sayre Ave, Bedford Park, IL
FarmedHere® is a local, organic, indoor vertical farm — located just south of Chicago in Bedford Park, Illinois and the first vertical farm to be USDA Certified Organic. Their growing technology reduces energy and water use, shipping time and production costs and guarantees access to fresh, chemical-fee produce in city centres regardless of the season. Their goal is to produce local food while creating city jobs and revitalizing post-industrial buildings.

The Edible Gardens at Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark Street
Jeanne Pinsof Nolan created and planted the Edible Gardens at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Farm-in-the-Zoo in the spring of 2005 at the request of Green City Market founder Abby Mandel. The goal was to create an environment where food could be grown and, most importantly, where children could partake in an “edible education.” The 5,000-square-foot vegetable gardens are open to the public from April through November.

The Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden @the Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL

The Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden demonstrates the best ways to grow the most ornamental and edible plants suitable for the region. More than 400 different edible plants are grown, combining agriculture with aesthetics to create spaces that are both practical and beautiful. Features include espaliered fruit trees, a beehive, vertical wall gardens and a kitchen amphitheater.

Year-round programs, festivals, demonstrations, exhibits, and tastings in the garden offer ongoing learning experiences, including the weekend Garden Chef Series from May through October.  Through the Garden’s Windy City Youth Farm program, seasonal produce from the garden supplies the Garden View Cafe.

Iron Street Farm
3333 S. Iron Street, Chicago, IL 60608
Established in 2010 at an abandoned food hub on the south side of Chicago, Iron Street Farm is a 7-acre farm and warehouse with eight hoop houses for year round production, vermicompost, mushroom production, an apiary and urban pygmy goats.  Iron Street Farm is also one of two composting facilities in Chicago, recycling over 450,000 lbs of “waste” each year. Source

Grant Park, “Art in the Farm” Urban Agriculture Potager
Intersection of Congress and Columbus, Chicago, IL
In partnership with the Chicago Park District and established in 2005, this “landscaped” urban farm demonstrates how to grow an abundance of vegetables, culinary herbs and edible flowers in a beautiful and productive way. Teens are trained on this site to grow food and give tours to the approximately 10,000 people who walk past this site annually. Source

The Urban Canopy
1400 W. 46th Street
Founded in 2011, The Urban Canopy includes an indoor growing space, support for community and school gardens, and pioneering a two-acre community farm in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. They are growers, educators and advocates for the urban food movement with a mission to grow more sustainable food in the city with a focus on nutrition, the environment, the economy and community.

Plant Chicago
1400 W. 46th Street
Not long ago, The Plant was an abandoned 93,500 square foot industrial space and former meatpacking plant. Now it’s a larger-than-life experiment and working model for closing waste, resource and energy loops. The facility will eventually divert over 10,000 tons of food waste from landfills each year, while providing enough electricity to power over 250 homes.

Tours are available and provide a peek into the closed-loop tech demonstration projects like the algae bioreactor and black soldier fly composter. There are food production spaces for tenants including a brewery and British-style bakery as well as a mushroom farm and an aquaponics farm.

Rooftop Farm at McCormick Place West Convention Centre
2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, South Loop
The 2.5 acre rooftop garden at McCormick Place (the largest convention center in North America) is the largest soil-based rooftop farm in the Midwest. Operated by the Chicago Botanic Garden, the farm supplies produce to the on-site catering service, SAVOR…Chicago.  In addition to stunning skyline views, the rooftop garden is also home to 20,000 honey bees in three hives that produce 50 lbs. of honey a year and 2,000 Red Wiggler worms that create 200 lbs. of vericompost annually. Tours available by reservation.
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