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Up in the air, Chicago restaurant gardeners!


OrganicNation visited Chicago to see the roof of one our most interesting buildings — no, not the rudely rechristened Sears Tower — but the one above Edgewater’s Uncommon Ground, which recently dedicated the nation’s first rooftop, certified-organic farm.

The green-roof trend is growing in Chicago. Other local restaurants growing at least a portion of their produce in aerial gardens include Browntrout in North Center, Carnivale in River West and Tallulah in Lincoln Square. But Uncommon Ground is the first to achieve organic certification.

Uncommon Ground owner Helen Cameron says considerable structural changes to the building were required to convert its roof to the 2,500-square-foot minifarm. In 28 large planter boxes, each a foot deep, the restaurant grows root vegetables, greens, legumes, squash, tomatoes, herbs and fruit for use both at this location and its original Wrigleyville site. Rooftop beehives provide honey, as well.

Cameron and her husband, Michael, are devoted to green practices. Wood used in the restaurant came from felled trees out of Jackson Park. Every Friday from 4 to 8 p.m., the restaurant hosts a farmers’ market in its parking lot.

I’d love to see other local restaurants follow this trend, although I can’t help but think that in this climate, rooftop greenhouses might be more practical for real food production.