THE BLOG
07/06/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Chicago: The Nation's First Certified Organic Rooftop Farm

One month ago I started as the Rooftop Farm Director at Uncommon Ground, a restaurant on Chicago's north side that grows food on a 2,500 square ft. rooftop. For many years I've helped run a community garden in the spare time around my desk job, and now I enter the small cadre of people who do professionally what they would do on their own time anyhow.

But I also get to join the expanding ranks of people growing food on rooftops. A recent Bon Appetite listed Uncommon Ground among the 10 best restaurants around the US growing food on their roofs.

Entering into uncommon ground's second growing season - and my first season on the rooftop - the Huffington Post has asked us to keep a blog of our season: its successes, its disappointments, its labors, and its harvests.

It's meant to be a kind of urban agriculture Farm Report, and it's hard to get more urban than our micro-farm. Buses roar past, cars honk, kids shout on their way to school and there I am, on a 2500 square ft. farm 30 feet up in the air.

So here's the update.

I started at uncommon ground on the first week of April. The first order of business was taking inventory and setting up a planting station.

April 5th, we planted California Wonder Sweet Pepper, Wonder Bell Sweet Pepper, Jalapeno, and Habenero.

On the 7th we planted Lacinato Kale and Genovese Basil. April 8th was tomato day, and we planted Green Zebra, Brandy Wine, Zapotec, German Queen, Costoluto Genovese, Siletz, Speckled Roman, Oregon Spring, Silver Fir, Japanese Trifele, Wapsipinicon, Chadwick Cherry, White Currant, Red Currant, Prize of the Trails, Sun Gold and Purple Calabash.

Upstairs we also have direct sowed peas, pole beans, bush beans and arugula. We'll probably be harvesting these in a month or so.

We have gotten some small harvests of mezuna greens from our hoop houses. This has made it into the salads and sandwiches at the restaurant.

Uncommon Ground also has four bee hives
. We've checked in on those ladies. All four hives made it through the winter. For the first few weeks we fed them some sugar syrup until Chicago's flowers started blooming. Now we're in full bloom and all four queens seem to be laying nicely.

Chicago's "frost free" date is May 15th but the outlook seems good. Hopefully we'll be transplanting in the next several days.

I'll be posting a Farm Report each week. So come back, see how we're doing and, if you're in town, visit us at Uncommon Ground. Starting in June, we'll be offering tours of the rooftop farm every Friday evening during our farmer's market. I'd love to show you around.

Coming soon to uncommon ground, Devon:

Wed. 5-19:
Dinner and Movie Night with 'DIRT!' The Movie
Dinner at 6:30, movie at 8pm

DIRT! The Movie-directed and produced by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow-takes you inside the wonders of the soil. It tells the story of Earth's most valuable and under-appreciated source of fertility--from its miraculous beginning to its crippling degradation. $35 per person includes a 3-course meal. Gratuity not included. Limited seating. Reservation required. Call 773-465-9801

Coming June 4th:
2nd Annual Farmer's Market at uncommon ground, Devon: 4-6pm
Every Friday at the Devon Parking Lot

Featuring live music with THE HONKY TONK HAPPY HOUR, Harvest Moon Organic Produce, CSA, Bark Bark
Club Pet Services, Recycle Me Organic T-shirts, Robinson's Beef, and many, many more.