A look inside the first certified organic rooftop farm in the country

ByJalyn Henderson WLS logo
Friday, July 12, 2019
Take a look inside the first certified organic rooftop farm in the country
For eleven years, Devon St. has been home to the first certified organic rooftop farm in the country.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On the corner of Devon and Glenwood Ave. in Edgewater, sits Uncommon Ground.

"A small working farm that provided food for a restaurant, provided a community center and place for people to learn how to grow food and a place for us to teach people about local food and why that's so important," Co-Owner Helen Cameron said.

A restaurant with an all-natural, organic farm, you can find on the roof. The first of its kind in the country, certified by the Midwest Organic Services Association.

"You know, we're a zero spray farm so we're not killing the good bugs or the bad bugs, we kind of let them battle it out so we're working with nature instead of working against nature," said Allison Glovak-Webb, Uncommon Ground's Farm Director.

The farm grows a variety of crops including peas, carrots, peppers, garlic and hops.

"I mean we just are growing all manner of goodies here," Cameron said.

But running a farm takes a lot of work, work that Cameron couldn't handle on her own.

"Then we decided we were going to create an internship program," Cameron said. "In exchange for interns coming to help us with this, we would teach them about urban agriculture, sustainable food systems, organic farming and try to give them as much input as we could to make this kind of thing happen."

More than 100 students have interned at Uncommon Ground from all across the city, some interns even travel internationally.

Cameron's goal is to make her businesses as sustainable as possible. So the restaurant is solar-powered, locally sourced, and everything that comes out of the kitchen is organic.

"We don't use any conventional fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. We don't use anything that's genetically modified," Cameron said.

"We about the furthest thing from a monoculture you can possibly get. A lot of farms focus on one crop and we focus on a diverse amount of crops. That's not just because that's what our kitchen prefers, but it's also because it's what's best for the environment and the ecosystem. We kind of have our own little ecosystem here," Glovak-Webb added.