Urban Agriculture Projects in Chicago Show the Way

Successful Chicago urban agriculture projects on rooftop, in edible lawn, and at a school reviewed by resilience consultant Dave Hampton.

Read Time: 2 minutes

January 9, 2015, 11:00 AM PST

By melaniecj

From its start a decade ago, Urban Habitat Chicago (UHC) has worked to show that food-producing landscapes are not just for those living in rural areas. City-dwellers can become more self-sufficient via imaginative and varied approaches to urban agriculture, according to Dave Hampton, an architect and a resilience consultant with the firm re:ground llc.

Hampton helped found UHC 10 years ago to promote sustainable practices in cities. He writes that with more people calling urban areas home, cities could be thought of as ‘natural’ environments as well.

Chicago-based UHC has spearheaded several projects that bring agriculture to city life, including an edible lawn outside the bungalow home of two of the organization’s board members.

“The edible lawn is easily cut, and could pass as a conventional lawn. However, upon closer look, an understated beauty abounds: flowering radish, dandelion, arugula, lettuce, and other edible plants that could be treated almost as edible-ornamentals.”

UHC also helped promote sustainability with its creation of a rooftop garden at True Nature Foods, an organics co-op at the site of a former muffler shop and, originally, a World War II-era “victory garden.”

The rooftop garden gave the space a new purpose, according to Hampton.

“The underutilized ‘fifth façade’ of a building… would, like the edible lawn, be instead put to work to produce food. In the process, the project also became a living laboratory.”

A third project–the Northside College Preparatory High School Productive Master Plan and Teaching Farm–has been six years in the making, with phases including the Joy Garden, the Malcolm Wells Memorial Garden, and community agricultural areas.

All of the projects are designed to bring communities closer to their environment, writes Hampton.

“My hopes are that we as a society will support those organizations that are capable of identifying basic needs, able to develop inspiring solutions in concert with users and communities, and help them forge meaningful connections with their environments.”

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