The Roof Crop Sets Sights On Expanding Rooftop Farming In Chicago

Green spaces in Chicago are growing up and away from their traditional roots. The popularity of rooftop gardens and urban farms has certainly increased since former Mayor Richard M. Daley approved a green roof for City Hall in 2001. There are even plans for the world's largest rooftop farm to be constructed in Chicago's Pullman neighborhood.

Today DNAInfo Chicago highlights The Roof Crop, an urban farming initiative founded by Tracy Boychuk and Molly Meyer. The program follows Meyer's own comprehensive roof-growing plan, Omni Ecosystems, to responsibly grow clean produce with minimal environmental impact. The subscription feature, The Roof Crop Box, will launch in August and function like a CSA, but with the added bonus of being able to select your items (up to twice a week) for pick-up or bike-messenger delivery.

Boychuk and Meyer began with a rooftop farm at 1516 W. Carroll Ave, which will reap its first harvest this July. The Omni Ecosystems model is uniquely efficient—the pear trees that are at the Carroll Avenue farm are growing in a mere eight inches of soil. And because the model is easily replicated, Boychuk and Meyer are looking to grow their produce on rooftops all over the city.

"You can't just have one isolated island on one rich person's building," Meyer said.

Local building owners can turn green space into greenbacks by installing an Omni Green Roof (at their own cost), leasing it to The Roof Crop, and then reaping the harvest and profits. Not only is there a leafy return on investment, but lessors will also benefit from greater energy reductions and stormwater retentions.

The City of Chicago has helped promote permaculture by offering incentives to rooftop growers; there are two programs in place that feature expedited permits and possible reductions in permit fees. The Department of Planning and Development estimates that there are over 500 green roofs within city limits.

By Danette Chavez for

May 26, 2015 — Tracy Boychuk

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