Fresh, healthy vegetables and herbs are sprouting in the most unlikely of places — the rooftop of the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Botanic Garden began planting on the 20,000 square foot urban farm site in early June and it is already being harvested by Cook County ex-offenders as part of an agricultural training program for dishes served by Savor Chicago, McCormick’s catering service.
The green roof has been planted with a variety of produce, including lettuce, tomatoes, beets, peppers and many types of herbs. The garden is expected to deliver about 4,000 pounds of produce this year with plans to double production next year and in the next few years expand the garden’s three acres to cover the entire roof and triple production.
Rooftop gardens, besides the obvious benefits of providing local and healthy eating options, have tremendous environmental benefits. Green roofs can lower building temperatures, which in turn reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and when there are many green roofs in urban areas they can reduce air pollution and heat stress. Another benefit to green roofs is reducing rain run-off which helps prevent sewage overflow events and storm water flooding.