farm resources

The Country's 1st Certified Organic Roof Top Farm! (M.O.S.A. Oct, 2008)

We're not kidding, it's on the roof of the restaurant!

Winner of the City of Chicago Mayor's Landscape Award 2009 

Winner of the prestigious USGBC Environmotion Award 2009

 Green Business of the Year 2009   Edgewater, Chicago Chamber of Commerce

uncommon ground

1401 West Devon Avenue Chicago, IL  60660  773-465-9801
Farm Director:  Jen Rosenthal


Organic Certification through Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA) October, 2008.

Our certified organic farm produces a bountiful harvest of delicious, nutritious produce that we use
in both restaurants.

2500 square foot deck, made from post-consumer recycled materials, on the roof (654 square feet of soil).

Organic plants we rotate through our raised beds over time include: varieties of sweet and hot
peppers, varieties of eggplant, lettuces, heirloom tomatoes, radishes, beets, okra, spinach, fennel,
mustard, bush beans, and shallots.

Herbs we grow include: rosemary, thyme, chives, garlic chives, tarragon, sage, parsley, dill,
mint,lavender,basil, anise hyssop, etc…

The beauty of the roof top farm is embellished by a variety of flowers and companion plants including:
nasturtiums, calendula, marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias and morning glories.

We will be planting some seed varieties that have been included in the Slow Food movement's "Ark of
Taste." ("The Ark seeks, first and foremost, to save an economic, social and cultural heritage of fruits and

We purchase organic seeds from Seed Savers, Johnny's, Abundant Life, Terratorial and Seeds of
Change, as well as cultivating our own seed stock from plants that have excelled in our farm.

Our soil is organic and comes from Fox Farm Soil and Fertilizer Company. It is called Happy Frog and the
ingredients are: forest humus, sphagnum peat moss, perlite, earthworm castings, bat guano (sustainably
harvested), humic acid (derived from Leonardite), oyster shell and dolomite lime (for pH adjustments).
We support other local farmers by purchasing organic plants at farmers markets.

Check out this great video produced by WORKING FOR GREEN:


All of the boxes are made from steel and cedar, both long lasting materials. The planter boxes were
designed for durability, ease of use, and maximized food production potential.  All of them have
trellising and cold frame potential to expand our growing season and harvest.

The perimeter of the rooftop farm is lined with 12” deep boxes in frames, at the 42” high city code height,
and are attached directly onto our steel beams on the roof.
The perimeter also includes a small seating area, a workstation, and a utility closet for tools, organic
fertilizer, etc.

For the interior area of the deck, ten 10' x 4' planter boxes have been built in a variety of heights to
allow the greatest flexibility in growing and gardening capability. 

All of the interior boxes are on casters so we can rearrange the garden if needed. 

All of the boxes include support structure capability for plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, pole
beans and peas.

All of the boxes are connected to a programmable drip line irrigation system to maintain an optimum
watering schedule (and least amount of water waste) for the variety of plants we grow.



• Affiliated with Growing Connection to utilize 27 organic EarthBoxes in food production.
• The EarthBoxes measure 29"x13.5"x11".
• Sub-irrigated planter boxes facilitate the movement of nutrients from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. When water is added, the moist potting mix slowly conducts the diluted nutrients from the fertilizer band down the concentration gradient to the plant roots, which absorb optimal amounts of nutrients at any given time.
• The EarthBox's plastic cover drastically reduces the water evaporation rate and returns condensed water vapor to the potting mix. As the plants draw water from the reservoir, they consume only what they need to stay healthy. Plants cannot be over-watered or under-watered if the reservoir is kept full. The plastic cover also prevents fertilizer from being diluted or washed away by rain.



We have partnered with our neighbor & Beekeeper, Liam Ford, who is maintaining an educational blog at

In April 2008 we installed two beehives at the southeast corner of our roof to provide pollination in our
community and honey for use in our menu, as well as support for a bee population in crisis.

Our first honey harvest was on September 26th, 2008 and weighed in at 40 pounds.

In May of 2009 two additional beehives were added, bringing us to a total of 4 hives.

We use a Russian bee stock from Tennessee, which have proved to be hearty and incredibly mellow.


Uncommon Ground is committed to purchasing seasonal, locally produced food without herbicides,
pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or genetically modified ingredients for our menu whenever possible. Over
the years we have developed many relationships with the farmers that we buy from. We make an effort to
visit farms on a regular basis and we bring staff along to educate them as well. Our chefs and other staff
have recently visited Gunthorp Farm, Slagel Family Farms, Green Acres Farm and Seedling Farm, all within
our Midwest region.

We consciously prefer to spend our food dollars with the families who are committed to growing produce
and raising livestock in a humane, sustainable, environmentally responsible manner.
Management and staff at uncommon ground are encouraged to find ways to reduce consumption and
waste, and find products that are environmentally friendly.
Each restaurant has a dedicated green manager that is assigned to continue seeking ways in which we can
be most efficient in our purchasing decisions.

All of our paper towels and toilet paper come from recycled paper.
We use unbleached paper products and items that are biodegradable from Natureworks, LLC and Bio-Pak.
We use brown linen napkins that are laundered, eliminating all disposable napkins. We chose the brown
color so there is no bleach used in laundering them, which is necessary with white restaurant linens.

We have switched all of our cleaning supplies to be more Eco-friendly, using products from Eco-Lab, Onyx
Environmental and Schultz Supply Company.

Motion detection lights are used throughout employee areas to cut down on wasted electricity


We recycle cardboard, paper, glass, plastic and metal with the Resource Center of Chicago.

We currently gather compost ready kitchen scraps which are processed by Growing Power

We recycle our used fryer oil for bio-diesel production, we donate it to Loyola
University's biodiesel program. We are hoping to form a partnership between Loyola, the Chicago
Biodiesel Coop Chicago BioFuels and the City of Chicago's Department of the Environment to promote
the use of alternative fuels and hopefully fill up our diesel Jeep Liberty!


We hope our Uncommon Ground Roof Top Farm will become a beacon for our community and raise awareness of the power of local production and what is possible in urban agriculture. To insure this we extend ourselves into the community through events and environmental efforts.


Green Room Sessions

Our monthly eco-mixer, bringing together local organizations and community members to indulge in free appetizers utilizing product from Harvest Moon Farms, Green City Market and others as well as our own organic, roof top farm, and listen to great local music all while supporting great causes.

Cocktail Partnership with the Chicago Rarities Orchard Project (C.R.O.P.)

Chicago Rarities Orchard Project is a non-profit organization founded to establish community rare-fruit orchards in Chicago. These orchards, designed for reclaimed spaces, are dedicated to preserving a few of the thousands of varieties of tree fruit that aren't commonly commercially grown, while providing open space and educational opportunities to Chicagoans. We offer a specialty cocktail
"The Agripolitan" tm., that
changes seasonally featuring only the finest organic ingredients & organically produced Rain Vodka. For every one of these cocktails ordered, uncommon ground donates monies to help fund the Chicago Rarities Orchard Project.


From 2007 through 2009 we partnered with Live It Green to plant trees in Tamil Nadu, India, an area that was ravaged by monsoons and in dire need of reforestation. Over that course of time we are pleased to announce that we planted 10,000 trees in Tamil Nadu! 


Educational Outreach

We partner with local schools, from elementary to university level, to conduct garden workshops and curriculum enhancement. We have worked closely with the 3rd grade class from the Chicago Waldorf School and the Bio-diesel program at Loyola University. We plan on hosting lectures on pertinent topics; workshops on how to have your own food-producing garden and seasonal urban farming in Chicago, as well as other events that help us get the word out about how important it is to be connected to what you eat just as it is important to be connected to your community.


Biking and walking to the restaurant

We encourage all of our employees to travel via eco-minded ways whenever possible, and offer customers who do the same a 10% Low Carbon discount.


The Growing Connection

The Growing Connection is a grassroots project developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations supported by a progressive coalition of private and public sector partners.
 The Growing Connection links people and cultures in a revolutionary campaign that introduces low-cost water efficient and sustainable food growing innovations hand in hand with access to technology and information via existing and emerging technologies. It provides a sound educational foundation, and offers hundreds of families, both in America and abroad, a concrete opportunity to earn income and climb out of desperation. Perhaps most important,  The Growing Connection engages people – a network of committed individuals - in an elegant  solution to one of man's fundamental challenges.


History of the Building

Uncommon Ground saved the historic building that we reside in from demolition by developers.  Previous to Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon housed a variety of businesses. The building was built in 1908 for H. Henderson and was designed by Edgewater architect Niels Buck. It was larger than it is today, as it was designed as 6 storefronts that were at one time a delicatessen, a women's clothing store, a laundry, a locksmith, a liquor store, Bornhofen Groceries, and Roman Decorating. The corner unit, 1401, was always a tavern. In 1925 a fire occurred at the tavern that did an estimated $10,000 worth of damage. Around 1932 the tavern became the Glenway Inn. Sometime around the 1960's three of the storefronts were demolished to make way for a parking lot and the Glenway Inn took over the remaining three storefronts. When they closed their doors the space was renovated a few years later into a Supper Club, which remained in business until 2006.



Organic Seeds & Starter Plants:


Seeds of Change



Johnny's Seeds

Winslow, Maine



Seed Savers

Decorah, Iowa



Harvest Moon Farms

Viroqua, Wisconsin

Jenny Borchardt




Organic Soil:

Fox Farm Soil and Fertilizer Company

Happy Frog Soil

P.O. Box 787
Arcata, CA 95518



Organic Certification:

Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA)

Viroqua, Wisconsin




Planter boxes & steel beams

Romital Fabrication

Chicago, Illinois

Dan Mihalka 773-407-9188




Scranton, PA



The Growing Connection




Liam Ford

Chicago, Illinois



RECYCLING PROGRAM (glass, plastic, paper, cans)

Resource Center

Chicago, Illinois