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Massive garden sprouting atop massive McCormick Place

Working with Chicago Botanic Garden McCormick Place's rooftop is now home massive rooftop garden —  blossoming with tomatoes lettuce

Working with the Chicago Botanic Garden, McCormick Place's rooftop is now home to a massive rooftop garden — blossoming with tomatoes, lettuce and flowers. | Alex Wroblewski~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 24, 2013 6:35AM

A massive new rooftop garden at McCormick Place will provide thousands of pounds of produce to the convention center’s caterers while preparing Cook County ex-offenders for the workplace.

A half-acre of space planted with greens, beets, tomatoes, peppers and herbs of all kinds is maintained and harvested by ex-offenders trained in the Cook County Sheriff’s Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center. The vegetables will be incorporated into dishes served by SAVOR Foodservice, which runs McCormick’s catering for conventions and restaurants on the premises.

“SAVOR picked from the list of what grows well on rooftops,” said Angie Mason, the director of urban agriculture for the Chicago Botanic Garden, which planted the garden and runs the agricultural training program for the Cook County Sheriff.

“This year we are evaluating what does well and what doesn’t do so well,” Mason said. “Next year, we will base the crop plan on that.”

The rooftop garden was fully planted by the beginning of June, and Mason said the three full-time workers have already begun harvesting.

The plan is to expand the garden to the full three acres the roof covers, but the square footage already planted makes it dramatically larger than most rooftop gardens, which are typically not more than a few thousand square feet, Mason said.

The project “does touch so many different areas: social justice, food access, training ex-offenders,” Mason said. “It covers a lot of ground.”


Twitter: @dhnovak

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