Rise of the urban farm in Chicago

A number of recent publications revealed real estate in Chicago can expect to see some green and leafy changes in the near future, as urban farms continue to proliferate perhaps unexpectedly in the city of concrete and metal.

An article in Chicago magazine detailed that while there are already countless community and backyard gardens throughout the "City of Neighborhoods," there are now a handful of larger-scale agricultural plans advancing.

Crain's Chicago Business reported the most recent development in an article on September 6. The New York-based firm BrightFarms announced plans to build a 45,000-square-foot greenhouse on top of a 350,000-square-foot industrial office building on the North Side of Chicago. The project is expected to be Chicago's largest rooftop farm, producing 500,000 pounds of food annually that will amount to roughly $1.5 million a year.

BrightFarms CEO Paul Lightfoot said to Crain's, "The mayor has put an emphasis on local food. I don't think there's a city that's got as much  political support for the local foot movement as Chicago. It feels like a great environment for us to come and be a part of." He added, "This site is what we consider a beachhead for the Chicago area. We'd like to do many more."

Chicago magazine revealed that the BrightFarms project joins several others like it. Iron Street Farm is a seven-acre farm in Bridgeport that is bordered by the Chicago River. This farm rose out of an abandoned industrial site and serves as Chicago's first "green" campus.

There are two other initiatives in the works for urban farms in Chicago. Chicago magazine revealed there is also a plan, called the Chicago Rarities Orchard Project, to build an orchard of dwarf fruit trees in the neighborhood of Logan Square. The orchard will include roughly 40 trees. Another plan underway is to create a working vineyard in the city on a site located in Washington Park.

“The present system of agriculture doesn't [help] you understand where and who your food comes from,” said Paul Lightfoot, CEO of BrightFarms, according to Chicago magazine. “But if it’s grown in your own neighborhood, there’s an almost emotional connection to your food and your food source. People had that 100 years ago, and we’re rediscovering it now.”

Speculation continues over the agricultural developments in Chicago, with some residents thinking it could go as far as to transform the city. Many are expected to welcome additional green spaces to the modern urban scene.