Posts By Roberta Cruger
Below New York City’s skyscrapers, 8-foot tall okra plants tower over an impressive array of vegetables, herbs and flowers growing on a rooftop farm situated just 100-feet from the kitchen of Riverpark Restaurant. Lunch and dinner menus state that meals are made with “produce grown right here at the Riverpark Farm.” In fact, the 15,000-square-foot urban farm on East 29th Street supplies 100 percent of the restaurant’s organic herbs, lettuce, and flowers.
It all started with ice cream. When Albert Straus was studying at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, he won an ice cream judging contest. “It’s a weakness of mine, but it also sparked my interest,” he admits about his initial desire to convert the family farm to organic. The transition took a few years and in 1994 in partnership with his father the Straus Family Creamery was certified organic.
Over a decade ago, Chicago led the way for green roofs by covering the top of City Hall with 20,000 plants and more than 150 species. A series of grants followed and many green roofs cropped up across Chicago’s skyline. O’Hare Airport alone boasts a dozen green roofs including the top of the Control Tower and massive 190,000-square-foot FedEx Cargo Building. Now the city’s restaurants are beginning to green their rooftops as well, filling planters with organic herbs and vegetables in an effort to be green and deliver ultra local rooftop-to-plate fare to diners.