Help Darrell Get Mobile! Contribute what you can, please!

Darrell Watson - Self Proclaimed Father of Wheatgrass

Darrell Watson - Self Proclaimed Father of Wheatgrass

Darrell is one of the most beloved members of our urban farming community here in Chicago. He helped build a hoop house right on 61st street in Hyde Park and has offered vegetables freely to neighbors and all alike. He has been an invaluable part of the Urban Canopy team for four years, and laid claim to his title as the father of wheatgrass, while also bringing vegetables to the hands of those who need it most. He sold a bewildering amount of produce across the city, from Austin, La Follete to Columbus Park and Hyde Park just to name a few. You could tell just seeing him in action that he really cares about giving people what is good. And if you've ever been to the 61st Street Market at Experimental Station in Hyde Park, you'd have seen him work his magic, selling wheatgrass shots to many, saying one of his many catch phrases like "We grow our vegetables organically but at night we play music to them too!” or “We're local right now, but soon we’re going global!" He always had something to say to pick up your spirit. Now, it's time we all help raise his spirit…. He's been fighting cancer this past year and hasn’t been able to get out to the gardens and markets at all. A donation could help change that. He hopes to get a car and/or electric wheelchair so he can start growing wheatgrass and selling at markets again! Let’s make the local organization he helped create, one that really can inspire on a global scale. 

Please follow this link to donate directly to the Go Fund Me Campaign. 

We sincerely thank you for all of your prayers and support!!!!

- The UC Crew

Cool Solutions: From Scraps to Riches, Community Composters Close the Loop

Compost Club Buckets getting prepped

Compost Club Buckets getting prepped

Check out this great article and podcast interview. Our very own Eric Rodriquez, Co-Founder and Compost Club Lead, speaks about how our operation works and its role within the Chicago composting scene. 

Here is the link to the article where you can listen, share, and find additional resources.

CC Newsletter February

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Moving forward, the Compost Club team will be sending out a monthly newsletter. We'd like to keep you all updated on the growth of Compost Club, the amount of waste we're collecting, events happening within the urban farming community, information on local restaurants and businesses that are composting, etc. We'd like to build community through Compost Club as the service continues to expand.

We dream of a world where nutritious, local compost is used to grow delicious, local food! That is what The Urban Canopy is trying to do! Join our CSA and support our Local Food Cycle!

The Urban Canopy's Summer LUCSA is officially open for enrollment. We call our CSA "LUCSA" as it stands for: Local, Unified, Community Supported Agriculture. So, start thinking warm thoughts and fresh produce.  Each share includes local produce, eggs, bread, mushrooms, and a beverage, all for less than $41 per share (if you sign up by April 1st!).

The first shares of the CSA will be delivered in the first full week of June - deliveries will be on Mondays and Tuesdays, 5-9pm. Folks can choose the full share option: 22 weekly deliveries over 22 weeks. Or, the half share option: 11, biweekly deliveries over 22 weeks.

Interested? Check out for more information and sign up. Flexible payment plans available!
In this first newsletter we wanted to introduce you all to our administrative team (so you can get to know the folks behind all those billing emails, ha).

NAME: Ally Otto



  • Compost Club - Customer Service, Marketing, Updating Member Accounts
  • LUCSA - Creating the CSA's Weekly Newsletter
Ally has been working for The Urban Canopy for 2.5 years. She started as a Compost Club driver after graduating from college in 2015. Ally was SUPER eager to work with the UC and was willing to take any position available (even driving large trucks through narrow Chicago alleyways, gulp). Due to her involvement, she has developed a deep love for composting and reducing waste in every area of her life.

Apart from helping Chicago reduce their waste, she is really into her houseplants, making (everything) from scratch, watercolor painting, and Ted Talks.


NAME: Louie Francesco

PRONOUNS: He, Him, His


  • Compost Club - Billing, Adding New Members, Sending Rewards & Customer Service
  • LUCSA - Packing LUCSA Boxes

Before The Urban Canopy, Louie Francesco worked as a translator, interpreter and tech support freelancer in Detroit. He has been very involved in promoting LGBT inclusivity, specifically through public speaking, in DC, Michigan, and in The New York Times. Louie is interested in Apple devices (hardware fixing), Emperor Penguin and King Penguin, and is a huge Seattle Mariners fan. Louie has volunteered at:

  • Call To Action - Board Member (February 2015-2016)
  • Young Adult Leadership (February 2013-2016)
  • Anti-Racism Team (February 2014-2016)
  • Dignity USA - Young Adults Leadership Team & Trans Support Caucus Lead

Louie is autistic and in the future he would like to be involved in autism/disability inclusion and public speaking about disability inclusion in local workplaces.

NAME: Eric Rodriguez

PRONOUNS: He, Him, They


  • HR & Operations Lead for The Urban Canopy
  • Compost Club Lead - Strategy & Development

Looking to bridge natural sciences with his social and spiritual side, Eric is a mechanical engineering graduate from UIC, who looks to use biological mimicry, and food to alleviate tough problems in Chicago, like poverty and lack of food access.

After a year and a half internship with The Plant Chicago NFP, he began to work with The Urban Canopy's Farmers Markets and Indoor Farm. Now, Eric is developing Compost Club as well as company-wide operations and HR practices to develop meaningful operations and roles for The Urban Canopy and its crew. Apart from creating an environmentally sustainable company, Eric aims to help create a socially sustainable organization using awareness of social justic issues, non-violent communication and a heightened emphasis on social and emotional well-being -- all the while learning to grow healthy organic food in the city.

Eric is an avid hiker and loves to explore landscapes in person or through nature documentaries.


  • In 2017 alone, Compost Club collected over 150 TONS of food scraps
  • At the end of 2017, Compost Club had 676 MEMBERS total (residential & commercial combined)
  • As of February 1st, 2018 Compost Club has 734 MEMBERS
In an effort to offset the cost of composting for restaurants/bakeries/coffee shops, The Urban Canopy purchases gift cards from restaurants that compost with us and distributes them to our residential compost members. This makes composting for commercial kitchens more affordable, rewards you all for participating, and connects residential folks to businesses in their neighborhoods that are mindful of their waste & environmental impact.

Nana has been composting through Compost Club since March 3, 2017 and diverted 12,635 LBS from the landfill in 2017 alone. Nana sources many of their ingredients from local farmers (including our Englewood farm in the summertime). You gotta pay them a visit and try their avocado fries......

Lula has been composting through Compost Club since March 15th, 2015 and diverted 33,682 LBS from the landfill in 2017 alone. Lula also sources many of their ingredients from local farmers and has a rocking selection in terms of breakfast, brunch, dinner, dessert and drinks....everything.

Someone from La Grange recently signed up for the service. Discouraged that she wasn't within our service area, she asked if we'd be willing to implement the program in her neighborhood if she gathered the interest. We told her we'd be willing to bring Compost Club to La Grange if she could get 30 of her community members to sign up on our website - they've almost reached their quota and it's only been a matter of weeks!

We wanted to share this with you so that you can spread the word about Compost Club to any friends, family members, or coworkers that you may have in La Grange. We also wanted to show how it often only takes one person to push for and promote change. 

We officially have Commercial and Event Compost Club pages running on our website! If you want to implement composting in your office, restaurant, school, coffee shop or at your next event, fill out the appropriate form.

Wednesdays | 5:30PM - 6:30PM
Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse, 3501 N Kilbourn Ave.
"Come warm up from your winter day in the beautiful greenhouse setting with a sixty minute Hatha yoga class. Each week will focus on strengthening and lengthening a specific part of the body. You can expect a playful, yet challenging sequence that emphasizes mindfulness and safe body movements. No experience is necessary and all levels are welcome. To register please contact Megan Novotney at (Fee involved)"

Check out this complete list of the farmers markets that run throughout the wintertime in Chicago. The times, locations, and offerings of farmers' markets in the winter differ from the ones in spring, summer, and fall.

Thanks for composting!
-Compost Club Team

PS: Follow us on Instagram @THEURBANCANOPY
Copyright © 2018 The Urban Canopy, All rights reserved.

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Chicken and the Egg: The Making of a Farmer’s Market

Chicken and the Egg: The Making of a Farmer’s Market

Help us get more people at our markets! Our Englewood market is right next to a Popeyes and we have to compete with that smell in the air. 

In order to start a successful market, you need to have vendors for things that people in the area want, but to get vendors to come, you need to have an audience for them to interact with. A market can not thrive without both: a captive audience and committed vendors. 


River Valley Ranch Mushrooms and Sauces


The veggies and fruits we bring to the market taste great but they somehow taste better when we combine them. Through a slow cooking, we make it delicious. But our culture now values convenience over anything else. We aim to show just how delicious, quick and nutritious is possible and this is especially important towards younger people. 

Our demos bring so many people to our markets! Young and old folks get to taste the stuff that our Chefs cook right from our tables. We strongly believe Chefs will bring people in and help our markets thrive! Help us have more Chef demos and improve our markets this summer by donating to our campaign! To read more about it and contribute, follow this link:

-The Urban Canopy Crew

Chef Demos: A Way to Learn, Eat, and Connect

A Chef In The Hood.

The Hunger Hideout.

Chesa’s Gluten Tootin’ Free Food Truck.


What do all of these people have in common? They’re all amazing chefs, here in our city of Chicago, that share a common goal of educating our communities on how easy it is to use the myriad of foods at farmer’s markets to cook meals at home.

In today’s world, home cooked meals are becoming less and less common. People go to farmers markets and purchase foods that they’re familiar with, such as blackberries or tomatoes, and overlook items that they don’t recognize or are unsure of how to pronounce. Many times, this is due to lack of education about the food, resulting in them never having tasted the food or not knowing how they can use it in their meals. Chef demonstrations can help to fill this void.

Cooking demonstrations at farmers markets helps to increase attendance and create excitement around the market, but most importantly, they allow our chefs to educate others about the various ways that locally-grown food can be integrated into our everyday lives. These live demonstrations provide customers with an avenue to both learn about and purchase the foods that they are seeing transformed right in front of their eyes.

We, at The Urban Canopy, know how effective these demonstrations are and we want to help these chefs thrive by bringing more cooking demos to farmers markets around the city.

The Urban Canopy is an organization that has a goal of creating a local food cycle by growing food, distributing food and making compost. We participate in farmer’s markets in various food insecure neighborhoods around Chicago, which consist of communities that struggle to find access to local, organic produce. We have seen first handedly the colossal success of these chef demonstrations and we want to make them more readily available to our various communities.

Currently, we are working to implement chef demonstrations around five, local farmers markets in the city of Chicago. Through these events, we want to provide our communities with more educational resources, while also paying our chefs for their time.

The Urban Canopy is running a fundraiser to gather funds to pay these chefs, which can be found HERE. We would love if you would help us by donating money to create a sustainable fixture for these chefs that would benefit everyone involved.

Thank you in advance for your help with our efforts to bring more chef demonstrations to farmer’s markets around Chicago!

- The Urban Canopy Crew


Too Many Farmer’s Markets? No! Not Enough Demand for Local Food -- Help us create it!!!

Too Many Farmers Markets? No! Not Enough Demand for Local Food - Help us create it!

Too Many Farmers Markets

Nothing brings us closer than sharing food with each other. Help us share more food with our neighbors by funding our Chef Demos. 

We are a boot strap organization. We are for profit because we want to be independent. We want to tackle local food access in many ways using values that promote compassion collaboration and opportunity. We want these demos to be help make these markets financially sustainable. What better way than sharing food with our neighbors.

With help from senior coupons, WIC coupons, link sales, double value coupons (check them out!) and now even doctor prescription for healthy food, these markets are growing closer to the point where they can self sustain as parts of our local food system.

Contribute to our GoFundMe to increase these chef demos and bring more people to the markets. To read more about it and donate follow this link:

-The Urban Canopy Crew


The Urban Canopy is GROWING!

Hello Community!

The spring is nearing fast and we have begun to organize our efforts for this upcoming season. The canopy will be bigger than ever this year and we are looking for inspired, motivated individuals that want to help make an impact on our local food system and community. If you have any interest in joining our crew, we want to hear from you!

The winter is a transformative time for our organization, when we plan on how to evolve from seasons past. This year we want to open the opportunity to join our crew to a larger audience. To do this, we have created a "Pre-Interview" questionnaire.  

People looking for seasonal, part-time, full-time or volunteering options are encouraged to submit this form!  You can find it by clicking on this link. If you have any issues accessing this form or have any further questions, please email

Thank you!


November is NOT the End

The 2015 summer season has come and gone. But there is plenty to do at the farm despite a change in seasons. 

The opportunity to grow food in Chicago is enormous. We think of it as a harsh climate but the plants at the farm don't seem to mind! (Just ask our Arugula)

And although the trees look barren and the cold wind makes you believe nothing would want to thrive outside, there's plenty of life above and below the soil. And it's important to take care of it. 

There are many crops to harvest still. The collards, chard, the kales, lettuce, mustards are all still growing. And although you're not going to live of off eating these greens, you can make a living by selling them all over the city, while being part of an urban ag organization and the Chicago community.

A great deal of what we do tries to create synergy. This idea is often explained as "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts". Or another way of putting it is that 1 plus 1 does not equal 2 but rather much more. We can see this idea everywhere in natural ecosystems, like when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone.

Mimicking nature and creating synergy is behind much of what we do at The Urban Canopy.

We grow connections in our community that produce much much more than a simple customer-vendor relationship. These connections allows us to sell the food that we grow, spread the ideas we believe in and connect us to others who are like minded and we collaborate. 

We grow food, sell to our community of good food eaters and we make sure all the left overs are returned back to the earth where they will decompose again into fertile soil. 

Check out our oFarm Branch Lead Matthew Phillips, inspecting the compost we have created from valuable nutrients that were diverted from landfills by the choice of hundreds of residents through our city. Including our partner restaurants and their patrons. 

We can't thank enough all of the people that support us and we have formed relationships with. These relationships are just as important as the fertility of the soil. And with every farmer's market interaction, or pleasant exchange while delivering a LUCSA share, we know for a fact, we are doing the right thing.

And we will do it far beyond the seasons end....

A bouquet to celebrate all our supporters and an amazing 2015 season

A bouquet to celebrate all our supporters and an amazing 2015 season

Stay tuned for more updates on the 2015 season! Now that the hardest part of the season is over, we turn to the digital realm to help us grow The Urban Canopy! ( ;



Kiva Zip Loan

Kiva Zip Loan

We are happy to announce that we are registered to accept loans through a crowd-funded micro-lending service called Kiva Zip. Kiva is the first and largest micro-lending service in the world, and has distributed 658 million dollars over 10 years, in 85 different countries, among 1.5 million small businesses. The funds from this loan will go towards our outdoor farming operations here in Chicago.

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