What We Do

Founded in 2011, The Urban Canopy is pioneering the local food cycle to create a more sustainable and equitable food system in Chicago. We are growers, distributors, composters and community members who seek to positively impact our city’s environment, people’s health, and local economy. We strive to make healthy produce accessible to all, reduce the miles fresh food travels, keep food waste out of landfills, and create and maintain local jobs.

To achieve this, we structure our business into 6 “Branches”: Compost Club, Indoor Farm, Outdoor Farm, Local Unified CSA (LUCSA), Farmers Markets, and non-local Distribution and one “twig”: Processing. These branches each work in their own way to change the way our food is grown, distributed, and wasted.  


The pillars of our mission are….


Reducing food waste, food miles, and encouraging sustainable farming practices


Making healthy produce accessible and available year round


Empowering our communities to build towards a healthier food system


Creating local, self-sustaining, meaningful jobs

… as part of one system, one cycle.


While working with Chicago Public Schools as an Education Pioneer Fellow in 2010, our founder Alex Poltorak explored how nutrition affects children in school. If a child can’t get enough to eat, or lacks healthy food options, concentrating at and succeeding in school become secondary concerns. Alex dreamed of utilizing idle rooftops, vacant lots, and empty buildings in urban environments to grow fruits & vegetables as a way to attack this problem directly within communities.

In the process of researching the idea’s feasibility, he discovered Plant Chicago, a “vertical farming” project, directed by John Edel in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. The Urban Canopy began a pilot rooftop farm at The Plant in the beginning of 2011 with a few test systems as a proof of concept.

Although no longer on The Plant's rooftop, The Urban Canopy has grown into a much bigger crew of passionate people. This crew has grown thousands of wheatgrass and micro-green trays in our indoor growing space at Plant Chicago. The team has become part of a growing community of conventional and pop up Farmer's Markets throughout the city of Chicago. The Urban Canopy's Local Unified CSA now runs for 36 weeks of the year and has delivered over 1,200 shares. Compost Club and an outdoor farm tie the local food cycle together with a food scrap collection service that takes valuable nutrients from eco-conscious Chicago eaters and produces compost vital for healthy soil on a two-acre farm in the Englewood neighborhood.

The Urban Canopy is a for-profit business registered in Illinois in 2011. We are currently exploring becoming “B-Corp” certified with a triple bottom line of “People, Planet, & Profit.”


Email info@theurbancanopy.org with any general UC related questions.