Founded in 2011, The Urban Canopy is comprised of five main programs which include our IFarm (indoor farm), OFarm (outdoor farm), LUCSA (Local Unified Community Supported Agriculture), Farmers Markets, and Compost Club.

We are pioneering the local food cycle to create a more sustainable and equitable food system in Chicago. We are growers, distributors, composters, and community partners who seek to directly impact our city for the better. We strive to make local healthy produce more accessible to all, reduce the miles fresh food travels, and create and maintain local jobs. Use the sidebar links to learn more about our programs or get in touch.

Our mission is to grow food, here in Chicago, sell it to our neighborhoods and gather intentional compostables from neighbors to more grow more food in a locally, sustainable way. The pillars of our mission are:

  • Nutrition – making more healthy produce available

  • Environment – reducing the miles fresh and organic food travels to get to us

  • Economy – creating local, meaningful jobs

  • Community – empowering our communities, within our organization and around it

... 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 on 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 The 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 to be a crew of up to 24 passionate people. This crew has grown thousands of wheat grass and micro-green trays in an indoor growing space. The team has become part of a growing community of Farmer's Markets that spread to some of Chicago's "food deserts". The Urban Canopy's Local Unified CSA now runs for most of the year, including in the winter, and has prepared over 1,200 shares. A 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 in a two-acre farm in the Englewood neighborhood. The Urban Canopy has also become a support system for several community & school gardens. 

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.”