The volunteer farmers who built the award-winning Urban Rooftop Farm at Weiss took their efforts a step further this year when they formed the not-for-profit Loud Grade Produce Squad. Now, the 501c3 needs your support—via a fundraiser this Sat., Sept. 8 on the Parking Garage Roof, 4650 N. Clarendon Ave., 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets range from $25 to $40, and include dinner and drinks.
“A lot of the work we do is in some of the more vulnerable and un-supported communities in Chicago. The reality is that those neighborhoods don’t have the resources to make sure everyone can get down with our programs,” said Jed Schenkier, LGPS co-founder with Will Pool.
Schenkier and Pool started the Rooftop Farm at Weiss three years ago and have maintained it since. Now, as an established 501c3, Loud Grade Produce Squad (LGPS) educates even more communities, businesses and individuals about the benefits of local, organic food production. At Weiss, LGPS has not only established the Rooftop Farm, but also plays an integral part in running the weekly Uptown Farmers Market.
Lt. Governor Sheila Simon put LGPS’s work into perspective in August, when she toured the Rooftop Farm and awarded the Uptown Farmers Market a $1,200 grant. “Increasing access to locally grown foods means stronger local economies in addition to healthier communities,” Simon said. “I am happy to recognize and support the food connections being made here at the Uptown Farmers Market and show what is possible when a community is integrated into the operation of a farmers’ market.”
The Rooftop Farm supplies many fruits and veggies at the market—from peppers and tomatoes to kale and collard greens. In addition to the 20 planter boxes along the rooftop edge, LGPS has built an additional 15 raised beds, chicken coop, water collection and compost stations, and apiary of 150,000 bees.
School children and summer campers tour the farm regularly. “We live in an urban environment where a lot of space isn’t being utilized, and there are so many people who need to eat,” Pool told one group of fifth graders, emphasizing the importance of growing food in unlikely spaces.
“We don’t want this to be a thing where if you don’t have the money, you can’t access the education. These programs can be available to all communities—whether they have the resources to support or not,” Schenkier said.
Schenkier and Pool started the Rooftop Farm at Weiss three years ago.
Saturday’s event will include live music, dance performances and more, with free parking in the garage. “People should come out because it’ll be an awesome good time. We’ll be cooking foods straight off the rooftop, and you’ll be able to see how to use kale, collard greens, foods you might not use that often.”
A large portion of the proceeds will go toward LGPS’s biodiesel initiative. The organization currently uses waste vegetable oil from the Weiss cafeteria to fuel the truck they use to transport supplies. “We see that as our passport to self-sustainability as an organization,” Schenkier said.
To purchase tickets, visit http://www.loudgradeproducesquad.org/.