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Friday, June 5, 2009

Rooftop gardens all about growth

From an article by Kathleen Gallagher in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A year ago, Erik Lindberg rented a boom lift with a bucket and hoisted 15 cubic yards of dirt to the roof of his north side remodeling business. In the process, he planted himself firmly in the middle of a growing urban agriculture movement.

Lindberg, owner of Community Building & Restoration, turned to rooftop gardening in the belief that his actions might encourage people to grow their own food or buy locally grown produce.

And by selling the vegetables he grows to subscribers and a nearby Outpost Natural Foods store, he may have become Milwaukee's first commercial rooftop farmer.

"It's an experiment," said Lindberg, 42. "Can you develop a business plan out of something like this? The answer is, I don't know yet."

Rooftop farming is in its infancy, but the potential is enormous, said Steven Peck, founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, a 10-year-old Toronto-based association that claims more than 5,000 members.

"We have probably a handful of projects. A lot of the rooftop gardening we do may have a commercial or selling component, but it's often set up because of the social benefits it provides," Peck said. Those benefits include improved health, less stress, a sense of community among tenants of a building, better caretakers and lower crime rates, he said.

Green evolution
Restaurants such as Frontera Grill and Uncommon Groundin Chicago were among the pioneers of rooftop gardening.

Milwaukee is an evolving "green roof" community, Peck said.

Among the local buildings featuring rooftop gardens are a City of Milwaukee building at 809 Broadway; the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District building at 260 W. Seeboth St.; the Highland Gardens Public Housing Facility; the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Great Lakes WATER Institute; the Karen Peck Katz Conservation Education Center at the Milwaukee County Zoo; the Urban Ecology Center next to Riverside University High School; and the Grohmann Museum at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

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