Last week, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance, introduced by Alderman Brendan Reilly (D-42) in April, to allow Commercial Rooftop Farms in selected downtown areas. I learned about this when Reilly announced the news during my interview with him on Political Forum, a TV show on CANTV. My first thought (to paraphrase former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich), “the endive can be f***ing golden!”
I pointed out to Reilly that the Chicago City Hall building already has a flowering rooftop garden with 20,000 plants of more than 150 species, including shrubs, vines and two trees. With this new ordinance, it could be turned into a commercial garden and the city could sell signature Mayor Rahm Emanuel vegetables. There would basically be no transportation costs because the carrots and tomatoes could be sold at the city's weekly Farmer’s Market held at the Daley Center across the street from City Hall. Media would cover the Mayor watering the garden and piling on the compost, so the public could see that his Honor was actually tending to the garden. People always pay more money for “celebrity” food (think Bill Kurtis tallgrass beef), so Rahm Rutabaga or Emanuel Endive could bring much needed revenue to the city’s budget deficit.
Reilly said in a letter to his constituents, “Rooftop farming creates all of the environmental and social benefits of green roofing as well as increased revenue from food production, increased job creation from planting and harvesting tasks, development and support of local businesses, improved understanding of where food comes from, increased food security, and decreased emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.” He continued with, “Commercial rooftop agriculture creates green jobs and revenue from otherwise un-used roof space.”
I just checked at http://www.peapod.com/ and curly endive is selling for $1.99 a bunch. Slap the Emanuel name on that and we are probably looking at $2.99! Since Chicago Budget Director, Alexandra Holt, served in the late 1990s as the city's deputy environment commissioner, she has the financial and gardening credentials to manage City Hall’s rooftop vegetable garden. Now all we have to do is market 300 million bunches of endive and rutabaga and the city’s financial crisis is solved.