Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Environmental Sustainability

Urban Agriculture Demonstration Garden Project


Elevating Our Communities to New Heights

Project overview

Two gardens on Loyola's campus demonstrate some of the best small-scale urban agriculture techniques from Chicago and the world. This demonstration is intended to educate students, faculty, and staff of the University as well as the greater community.

Currently, all food produced on the gardens are donated to charity, Just a Harvest. Future plans will grow a portion of the food to be served in Loyola's dining halls.

Project Need: Cities are highly populated, energy consuming entities, with little vegetation and lack of nearby fresh food sources.  Identifying and creating space to grow food in an urban setting can recreate the connection between people and their food, decrease food miles, reduce urban energy demand, and maximize available space use. Globally, cities house over 50% of the population while in industrialized over 80% of the population lives in cities; yet few cities actually produce their own food.

Project Vision: To reform the food system in our community and Chicago through urban agriculture, season extension and educational outreach.

Quinlan Life Sciences Building Balcony Garden

Launched in the spring of 2009, this garden grows an aesthetically pleasing mix of vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Currently there are eleven garden beds built by students and currently managed by students.

Winthrop Garden

winthrop garden Launched in the fall of 2010, students assisted in the design and development of an unused campus location that is 70 ft. x 100 ft. Today there is a small orchard planted by the student group Growers Guild and twenty raised beds with an array of vegetables and herbs.

  • This garden utilizes low tunnel season extension strategies that allow the cultivation of crops beyond their traditional growing season.
  • Three-bin and single-bin compost systems to provide necessary nutrients for both gardens.


Students researched the appropriate heirloom seeds and purchase seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. Students established management principles of aesthetics and companion planting, as well as considering the windy conditions and cool temperatures of our lakefront campus. In both of these steps, the students received guidance and advice from mentors, and experts in rooftop gardening, like Helen Cameron owner of Uncommon Ground Restaurant.


  • Learned to overcome the challenges of growing food in three Midwest growing seasons in two different landscapes: a rooftop and ground-level campus lot
  • Created long and short term vision for the Quinlan and Winthrop beds
  • Practiced season extension techniques by planting seeds in a greenhouse and transferring seedlings outdoors