Monday, January 18, 2010

Rooftop Farms: New Urban Spaces for Sustainable Agriculture

In urban areas around the world, new space is opening up for urban farming. No, it’s not because people are tearing down buildings and creating open spaces, although occasionally that is the case. No, it’s because people are finding innovative new urban places to farm. Rooftop Farms is a 6000 square foot farm in Brooklyn. Brooklyn, you ask? Isn’t that somewhat urban? Why yes, it is rather urban. In fact, the farm is actually located on the rooftop of an old building. Ben Flanner, the founder of the farm, shifted from the corporate world to an industrial rooftop, joining forces with the Bronx Botanical Gardens and Goode Green, a green roof designer. He brought in 200,000 pounds of soil to start the project.

The farm is traditional in many ways, but its location isn’t one of them. Although Rooftop Farms is not certified organic, the farm uses many well-honed organic practices. This urban farm uses non-toxic pest control methods and cover cropping. The farmers also intercrop, using complementary crops that provide each other with nutrients, a place to grow, and act as companion plants for natural pest control. The farm accepts compost from urban-dwellers, who can drop off appropriate compost at the farm.

New York
is well-known for its abundance of restaurants that provide a selection of foods from around the world for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Rooftop Farms provides bicycle-based deliveries of its urban produce to local restaurants. The farm supplies a farmer’s market stall, and a Community Supported Agriculture project is going to start in the rooftop garden in the spring of this year.

Urban agriculture is an important part of the city environment for another reason. Many urbanites don’t have an opportunity to experience firsthand the techniques for soil-building, natural pest control, water-savvy irrigation, and more. Especially in densely-packed urban areas, it can be hard to eke out more than an urban balcony or window-box worth of produce, unless you’re part of a community garden. The farm provides volunteer opportunities for urban-dwellers, and it also features workshops for urban gardeners or would-be gardeners.

While urban food gardening and farming has its concerns, from spotty air quality to produce disappearing into the hands of passer-by, the fact is that an increasing percentage of the world’s population lives in urban areas. These urban areas spread their huge ecological footprint over a vast hinterland of rural areas, drawing resources to feed them masses. Relocalization challenges us to work with the difficulties and opportunities of growing produce in an urban environment.

1 comment:

  1. Think about this.
    If you really did find a working formula that made you, say $1,000 a week online on average and it kept producing income no matter what, would you want to sell that idea to a bunch of noobs for $47 a pop and expect to retire on the proceeds? No way, man! It does not compute. It does not add up. And it does not make any sense to do that. I certainly don’t go shouting from the rooftops how I make my money online. Hell, I don’t want the competition taking a slice of my pie and neither would anyone who really does make good cash online.