Urban Farming

Published on: December 4, 2015

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Fruits at the lobby farm stand at 1 Hotel South Beach

New York City often gets described as an urban jungle. But could it also be an urban farm? Well, as it turns out NYC is not just one of the biggest, most densely populated cities on the planet, but also a leader in urban agriculture. What is urban farming and why do people do it? More and more areas in the United States are becoming food deserts, places with no easy access to fresh and healthy food, and contributing to growing obesity allover the country. Projects have sprung up all over the country to bridge that gap and grow food right where it’s needed the most: in the heart of the cities. But what I have come to realize is that urban farming is way more than just growing food inside of a city. It’s a form of urban development and of community building. It brings the community together, makes it safer, creates jobs and develops the whole area. 

Seeds to Feed Rooftop Farm – Seeds to Feed Rooftop Farm teaches residents of Georgia’s Place (a supportive housing facility for formerly homeless adults) and the Crown Heights community the art of food cultivation – from seed to harvest. https://seedstofeedrooftopfarm.tumblr.com/ – Photo © Rob Stephenson via Five Borough Farm Project. A beautiful example for the multi-faceted power of urban farming can be seen in the project of the Urban Farming Guys, who have over the last couple of years been transforming one of the toughest neighborhoods in Kansas City, by transforming a dangerous and run-down part of the city into farmland, bringing the community together, creating jobs for people in the neighborhood and providing a real anchor for the community’s life and activities.

Just like in Kansas, these project are claiming whatever spaces are left unused, such as run-down property, old unused public spaces, or temporary spaces such as halted construction sites. And in NYC, there is one form of real estate that is plentiful, but hasn’t been utilized to its full potential yet: its rooftops. So it’s no surprise that the world’s largest rooftop farm can be found at Grange Farm in Brooklyn, covering 65,000 square feet, growing food and even keeping chicken. This 7-month time lapse shows what a full season on Grange’s rooftop looks like: [Embed video https://vimeo.com/86266334] And in Gowanus, Brooklyn, Whole Foods has partnered up with Gotham Greens, who runs a rooftop greenhouse on the roof of the local Whole Foods store and sells it produce across different Whole Foods locations. 

Kissena Corridor Community Garden – Operated for many years by the Korean-American Senior Citizens Society of Greater NY, and recently transferred to the GreenThumb program, this five acre-site features more than 300 plots. – Photo © Rob Stephenson via Five Borough Farm Project. While there is talk about building some larger scale and pretty futuristic looking vertical farms, only very few farms currently operate on a commercial level. Most of the farms are either adjacent to institutions like schools and hospitals or volunteer-run community gardens and farms. The next time you’re flying from JFK’s Terminal 5 and feeling like fresh potatoes, have a look out the window and you might see Jet Blue’s own urban farm.



To minimize the use of plastic in your own life, look around your home and work to identify plastic items. From there, seek to find alternatives.