Imagine a rooftop garden lush with salad greens and fresh vegetables. Picture a quaint patio garden growing bay-leaf, lemon-verbena and lime-basil herbs. Urban farming is a sustainability movement that is giving new purpose to rooftops, patios and unused space. The beauty of urban farming is that it not only produces an abundance of organic, locally grown food, but also has a social, economic and communal impact.
Urban farming has the potential to become a global green evolution, improving the economy, sustainability and health of our urban communities. From North Minneapolis and Milwaukee to Cairo and Montreal, urban farms and gardens are sprouting up as a solution to maximize the use of natural resources such as solar energy, advocating healthy lifestyles and even teaching job skills.
It doesn’t matter how large or small your rooftop farm or patio garden is, urbanized agriculture positively affects metropolitan areas with stimulated economic growth and better food quality. Urban farming can reduce food-related carbon emissions, including transportation (low food mileage) and production costs (packaging and storage). It can bolster economic growth by keeping the exchange of food localized and gentrifying depressed urban areas, and improve green and energy-efficient initiatives by “reducing harmful runoff, increasing shading and countering the unpleasant heat-island effect,” according to National Geographic.
In New York City, urban farming is changing the way communities approach food production, sustainability and socialization:
The Brooklyn Grange Apiary
Farming in a concrete jungle is a seemingly abstract idea, yet transforming one of the world’s largest cities into a sustainable metropolis is exactly what urbanites are aiming for one garden at a time. Urban farming is an agricultural revolution aiding the change of global urban landscapes, even in Brooklyn. From rooftop-grown organic herbs to brownstone backyard tomato plants, urban farming is creating green utopias in otherwise unused or abandoned metropolitan spaces.
With urban farming comes urban honey, and that’s exactly what the Brooklyn Grange Apiary Project specializes in. The apiary, which is an extension of its flagship farm in Long Island City, will provide natural, distinctly flavored honey that will meet the city’s local demand. To produce the honey, the apiary will open 30 beehives in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Hives will be installed to help pollinate crops and increase the productivity.
Riverpark Farm in Manhattan
Nestled in the Alexandria Center for Life Science in Manhattan, Riverpark Farm is a fresh-produce haven that grows every type of crop imaginable. The 15,000-square-foot farm features fresh Atomic red carrots, Shunkyo radishes, Red Russian Kale, New Orchid watermelons and more. Riverpark maximizes the farm space with “intercropping” and “advanced seeding,” according to CoolHunting.com. The sustainable and flexible space is specially designed for aeration, drainage, efficient soil replacement and easy plant mobility. Materials for the farm are brought in locally from growers and manufacturers.
The Riverpark farming urbanites harvest and grow crops in its unconventional space using ORE Design and Technology. ready-made, cubic-foot milk crates are double-stacked and serve as individual planters. Within the urban environment, produce is planted, harvested, picked and delivered right to the tables of the farm’s special dining area as well as the Riverpark Restaurant. The restaurant’s superior chef, Sisha Ortúzar, features American cuisine masterpieces inspired by the farm’s seasonal ingredients, such as grilled chicken, farm lettuces and greens, and a summer-squash frittata. The farm’s cornucopia of vegetables and greens are the heart of the restaurant’s dynamic menu and make for culinary excellence.
Sustainable farming is more than an American trend, with other cities across the globe taking strides in growing local produce and plants in developed urban areas. No matter how much space you have or where you live, there is room for a little piece of green in the city. These projects in Berlin and Hong Kong show that major international cities across the globe are taking urban farming to an impressive level:
Berlin – Prinzessinnengärten
In Berlin, a variety of old and rare crops are being grown on a renovated site in Kreuzberg. The 6,000-square-meter farm Prinzessinnengärten consumes the Moritzplatz space, which was once a vibrant shopping area and motorway junction. The once-damaged space is now an “agricultura urbana,” a phrase symbolic of independent vegetable production and urban community. Prinzessinnengärten specializes in biodiversity, using recycled crates, rice bags and compost beds. The farm also avoids harmful pesticides and artificial fertilizers for growing its organic vegetables and locally produced herbs.
Prinzessinnengärten aims to raise awareness about problems associated with global-industrialized farming, seed-distribution monopolies and a global decline in biological diversity. By producing fresh and healthy food, the farm hopes to reduce CO2 emissions associated with farming, protect the local climate, and increase Berlin’s biological diversity.
More than just an urban garden, Prinzessinnengärten fulfills the need for social learning and cultural change. Speaking to coolhunting.com, co-founder Marco Clausen says that he and his team strive to “make people living in the city aware of the food production system they depend on.” Dedicated to hedonism and healthy lifestyles, the Prinzessinnengärten community strives to build a greener, more educated city.
Hong Kong – HK Farm
Hong Kong actively supports sustainability and local agriculture with its growing HK Farm. Founded in March 2012, the farm is managed by Michael Leung and a team of committed farmers, artists and designers. The farm is on the rooftop of an industrial building in Ngau Tau Kok, Kwun Tong, and its mission is to advocate the production of locally grown food.
Still in its infancy, the 4,000-square-foot farm grows various types of herbs and vegetables and harvests local honey. It’s equipped with do-it-yourself growing containers and ecologically conscious installations such as a rainwater-collection system. From homegrown seedlings to a one-of-a-kind beehive, the the farm’s projects are just the beginning of the urban-agricultural and sustainability movement in Hong Kong.
In the future, HK Farms plans to collaborate with other Hong Kong organizations, local communities and farmers with the aim of reducing carbon missions, conserving energy, and reducing dependence on imported food.
HK Farm will also offer various agricultural activities and tours, with workshops already taking place on site. The farm’s blue print tote workshop leads participants through the ultra-violet-ray printing process to design custom tote bags using image blocking. The urban beekeeping workshop teaches participants about bees in Hong Kong and how to become an urban beekeeper. During the weekends, guests can visit the rooftop farm market to purchase seasonal produce. Companies are also welcome to privately tour the rooftop garden to learn more about urban-garden development and herb harvesting.
Danielle Smiley is a contributing journalist to Home and Community blogs, covering topics from design and environmental awareness to education, health, fitness and food. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter.