Urban Farming: No Room? Look Up!

No Room? Look Up!

May 30, 2012

For would-be urban farmers, the solution to lack of space may be as simple is looking up.

Rooftop farming is sweeping the nation. In April, The New York Times announced that Bright Farms, a private company that develops greenhouses, plans to create a sprawling greenhouse on a roof in Brooklyn. The company expects to yield a million pounds of produce per year in what may well be the largest rooftop farm in the United States, occupying up to 100,000 square feet.

It’s also not the only Brooklyn, N.Y., farm. Brooklyn Grange, another rooftop farm developer, is set to open a 45,000-square-foot commercial operation at the Brooklyn Navy Yard this year, as well. Plans for rooftop gardens totaling 200,000 square feet are under way elsewhere in the five boroughs of New York City. The developers’ vision is to provide fresh, nutritious food in the communities where the gardens are located.

For artistry, however, few cities could match the achievement of Mexico City. Here, a nonprofit company called VerdMX has created vertical gardens called eco-sculptures. Not only do these vertical gardens provide green space in urban areas, they also sequester carbon to help prevent climate change, provide fresh air and, in some instances, grow food for the people.

Helping the planet and feeding ourselves is only limited by our imaginations.

If you live in an apartment or have no yard space for planting, check out other locations for a garden. Perhaps, even, a rooftop!

Rooftop Urban Farm in NOLA
In New Orleans, herbs grown locally on the rooftop of Rouses Market, a few blocks from the French Quarter, will soon be finding their way into local chefs’ dishes. Managing partner Donny Rouse says his store is the first grocery in the country to open an urban farm on its roof.

“The flat rooftop on this store is perfect for urban farming,” Rouse said in a release. “And the view of downtown is postcard-perfect.”

It’s set to open Thursday, May 31, one day before New Orleans kicks off its second annual “Eat Local Challenge” (nolalocavore.org). Participants agree to eat only food produced within 200 miles of New Orleans. To find out more, visit tinyurl.com/c85dfu3.

Jackson Rooftops
The Old Capitol Inn, a bed and breakfast at 226 N. State St., has what might be considered a “traditional” rooftop garden—not an urban farm, but a space where guests can enjoy greenery and downtown views. Call 601-359-9000 or visit oldcapitolinn.com

Unconventional Spaces
For photos of unconventional growing spaces from around the world—and one designed by a local architect—see Jackson horticulturist Felder Rushing’s website: tinyurl.com/7u3s2fy

Before You Build
Make sure to have a licensed professional inspect your roof before you consider building a rooftop garden. Soil and water can be quite heavy, and you must ensure that your house or building can bear the load. Check with an architect for simple designs that won’t harm the integrity of your roof or become a hazard in high winds.

Trellises, windowsills and stairs are great for containers holding food-producing plants, but again, be careful to ensure safety. For some great projects, ideas, designs and resources, visit rooftopgarden.com.


Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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