The last thing the world needs is another blog about local food.
But hold on.
Today’s entry isn’t about the food itself. It’s about warehouse roofs, abandoned baseball fields, and people who looked at empty spaces and saw opportunities usually reserved for sprawling country land.
We’re talking about urban farming and agriculture in New York City.
The idea that regular city dwellers can provide food to their urban neighbors isn’t exactly new, but it’s a budding area that – if done right – can help address some of the basic problems with how our region and others get food. As urban farming continues to grow, cities can move away from merely consuming food and toward producing more sustainably-grown food, conserving resources, providing environmental education, creating green jobs and improving health.
Last year, a study of only 67 of New York’s more than 500 urban farms – totaling just 1.7 acres of farmland – reported that they had produced about 87,700 pounds of food. That might not be enough to sell in bulk just yet, but it shows the city’s amazing potential to produce a substantial portion of its own food right here. And New York City is nowhere near maximizing its urban farming potential.
Over the last several weeks, NRDC New York visited three of the city’s biggest rooftop and urban farms. What we saw was a thriving community – one that can play an enormous role in providing fresh, local food to New Yorkers.
Here are a few photos from our visits. Enjoy!
1. Brooklyn Grange is a one-acre commercial rooftop farm in Long Island City, Queens. Its owners – led by “head farmer” Ben Flanner – grow dozens of crops, including peas, tomatoes, and lettuce in nearly 1.2 million pounds of soil. Once their produce is harvested, it either goes to several NYC restaurants or is sold at local farmers’ markets.
No farm is complete without chickens (and a beehive)!
Check out more photos from Brooklyn Grange.
2. Redhook Community Farm – a project of the non-profit organization Added Value – focuses on empowering Brooklyn’s youth by getting them involved in sustainable community farming. The farm is located on a former baseball field next to IKEA (which houses one of the biggest solar power installations in NYC on its roof, by the way) and operates a farmers’ market on Saturdays.
Since 2003, about 115 teens have helped grow 12 tons of produce that generated thousands of dollars in local economic activity.
The farmers operate an on-site market and pride themselves on being a part of a Community Supported Agriculture program, which connects the city farm to new farmers upstate.
Check out more photos from Eagle Street Rooftop Farm.
These farms aren’t just in the business of growing and selling. All three offer organic practices, educational programs and career and volunteer opportunities that will help make sure future generations of sustainable urban growers take root.
NRDC New York is looking forward to seeing these businesses and others like them succeed, as we explore ways to make sure the city and its surrounding counties become the model for urban farming.