City planners need innovative solutions like vertical farming to feed the growing population. We can grow at scale, with minimum space and environmental impact.
Wendy Coleman, founder of LA Urban Farms, works with chefs, resorts, hotels, universities and corporate clients to set up aeroponic tower gardens, such as these kale and lettuce crops.
how they can grow more with less square footage through vertical gardens and sustainable techniques like [soil-less] hydroponic systems,” says Ray. Cultivate the City manages numerous gardens for clients around Washington, D.C., from elementary school gardens where kids learn to grow, cook and eat nutritious food to corporate gardens inside a new office building for lender Fannie Mae’s employee café. One of its crown jewels is a 6,500-square-foot rooftop garden on the Nationals Park baseball stadium, where edible flowers end up in cocktails and organic produce feeds fine diners and VIP ticket holders.
CROPS IN THE CITY Urban Agriculture Breaks New Ground by April Thompson
he average American meal travels 1,500 miles to reach its plate, according to the nonprofit Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture. Yet, enterprising green thumbs across the country are bringing the farm back to plate’s reach, growing hyperlocal food in backyards, on rooftops, through indoor farms and more. City farming reconnects urbanites to their food sources while bettering the environment, communities, diets and health. Urban agriculture, harkening back to the Victory Gardens planted to ward off food shortages during World War I and II, is nothing new. While 14
today’s home gardeners have staked out balconies, window boxes and vacant lots in this locavore resurgence, noteworthy pioneers are forging a path to organic urban agriculture on a commercial scale—tapping into new technologies and markets, and turning challenges like dealing with space constraints into fresh opportunities.
A View From the Roofs
Take Niraj Ray, whose company Cultivate the City is working to transform urban food deserts in the nation’s capital into thriving local food systems. “We want to get more people interested in growing their own food and show them
Ray grew his business organically, fueled by passion and curiosity, rather than any horticultural background. “I grew up in NYC, where I had nothing to grow on. When I moved to Florida for grad school, I had a huge backyard to play around with,” says Ray. Like many other urban farms, Cultivate the City offers a seasonal farm subscription known as a community supported agriculture (CSA) program that allows city dwellers to buy directly from local producers. Ray’s rooftop greenhouse, located on top of a local hardware store that sells his edible plants at retail, offers all the fixings for a healthy, diverse diet: hydroponic towers of leafy greens, trays of microgreens for corporate clients, specialty varieties of hot peppers for the company’s hot sauce and stacking cubes of an albino strawberry variety that Ray
photo courtesy of LAUrbanFarms.com
Urban & Suburban Agriculture and Gut Health