Urban farming would seem to be an oxymoron. Yet, the idea of bringing farming into the heart of urban regions is – pun intended – cropping up everywhere.
(In this post, I touch upon on a small subset of recent activities on the urban farming front. If you’re interested, you’ll find lots more urban farming documented on the Internet.)
A couple of weeks ago, a New York Times article “Farm-to-Table Living Takes Root” reported on Agritopia, a neighborhood in Phoenix that focuses on farming. There have been as well reports of other farm-focused urban neighborhoods around the country.
Lack of available land at street level is also no limitation. Rooftop farms are being added to the tops of buildings in many cities. But why just stop with the tops of buildings?
Columbia University Professor Dickson Despommier has been the modern prophet of the vertical farming concept that encourages building agricultural skyscrapers in large cities. One example – the largest in the USA – is FarmedHere, which last month opened an indoor vertical farm in Chicago.
In a much bolder vision last year, the architect Vincent Callebaut proposed a Dragonfly shaped vertical farm for the south end of New York City’s Roosevelt Island. (This is, alas, the same location of the future high tech, entrepreneurial campus of Cornell University and Technion Israeli Institute of Technology that former Mayor Bloomberg commissioned to emulate Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley, in turn, was once filled with orchards, not tech companies.)
If a real island, like Roosevelt, is not available within the city’s borders, then the answer is to build an artificial island. The folks at Blue Revolution Hawaii are hoping to do just that in Honolulu and follow in the early footsteps of other cities around the world with farming on artificial islands – see the article “Floating Farms” in this month’s Modern Farmer magazine.
This may seem like some new trend and, in some ways, it is – as it reflects the ways that the Internet is opening up possibilities for people.
But it is not completely new. My favorite examples come from New York City, yes, New York City. In the Queens section, John Bowne High School with a special focus on agriculture – and the program has been around since the end of World War I, originally in the old Newtown High School. Even in Manhattan, George Washington High School in the north end of the island has a chapter of the Future Farmers of America.
So the graduates of these schools won’t have to leave New York City to become farmers, even in the densest urban area in America.