Future of Urban Gardening

Reader Contribution by Jessica Kellner and Editor
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I saw an interesting post today on Inhabitat about research by the nonprofit firm Terreform Institute for Advanced Urban Research. Terreform has been considering ways to make New York city entirely self-sufficient as part of a plan called New York City Steady State (NYCSS). During the project, NYCSS collected intense data on the city’s supply and demand, and created a plan that relies heavily on urban farming on many of the skyline’s rooftops. In Times Square, solar panels would provide shade and the famous LED billboards would be tucked among vertical gardens. Click here to see before-and-after photos of many of New York’s famous spaces.

The NYCSS goal was to create an alternative master plan for the city’s future that included self-reliance in areas such as food, energy, water, waste, air quality, manufacture, employment, culture, health and transport. At the end of the study, the organization hoped to compile an inventory of best practices that would be relevant to cities around the world.

In the most recent issue of Natural Home & Garden, we profiled a group taking one step toward this more self-sufficient New York City: Eagle Street Rooftop Farm. Here, on a 6,000-square-foot rooftop farm in Brooklyn, more than 30 kinds of produce feed volunteers and staff, provide for a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, and help teach school and community groups about urban farming.

Urban farming has a future. In a groundbreaking study conducted at The Urban Design Lab at Columbia University in 2011, researchers concluded that:

• Rooftops are a vast, underused resource that could be transformed for food production.

• Bureaucratic challenges are a major barrier to the expansion of urban farming.

• Urban farmers are establishing viable businesses by taking advantage of multiple revenue streams.

• Existing green roof incentive programs have not been designed to support rooftop agriculture.

• The skills and experience being developed by today’s rooftop farming pioneers will likely make wider adoption much more feasible in the near future.

• Urban agriculture functions as a catalyst for larger food system transformations.

• Were New York City to foster more urban agriculture, it would benefit from stormwater mitigation, soil remediation and energy-use reduction, to boot.

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