Urban & Rooftop Farming Growing in Popularity
Photo credit: www.outnext.com/on/2008/08/rooftop-gardens.html
Farming has been a way of life for man since the beginning. Harvesting and growing one’s own food has always been a necessary resource for man and has been a decent and honorable profession for millions of people. In today’s day and age, it seems that needs have moved away from buying directly from farmer’s resources and buying whatever is convenient such as from fast food establishments, etc. Who even knows where their food comes from either. Living in a busy city can make buying from local farms that much more difficult because when you look around a busy city such as New York, chances are you’re going to see a lot more concrete than rolling farm fields. New developments of rooftop gardens on tops of skyscrapers, as well as turning available lands into urban farms have drastically grown in popularity over the past century and the benefits the neighborhoods they are set up in, the community members as a whole and much more.
“The bottom line is that I harbored a secret desire to be a farmer and my way of doing that is to use what I have, which is a roof,” said Paula Crossfield, and urban farmer from the Lower East Side of New York as quoted in the New York Times article, Urban Farming, a Bit Closer to The Sun. Here. Crossfield also manages a Civil Eats blog that specializes in sustainable agriculture.
Some seeds that Crossfield plants in her own garden include: butternut squash, rainbow chard, oak leaf lettuce golden zucchini, calendula, sunflowers, herbs, tomatoes, watermelon, amaranth greens and nasturtiums.
It isn’t just individuals that are catching the “green thumb” however, groups such as Bay Localize, a community group moving to create more resilient and “green” neighborhoods in San Francisco, are sprouting up in busy cities all over the United States. These groups are working with the city to find pieces of land to plant a variety of produce, flowers, herbs, etc., nestled within the busy and nonstop city. Other projects they work towards producing are rooftop gardens. There are so many cities that still have to deal with outdated zoning codes, legal barriers to growing and selling produce on public and private lands and pricey permit fees so if businesses agree, the growing can be taken to the skies, literally.
There are many benefits from having gardens on rooftops other than just being pleasing aesthetically. According to Urban Roof Gardens based out of the U.K., “green roofs” absorb up to 75% of rainfall which in turn reduces runoff and lowers the risk of flooding. Here. Gardens also provide habitats for native birds and insect populations. This is especially seen when one plants indigenous flora. Rare species are more likely to be seen when you plant rare plants. Through transpiration, the plants can actually cool the air and act as filter for oxygen production and carbon dioxide levels as well as reduce surface roof temperatures. Rooftop plants have the ability to trap 85% of airborne particulars on their leaf surfaces which in turn creates a healthier and cleaner environment for us.
There are so many more benefits to rooftop gardens that include: modifying urban micro-climates, improve overall air quality, insulate against heat loss in the winter and sound in the summer, they increase the property value, utilize under-used space, children can learn how to grow and manage their own food and they provide social benefits for gatherings and community teamwork.
In lower-income neighborhoods, urban farming has revolutionized the way residents look at their food. Community groups have grown in order to sustain the gardens and children are becoming the target market for them in terms of education, upkeep and the children are able to bring home the food they helped grow themselves to their families. Learning how to cook what they themselves have grown can do wonders for their self esteem, teamwork skills and overall health as well.
“I’ve never had one kid who hasn’t wanted to get his or her hands dirty,” said Ms. Donelson, manager of the Graze the Root Project at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, as quoted in the New York Times article Urban Farming, a Bit Closer to The Sun. “They are willing to try anything if they see it growing and pull it out of the ground.”
The Bay Localize group went into a neighborhood in Oakland, CA that was taking advantage of urban farming methods and they found the following:
-1.9 million gallons of irrigation water/year was collected from rainwater harvesting, which could supply outdoor irrigation for 212 households.
-124 metric tons of leafy green and deep yellow vegetables/year was produced from rooftop gardens, supplying the USDA recommended intake for 8,500 residents.
The advantages far outweigh the cons that urban and rooftop farming face such as the occasional strong wind knocking over planters, concentrated heat means that more water is needed for the plants, which on top of a building could mean more walking for the person responsible for watering them and overall more work than farming on terra firma.
From public health advocates, urban farmers, grass root organizations and community allies, urban rooftop farming will only take off from the current success it is already yielding and continue to make even the busiest of cities just a little bit more green.