Metropolis Farms, which operates out of a warehouse in South Philly, has switched on its massive 100,000 sq. foot rooftop array, according to a company blog post. The system's 2,003 solar panels generates more than half a megawatt of energy to entirely power an indoor vertical farm being built on the floor underneath.
A former 107-acre public housing site in South Pittsburgh's St. Clair neighborhood is being transformed into a massive urban farm.
According to Next Pittsburgh, once construction of the Hilltop Urban Farm is complete, the site will be home to the largest urban farm in the U.S.
By Tracie McMillan
Today's American farmers are less white. They're also increasingly experimental. Even as our biggest farms get bigger, small producers are innovating in countless ways as they grapple with the serious questions that face our food system. Some prioritize making high-quality food affordable to folks on minimum wage and accessible in places where fresh produce is scarce; others are learning how to farm with far less water on drought-prone fields. They may be discovering hidden super fruits, reinvigorating coal country or bringing urban farming to the mountains. Here are six who will change your mind about what it means to farm.
Sheryll Durrant. Photo credit: Keka Marzagao / Sustainable Flatbush
By Melissa Denchak
Most people don't move to New York City and become farmers. Sheryll Durrant certainly wasn't planning to when she left Jamaica for Manhattan in 1989. She got her undergraduate degree in business from the City University of New York's Baruch College and spent the next 20 years in marketing. Then, when the 2008 financial crisis hit, Durrant decided to leave her job and try something new: volunteering at a community garden in her Brooklyn neighborhood.
A New Jersey farm is growing leafy greens such as baby kale, arugula, butterhead lettuce and basil all year round without pesticides, soil or even sunshine.
Like many other vertical farms, Bowery's crops grow indoors in stacked rows under LED lights that mimic the sun's rays and get nourished by nutrient-filled, recirculating water.
But what makes Bowery's operation unique is its proprietary FarmOS technology that can detect peak times for harvest and learns what the crops need to thrive, thus eliminating a lot of guesswork that's usually involved with planting food.
Co-founder and CEO Irving Fain explained in a blog post how the fully integrated software system works:
"FarmOS uses data from multiple sources, including vision systems, along with machine learning to monitor plants and all the variables that drive their growth, quality, and flavor, from germination to harvest. This yields insight into what each crop needs, rather than relying on instinct. By monitoring the growing process 24/7 and capturing large amounts of data along the way, we can constantly iterate on each varietal, tweak flavor profiles, provide each crop exactly what it needs to thrive, and harvest at the exact right time. This means better produce all year round."
Fain listed several other advantages to the Bowery system:
0 pesticides - Our controlled indoor environment allows us to grow the purest produce imaginable, with absolutely no pesticides or chemicals. Bowery produce is so clean, you don't even have to wash it.
95% less water - We give our crops exactly what they need and nothing more. Nutrients get precisely delivered via purified water—not a single drop is wasted along the way.
100x+ more productive - By planting in vertical rows and growing twice as fast as traditional agriculture, our farms can be more more productive on the same footprint of land compared with traditional farms.
365 days a year - Growing indoors with LED lights that mimic the full spectrum of the sun means we can grow independent of seasonality or weather conditions. In the future, this will mean perfect, local produce available in New York and other cities in the dead of winter.
Same day harvest to store - Because our farms are located close to the communities they serve, Bowery produce reaches stores and restaurants within one day—unlike traditional produce, which can take weeks or even months.
According to FoodTank, more than 80 types of crops are currently being grown at the company's farm.
The Bowery team believes its model can help address the food needs of the planet's rapidly growing population, which is estimated to balloon to 9-10 billion people by 2050. By then we will need up to 70 percent more food to feed all those mouths.
Fain also pointed out that today's agricultural system has wreaked havoc on the environment and drained precious resources.
"Today our nation depends on cheap, mass-produced food, sacrificing quality for quantity at the expense of our health and the environment," he wrote. "Agriculture now consumes 70 percent of the world's accessible water and 700 million pounds of pesticides are used in the U.S. alone each year."
Another reason that operations like Bowery are important is that the world's population is increasingly urban. Today, 54 percent of the world's population lives in urban areas and will grow to 66 percent by 2050. With its location in Kearny, Bowery is less than 10 miles away from New York City, meaning produce can be plucked and packaged and on its way to the Big Apple in a day.
"We have to re-think what agriculture looks like in a world where water is scarce, people live in cities, and we're waking up to the dangers of pesticides and other chemicals in our food," Fain wrote. "If we can marry the honesty, quality, and precision of the best small providers with the scale of modern agricultural operations, we can change our food system for the better."
Its products can already be found in New York City establishments such as Tom Colicchio's restaurants Craft and Fowler & Wells and select Foragers stores. This month, it will expand to select tristate Whole Foods Markets.
Bowery's packaged greens start at $3.49, a price that's "equal to or lower than equivalent produce grown in the field," Fain wrote, adding that as the company continues to grow, "economies of scale will only drive this price down, making better food more accessible to more people."
Bowery, which recently raised $7.5 million in venture funding, says its scalable model can be replicated in other urban areas and the company is already working at planning their next farm.
Hunger and food insecurity affect more than 1 in 7 Americans. Those facing hunger are three times more likely to have diet-related health problems like diabetes or hypertension. Yet, far too often the solutions to help these individuals typically offered, funded and advocated for by our society address the issues of hunger and health as separate afflictions.
WhyHunger is a global grassroots support organization working with community leaders and grassroots organizations across the U.S. who are working at the intersections of health and hunger to address the complex and interconnected social determinants that leave far too many Americans hungry and sick.
We're excited to share this video from WhyHunger highlighting the innovative programs at Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger in Far Rockaway, New York, where VeggieRX programs, community farm stands, mobile pantries serving farm fresh produce and youth leadership programs intersect.
Sam Josephs, a youth leader in the Green Teens Program, serves as a mentor to her peers on the urban farm. She said, "Here in Rockaway, you don't have access to the things that you need … When you have a farm, you're producing your own food, you're watching out for your own health." Sam's testimony speaks to the value of programs like this and the importance of local, community-controlled food systems in fighting diet related illnesses.
Watch this inspiring video to learn more about Sam and BSCAH's programs:
Thank you Sam and Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger for the work that you do and for sharing this story with us!
On Dec. 10, members of Slow Food and the Terra Madre network around the world will join the celebration of Terra Madre Day, Slow Food’s global day to promote good, clean and fair local food, now in its third year. More than 100,000 people in 110 countries will be taking part in festivals, dinners, exhibitions, cultural events, conferences and the numbers continue to rise.
Around Europe, many events focusing on the future of agriculture and the role of young farmers are being organized. In Romania, two events will feature public debates on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, bringing together policy makers, farmers and young people, and in the Netherlands a conference and a series of workshops for young European leaders will be taking place.
From the U.S. to the U.K., many groups are organizing fundraising dinners and lotteries to support the creation of a thousand gardens in Africa, Slow Food’s most ambitious project for the year and a focus of Terra Madre Day. Since its launch in October 2010, nearly 400 gardens have been adopted in 25 African countries. On Dec. 10, coordinators of one of these gardens in Kenya will be bringing together school children, their parents and neighbouring communities to learn about the importance of the initiative. A highlight of the day will be the preparation of foods from drought resistant crops. Read more on the Thousand Gardens in Africa project.
In Australia, Slow Food Brisbane will be focusing on food security and waste reduction. The convivium will prepare a dinner from food that has been rejected for sale to bring people’s attention to the vast quantity of food that is thrown away in the current food system.
A series of workshops on organic farming aimed at farmers, school and university students and beginner gardeners will be organized throughout Palestine in Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jenin. A similar meeting will be taking place at Al Najah University in Nablus and Tulkarem to raise awareness on food security and sustainable farming.
In Mawphlang, Meghalaya, India, an Indigenous food festival will display the food diversity of the region. Taste education and themed seminars, also aimed at young people, will be organized on the occasion.
In Figueres, Spain, 18 restaurants that have joined the KM0 campaign, that works to encourage chefs to use local products, will be participating in a competition for the best local and traditional dishes.
Children in a school in Candelaria, Cuba, will celebrate by planting trees in the school garden and will prepare a meal for farmers from the local community.
Manioc, a major staple food in developing countries and native to South America, will be the focus of the activities of two Brazilian convivia. The aim of the events is to support the production of manioc flour, which is currently at high risk due to restrictive laws on its production.
A gastronomic festival will be organized near Almaty, Kazakhstan, to celebrate the famous wild apple orchards. The last woodland areas home to the Sievers wild apple variety can be found near the city. In the past 30 years, the surface area of these woods has diminished by 20 percent and the apples are now at risk of extinction. Slow Food plays a fundamental role in the protection of this unique world heritage and will use Terra Madre Day to celebrate and promote this variety of apple.
For registered events, click here.
For more information, click here.
The Turner Environmental Law Clinic at the Emory University School of Law, in partnership with Georgia Organics, has released one of the most comprehensive looks at urban agriculture policy in the U.S. The study provides a look at urban agriculture policies implemented by many of Sustain Lane’s top ranking sustainable cities.
Urban agriculture has become a national phenomenon as vacant lots and downsizing cities struggle to make efficient use of abandoned land, generate jobs, boost property values, promote community engagement and expand access to fresh, locally grown food. Urban agriculture can take many forms—from a community garden where multiple neighbors grow on land they share to full-scale farms that provide robust production of crops as well as educational opportunities and jobs for residents.
This report represents one of the most comprehensive, objective presentations of current urban agriculture policies being implemented across the country. Some cities have reacted in a nimble manner, creating conditions that have allowed urban food production to thrive. Other cities are struggling to identify the best mechanisms to spur urban agriculture. What is evident is that there is no one-size fits all policy to address urban agriculture. Each community needs its own nuanced approach to balance the land it has available with the needs of its residents.
Mindy Goldstein, acting director of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic, was overwhelmed at her student’s interest in this topic. “We prepared this report to highlight some of the best practices being employed across the country. Our goal is to build upon these practices and prepare recommendations that will work best for the city of Atlanta and other urban areas in the state. The clinic’s students dove right into this work. They were eager to lend their legal expertise to this exciting social re-innovation.”
Alice Rolls, executive director of Georgia Organics and member of the Atlanta Local Food Initiative, is excited about using the report to inform the organization’s work on urban agriculture issues. “It will greatly inform Georgia Organics’ advocacy efforts. Land use policy can be a powerful tool to expand agricultural activity and increase access to locally grown food. With so much momentum and innovation happening to address food deserts and improve public health, food policy is a critical piece of the puzzle in solving our food security and access issues.”
Both Ms. Rolls and Ms. Goldstein stated that the analysis will be shared with the city of Atlanta, among others, to inform the policy discussions currently happening. In 2010, the city of Atlanta announced an aggressive goal that 75 percent of residents would have access to fresh, locally grown food within 10 minutes of their homes by 2020.
For a full copy of the report, click here.
For more information, click here.
The Turner Environmental Law Clinic provides free legal assistance to individuals, community groups, and non-profit organizations seeking to protect and restore the natural environment for the benefit of the public. Through its work, the Clinic offers students an intense, hands-on introduction to sophisticated environmental law and regulatory practice.
An outgrowth of a grower’s association established in the 1970s, Georgia Organics is a member-supported not-for-profit organization devoted to promoting sustainable foods and local farms in Georgia. A sustainable local food system is critical to the future of Georgia’s health, environment, and economy. Recognizing this vital need, Georgia Organics builds and strengthens a sustainable local food system that cultivates healthier Georgians, a cleaner environment, and stronger local economies. Georgia Organics builds supply through comprehensive grower education and outreach programs, and catalyzes demand on the consumer and business end by fostering market opportunities for local food. This combination creates powerful relationships that lead the state’s communities toward local, sustainably grown food.