Making Most of Vacant Building, Urban Farming Org Hopes to Create Viable Indoor Food Production ModelSeptember 21, 2012 | Missy Smith
With the increasing rise in popularity of the local food movement in cities across the country, many people are getting creative about the spaces they use in order to bring fresh food to urban communities. Rooftop and community gardens have become major trends in recent years, but some people are thinking beyond outdoor spaces to include buildings that might otherwise continue to sit vacant.
FoodChain is one such organization that is thinking outside of the box, or garden plot, bringing an educational and demonstration facility—that will be teaching aquaponics, food processing and more—to the diverse downtown community of Lexington, Ky. The organization makes its home in the former Rainbo Bread Factory building, which operated downtown as early as the late 1800s and stayed in business for about 100 years.
However, researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, along with faculty from New York University, soon will begin a study to examine the state of urban agriculture in the United States today.
Chris Bajuk got into urban farming almost by chance. Though not from a farming background, he has been gardening in backyards since childhood. And, in recent years he has been experimenting with hydroponic systems. “A good friend of mine, and classmate from the University of Washington MBA program, came over to my house and was awestruck by how much produce I was growing on my backyard deck using hydroponics,” says Bajuk, who was growing peas, beans, tomatillos, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon and corn in buckets. “He suggested we start an urban farming business,” he reflects. “Thus, UrbanHarvest was born.”
Cloud 9 Rooftop Farm founders Clare Hyre and Rania Campbell-Cobb are working to transform what is now an expanse of grey roof in Northwestern Philadelphia into a full-scale educational farm.
After years of working on farms around the country, Hyre and Campbell-Cobb landed in Philadelphia where they each work in the field of agriculture education. Hyre explained that both women found themselves dreaming of “a certain type of thing that didn’t exist in the city” – a way to farm within city limits and to share their love of growing food with other Philadelphians.
Over a decade ago, Chicago led the way for green roofs by covering the top of City Hall with 20,000 plants and more than 150 species. A series of grants followed and many green roofs cropped up across Chicago’s skyline. O’Hare Airport alone boasts a dozen green roofs including the top of the Control Tower and massive 190,000-square-foot FedEx Cargo Building. Now the city’s restaurants are beginning to green their rooftops as well, filling planters with organic herbs and vegetables in an effort to be green and deliver ultra local rooftop-to-plate fare to diners.