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A Rooftop Economy

February 8, 2009

Growing Food Locally – Integrating Agriculture Into the Built Environment

Photo by E.A.T. At Eli Zabar’s market in Manhattan, produce is grown both in greenhouses and in open planting beds above the Vinegar Factory, with the output sold in the ground-floor market.

By Alex Wilson
Feature from Environmental Building News
February 1, 2009

Eli Zabar’s bakery and market on East 91st Street in Manhattan seems like a classic New York market. On my half-dozen visits over as many years, I’ve reveled in the gorgeously displayed vegetables and fruits, the vast array of cheeses, and the wide assortment of breads and pastries baked next door. But Zabar’s market, the Vinegar Factory (named in reference to a prior use of the property), is anything but typical. The sprawling facility connecting multiple buildings demonstrates an unconventional dimension of agriculture: farming that is intertwined with the urban landscape.

In 1995, Eli Zabar, renegade scion of the famous West Side Zabar family, whose markets have been serving New Yorkers for 75 years, began building greenhouses atop his two- and three-story brick buildings on the Upper East Side. These greenhouses, covering nearly a half-acre in area, are producing greens, tomatoes, berries, andeven figs that are sold—not cheaply!—in his market downstairs.

Zabar is ahead of the curve, a pioneer in a trend that is likely to grow dramatically in the coming years. I’ve long been fascinated by the potential for integrating agriculture into the urban landscape—the sea of flat roofs and empty lots in our larger cities. This article looks at the motivation to turn to urban and suburban areas for food production, then examines how to do this, including some of the ways food wastes are being turned into nutrients to grow vegetables, eggs, meat, and fish in our towns and cities.

See the whole article here. It is an excellent read.

City Farm grows lettuce and other produce on top of two feet of rich compost on vacant property in Chicago. An impermeable layer of clay isolates the food from potentially contaminated soil beneath.

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