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Farming in ManhattanHere we were, dreaming of a place with more land so that we could plant our organic seeds, only to be advised by the BBC that … there’s going to be farming in New York City! And they’re talking Manhattan! Now, mind you, land in Manhattan is more expensive even than in Los Angeles … and the many-storied building is going to cost a pretty penny.

I’m wondering if it’s less outlandish than it sounds. From the BBC:

It’s all the brainchild of Columbia University Professor Dickson Despommier.

He and his students took existing greenhouse technology as a starting point and are now convinced that vertical farms are a practical suggestion.

Professor Despommier lists many advantages of this revolutionary kind of agriculture. They include:

  • Year round crop production in a controlled environment
  • All produce would be organic as there would be no exposure to wild parasites and bugs
  • Elimination of environmentally damaging agricultural runoff
  • Food being produced locally to where it is consumed

Organic food. And what a concept — sure cuts down on the cost of getting all that food to the city.

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6 Comments for "Farming in the Big City"

  1. Natalie Anne Lanoville

    I just recently did some research on this topic for my own blog, and I was amazed (in a good way) at how much of this type of activity there is going on in the West! With up to 80% of people worldwide living in urban centres by 2050, it won’t be enough, but it really is a step in the right direction (a step backwards I guess, but again, in a good way). Thanks for helping to spread the word in your corner of the world! I’m in (and write about) Vancouver, Canada.

  2. Diane Vigil

    Good to meet you, and to hear a bit about you.

    It’s interesting to know that “urban farming” is catching on, although it sounds like a pretty expensive endeavor (I’m wondering what the food prices might be like). Still, it’s one solution.

  3. Natalie Anne Lanoville

    Well that’s a good question. I noticed that CityFarmBoy (one of the people I wrote about in my blog post) is selling to farmers’ markets, so his prices must be pretty competitive. As I wrote, I think the issue is that large-scale growers are realising the economy of scale doesn’t necessarily work with farming; small urban farmers can save on things like transportation costs and employees, which would offset some of the other costs. Of course, it’s predicated upon the idea of unused urban space that’s already been purchased – if you’re talking about incorporating land values into the mix then definitely, it’s more expensive. But the Cuban, Vancouver and other models are utilising unused urban space in backyards, roundabouts, boulevards, empty lots, etc. Great to get your reply!

  4. Diane Vigil

    Thanks. I’d wondered because the example I found was in Manhattan in New York City; curious to know just how much of that space might be unused, let alone reasonably affordable enough that the business could be viable.

    But then, as you say, there likely will be savings in transportation and employees. For all I know, they’ll either deliver (across town) or sell right on the premises. On the other hand, it may be less of an issue, as NYC prices (for, one supposes, just about anything) are pretty high anyway and so may be able to bear the extra cost in return for very fresh produce.

    The Vancouver model sounds interesting. What a great use of small parcels of land.

  5. Natalie Anne Lanoville

    Yeah… when I replied to your last comment I was really thinking more of the Vancouver model, which is slightly different. I don’t know if it could be profitable in the corporate sense, but with 30 stories of production and all the savings it could break even. In Vancouver, City Hall encourages social and environmental responsibility from commercial developers by offering relaxation of building codes in exchange for things like green space, daycares, social housing and subsidised office space for non-profits. I wonder if that’s part of the business model for the Manhattan Plantation?

  6. Diane Vigil

    Hard to say, Natalie. It’ll be interesting to see how these things turn out. One thing is for sure, though: there’s more effort being put into growing (what I hope is) real, healthy food for people.

    Let us know how the Vancouver model turns out. I’d be interested to know.

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