Urban Farmers

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Running your own small farm is no easy venture, especially for low-income families or recent immigrants. Kate Granger, the project director of the New Farmer Development Program, and Sergio Nolasco, owner of Nolasco’s Farm in New Jersey, offer a way to live the dream of becoming an urban farmer. Plus, Dickson Despommier, professor of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University, talks about his revolutionary plan to turn agriculture on its head with his concept of the vertical farm.


Dickson Despommier, Kate Granger and Sergio Nolasco

Comments [20]

Steve from Clifton NJ

Looking for a billionaire investor interested in "green" agriculture for NYC? Why not Bloomberg?!?! The question of whether not this is the best use for urban land is a valid one though. In order to make the best use of (and pay for) urban infrastructure such as water, sewer, mass transit and have more people living and working in higher density areas one wonders if high rise farms makes economic sence. By the way, 80 years ago most agricultural poduction serving NYC took place in New Jersey (the "Garden State") If NYC just did its farming (high rise or otherwise) east of the Deleware it would still be pretty "green". "Big box" farms anyone? Asbury Park????...perhaps Corzine and "The Boss" will invest.

Aug. 13 2008 05:31 PM
lillym from NJ

We moved from Manhattan to NJ, near Paterson, and we can't find farmer's market anywhere near!They all go to NYC to sell their produce. Now, when we visit the city-we buy organic produce there. There is a big farm near us and they sell only flowers, decorative corn and pumpkins. Farmers, please come to us!

Aug. 13 2008 01:40 PM
Kate Granger from New York, NY

In response to Kaiulani, I believe that immigrant farm owners are essential to agriculture in this country. The average age of farmers in the US is close to 57 and getting older and there simply are not enough people taking over these businesses as older farmers retire. In the US, and in the northeast in particular, there have always been waves of new immgrants taking over farming, from Dutch to German to Italian to Polish, and it is a logical step for current immigrants who have farming experience and a desire to own their own farm to take over this sector.

Aug. 13 2008 12:53 PM
Kate Granger from New York, NY

In reference to Robert's posting, we do not charge for any of the services that we provide to the immigrant farmers participating in our program--classes, workshops, farm visits, and all other support is provided free of charge.

Also, the food produced by NFDP farmers and other local family farmers can be more affordable than many city supermarkets. In the farmers markets you have the choice to buy high-end organic heirloom products and affordable fresh produce, and Greenmarket has been particularly committed to making their markets accessible to low-income customers paying with food stamps or FMNP/WIC checks.

Aug. 13 2008 12:42 PM
Rick from Brewster

We should consider using waste water from sinks and rain to reduce waste.

Aug. 13 2008 11:01 AM
anonyme from midtown manhattan

Professor please read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A Price - this idea is way too ivory tower for me!!!

Aug. 13 2008 10:58 AM
anonyme from midtown manhattan

food you like all year round - this is part of our arrogance and part of our mess - respect nature and eat seasonally

Aug. 13 2008 10:56 AM
Jack in the Bronx from Murray Hill

VIA VERDE was just approved by CB1 to start construction in the S. Bronx. It will have orchards and roof top gardens. That area is ripe for more urban food crops and it is very close to Midtown. That would be much less expensive than growing in Manhattan.

How about parks? St Mary's in the S Bronx is underutilized so why not make some of it into a real farm?

Aug. 13 2008 10:55 AM
jawbone from Parsippany, NJ

A few weeks ago there was an energy expert on who stated that if all the feasible rooftops in NYC had solar collectors on them, they would meet all the energy needs of the City and for many communities around the city. Pretty impressive.

So, yes, leave the rooftops for solar collection and use the vertical for crops!

BTW, that's what Patterson should also be considering, something along the lines of FDR's and the Dems/Progressives programs to creat jobs. Think of all the work involved in setting up solar collectors around the City! Wiring connections to the grid.

It would cost money, but would probably lead, with lower electric costs, to many businesses deciding NY is a great place to do business. Not only the buinesses would have lower electric rates, but their employees would also benefit.

Sounds win-win to me, but Patterson needs to think outside the box. Or at least recall the days of FDR.

Aug. 13 2008 10:54 AM
Peter from LIC

Vertical farming sounds great! Plus, every photon used by photosynthesis is one less that will go into the building, driving up the temperature.

What sort of water needs are involved, though? Pumping all that water so many stories must run up against a point of diminishing returns, no?

Aug. 13 2008 10:53 AM
Samantha from Queens

What if we had a non-profit raise the money?

Aug. 13 2008 10:53 AM
Robert from NYC

In reference to my last two posts, I must let it be known that although my cynicism tells me it's another rip-off on the way, I must say i think that vertical gardening in the cities is an excellent idea, but it should be made available to all classes to afford and not just an elite product for well-off, as it were. I would love to see it happen and do support the idea fully.
So there, I'm not that big of a curmudgeon. [he says sticking his tongue at you]

Aug. 13 2008 10:52 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

Isn't it ironic that crops grown indoors could be more "green" than crops grown outdoor thousands of miles away?

Aug. 13 2008 10:51 AM
anonyme from midtown manhattan

Professor with all due respect plants and livestock need the sun (solar energy) to make sure we get the nutrients and continue to nurture the soil.

Aug. 13 2008 10:49 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

We don't really have a lack of farmers in America. Our super-efficient food production system has made it so that 2% of the population can feed the remaining 98% allowing them to pursue other tasks.

The problem is that this super-efficient system provides less than healthy food (it will sustain us, but it will cause health problems as well). It also takes considerable amounts of petroleum for production and transportation. We also want to be using LESS rather than more land for food production.

Creating sky scrapers that are devoted to food production would be a brilliant way to cut down on used land space and transportation costs (including the environmental cost).

Aug. 13 2008 10:49 AM
Kaiulani Piper from Kula, Maui

Regarding the constituency of the New Farmer Dev’t Program, the same holds true in New York as in Hawaii. We have a shortage of farmers not farmland amongst Americans.

Does Ms. Granger view this program as means of continuing AG as a part of American modern culture?

Aug. 13 2008 10:44 AM
Robert from NYC

She's looking for immigrants to rip off.

Aug. 13 2008 10:43 AM
Robert from NYC

I'm sure this yet another scam to rip us off by charging a fortune for products claiming it's "organic" and so expensive to produce. Yet with stagnant wages, the number of people who are falling into poverty increasing and prices of everything including the most necessary requirement of life, food, when will it stop and when will greed again become a cardinal sin...if that's the way to look at it. I prefer to call it immoral.
Ask Kate Granger if she's involved in this for the money!

Aug. 13 2008 10:42 AM
Kaiulani Piper from Kula, Maui

Urban farming opportunities for urban dwellers is a fantastic way to reduce the downside of our consumer addiction. Further, the economics of transportation are finally impacting our food supply chain, you don't need to be environmentalist to pay less for produce.
How did Miss Granger get in to sustainable agriculture?


Aug. 13 2008 10:22 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

I was just reading an article about vertical farming in Popular Science. It sounds like a great idea! The article suggested that one 30-story tower could feed 50,000 people. How about instead of building new retail stores, we start building these and make NYC completely self-sufficient for food!

Aug. 13 2008 09:09 AM

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