Urban farms have been impacting cities’ agribusiness—and, on some cases, their redevelopment—for decades.
In Philadelphia, for example, the success of Greensgrow Farms—whose 6,000-sf flagship greenhouse celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017, and whose three locations (which include a retail garden center and farmstand) draw 15,000 people per year—has spurred numerous competitors, and has helped gentrify its surrounding working-class neighborhoods.
Since 2011, Gotham Greens has operated a 15,000-sf enclosed rooftop greenhouse in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, N.Y., that produces over 100,000 lbs of leafy greens annually. Gotham Greens also operates a 20,000-sf greenhouse in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn that grows over 200,000 lbs of greens, herbs, and tomatoes; a five-story, 60,000-sf greenhouse in the Hollis section of Queens, N.Y., that employs 50 full time workers and produces over 5 million heads of leafy greens; and a 75,000-sf greenhouse on two acres of Chicago’s south side that opened in 2015 and now produces 10 million heads of greens and herbs annually.
Several urban farms operate in Detroit, including the six-year-old Michigan Urban Farm Initiative (MUFI), which grows 300 varieties of vegetables on two acres in the Motor City’s North End. Since 2012, MUFI has produced more than 50,000 lbs of produce, which it distributes free to 2,000 households within two square miles of the farm.
In November, during the Greenbuild Expo, MUFI announced its plans to develop what it’s calling the first sustainable “Agrihood” in the U.S., as an alternative neighbourhood growth model.
Working with such high-profile partners and sponsors as BASF, Herman Miller, and General Motors, MUFI is converting a vacant 102-year-old three-story apartment building across from its urban garden into a 3,200-sf Community Resource Center. The Center will include two commercial kitchens on the first floor and allow for future production and packaging of valued goods.
“Cities are the future, but we can’t just rebuild the same inefficient buildings of the past,” says John Beeson, LEED AP BD+C, EBO+M, a project manager with Catalyst Partners in Grand Rapids, Mich., which is supervising these reconstructions for MUFI. “The question we’re trying to answer is whether we can do urban infill better.”