Up, up and away!

I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal last week. It was titled The Future of Agriculture May be Up, and it details a new trend – vertical farming – that may help address some of the environmental issues connected with farming.  Local food enthusiasts frequently preach on the benefits of buying your food from a local (preferably sustainable) source.  The farther your food has to travel before it reaches you plate, the less fresh it will be and the greater the environmental cost (think large trucks on the highway).  So optimally you should, if you can’t grow it yourself, get your food from the local farmer’s market or other nearby source (roadside stands, pick it yourself venues…).

City dwellers, particularly those who live in large sprawling urban centers that are removed from agriculture, may not have the ability to buy local.  Thanks to this new trend of vertical farming, this may be changing.  From rooftop gardens in Mexico City, to an amazing 12-story building in Sweden where the plants will travel on tracks along the buildings southern face, vertical farming is a relatively recent idea that is blossoming.

Developed in 1999 by a microbiology professor at Columbia University, the idea of vertical farming has taken root globally.  Not only does this system bring the food closer to the city dweller (important as more and more of the world’s population moves to urban areas) and reduce carbon emissions from truck traffic, it also takes up less horizontal space (ground footprint), and with plants being grown indoors in controlled environments may result in less pesticide and herbicide use.  Check out the videos at the Vertical Farm Project website:http://www.verticalfarm.com/ for a detailed look at the process.

We are very lucky to have some space in which to plant a vegetable garden.  Successful harvesting of a crop will depend on some factors outside of our control – namely the climate and amount of rainfall.  If next summer is another hot, dry summer like the past one that shriveled the crops in the fields, we will be out of luck.  Many of the vertical farming projects bypass the normal restrictions of climate – in Chicago an organization called “The Plant” grows crops in an old warehouse using aquaponics (a symbiotic practice of growing plants and raising fish in water) and at the same time will produce all their own energy needs through composting!  If you are near Chicago it would be worth a visit – they give public tours (and always need volunteers).

In the meantime, back on the Boxcarkids Farm, we are making use of the compost contributed by our Angora bunny and three goats, and using old cedar fence boards have started our mulch/compost beds.  Hopefully we will have some nice rich soil ready for planting in the spring!

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5 Responses to Up, up and away!

  1. Kim Bakos says:

    Love the compost container you made! We have a pile contained in pallets, and it is full of nice, rich hummus. Need to put it in our containers for spring planting, and start over again. Plenty to keep compost going all the time w/ the chicken and goat droppings and bedding, along w/ the kitchen scraps the animals won’t eat, and the leaves the keep falling. Every little bit helps make the soil richer, which will make more good veggies for us next summer.

  2. zelda says:

    While I am all for sustainability, there is scholarship that sugests that one local farmer carrying apples ten miles in the back of his truck, uses more gas per apple than a large truck carrying apples hundreds of miles. Also, small farmers use more gas, oil, fertilizer, and pesticide than larger farmers. The articles that I have read about organic and free range are also contrary to what we think of when we buy organic and free range. My grandson raises chickens, turkeys, and guinnes and his are truly free range. Likewise, his calves are free range. However, not twenty miles from me is a farmer who sells at the farmers market and he boasts about free range eggs when, in fact, the hens are kept in a small pen…true, it isn’t the same crowded condition as factory farming; however, the eggs are still fed hormone rich food.
    My point is that locovores sometimes don’t see the big picture. If we buy only local, well where would I get my coffee or my sugar. What would the people in Africa do who depend upon us to buy their green beans? I think we can all do better by recycling and growing our own vegetables and even buying at farmer’s markets…but we still must look at the big picture and that is globilization has made all markets in the world dependedent upon each other.

  3. Jeannette says:

    Is a rainbarrel available? This would help collect water on the days it does rain, giving you water for the days it doesn’t/ just a thought, we bought one two years ago, it goes under our gutters. It was full more times than not and helped for watering lawn and vegetables when needed.
    I love your farmer enthusiam, I myself can’t substain a tiny garden without loosing interest and letting it go to weeds by end of summer. I do try to support local though

  4. Lynn says:

    I have seen some small “vertical garden” containers for sale here. They look mostly like a standing PVC pipe with holes in the sides for planting. Same principle as strawberry pots, but taller .

  5. Eliza says:

    wow, that plantagon thing is 85% owned by the Onondaga nation! That is so cool. I have a sister-in-law who is an Onondaga Indian. And whenever I think about growing food to live on, I think about the way the Onondaga’s grew food – the 3 sisters corn/beans/squash all growing together in one place.

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