The rooftop at 810 Humboldt Street in Brooklyn is much different from other buildings; it is home to a 15,000 square-foot hydroponic greenhouse that produces over 100 tons of food per year. The greenhouse, built and operated by New York-based company, Gotham Greens, is supplying year-round ultra-local produce to nearby grocery stores and restaurants.
The greenhouse in Brooklyn epitomizes the rise of a new urban agriculture — farming that is taking place within cities rather than rural areas. Rooftop greenhouses, backyard farms, and community-managed garden plots are all examples of this growing movement. At my own house in Southern California, we are growing over 5,000 pounds of food per year on a plot of land the size of an NBA basketball court — enough food to feed my family of four all year.
The local food movement has its roots in a desire to eat honest, non-toxic, nutritious food. The emerging framework of urban agriculture, however, is having as significant of an effect on our economy as it is on our health.
As it is, about 20 percent of U.S. farmland is located near metropolitan areas, yet metropolitan areas are home to over 80 percent of our population. Over three-quarters of the U.S. population is sharing only 3 percent of U.S. land area. The same demographics are present in most Western countries, and most of the rest of the world is on a similar trajectory.
By shifting a share of food production away from the rural areas and into the urban areas themselves, urban farming is changing the food system. Changes in the food system have ripple effects through everything because food is a central part of all human activity. The growth of this new agriculture is reviving and stimulating local economies like never before.
Here are four ways this is happening.