Manhattan Farm Flourishes in Milk Crates
A temporary farm on a stalled construction site is an innovative response to two issues: finding local food in a city and beautifying urban spaces. GrowNYC is transforming many pockets of New York “through environmental programs that transform communities block by block and empower all New Yorkers to secure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.”
One of its partnerships is with the Alexandria Center for Life Science, at East River Science Park. Right in the heart of skyscrapers and busy traffic, Riverpark Farm “is already supplying fresh produce to the adjacent Riverpark Restaurant, and in September, 2011 will open a unique green space that will further enhance the Kips Bay neighborhood.”
The milk-crate farm is on the site of what will eventually be the Alexandria Center’s west tower. Like so many construction projects in a flat economy, this one is on hold. The Farm’s Web site calls Riverpark Farm, “a landmark example of temporary alternative use of a stalled site to stimulate local interest and economic activity, benefit the environment, and beautify an area, and engage the community.”
By planting in milk crates, the urban farmers are growing an impressive amount of produce without sinking roots in a temporary location. Some plants do not grow well in confined spaces, but that leaves plenty of options for meeting the demands of a busy restaurant. The farm is water intensive because the containers drain and dry quickly. Still, they offer an aesthetic and tasty return for the investment in time and resources.
Being surrounded by concrete does offer some pluses. Michael Robertson talks about the “heat island effect” that allows Riverpark Farm to grow plants that normally do not thrive in a northern climate. Okra, anyone?
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Photo credit: Photo from Bob Richmond via Flickr Creative Commons