Urban Gardens Sprout in Mall Food Courts, on Office Rooftops

Think there’s no suitable space left in your urban neighborhood for growing sustainable local food? Think again. As awareness grows about the positive impact environmentally sustainable, local food farms and gardens can have on local economies and public health, new urban and suburban food gardens are sprouting in some surprising places. Here are just a few innovative gardens in creative locations that may change the way city residents think about where good food comes from:

Real Food Grows in a Food Court

Urban and suburban shopping malls were already struggling to stay competitive with internet retailers and big box discount stores, even before the recession of 2008 devastated retail sales. And now, after two long years of general economic malaise, many once-thriving malls are riddled with vacant storefronts.

As traditional retail tenants disappear, mall managers across the country face a serious dilemma: how can shopping malls, once economic centers in their communities, fill vacant spaces and keep drawing customers without relying on retail chain stores?

This spring, the marketing staff at the Galleria at Erieview in Cleveland, Ohio, came up with an innovative solution to their problem of unused, unprofitable architectural space: plant a sustainable food garden.

The mall’s airy, sunlit food court sits beneath a giant dome of glass. Perhaps it was inevitable that Galleria marketing director Vicky Pool, whose grandfather owned a plant nursery, would look up at the food court’s glass ceiling one day and realize just how strongly the space resembled a greenhouse.

Gardens Under Glass is now producing sustainably grown salad greens, herbs, and tomatoes that will supply the Galleria mall’s restaurants with super fresh, super local ingredients.

Tomatoes Take Over an Office Roof

New York City’s crowded concrete jungle may seem a particularly unforgiving and unlikely place to start a small sustainable farm. But in a place where open green space is scarce on the ground, urban farmers are looking up — to the city’s empty rooftops — for a solution. Several new rooftop farms have recently sprouted atop office buildings, factories and warehouses across New York.

One of the newest is Brooklyn Grange, an eco-friendly herb and vegetable farm overlooking an office building in (ironically) Queens. Brooklyn Grange’s urban farmers hope to create local jobs and increase community access to fresh produce while simultaneously reducing their home building’s environmental footprint; plant-filled green roofs have been shown to reduce rainwater runoff and improve a building’s energy efficiency.

Pickup Truck Farm Teaches Kids About Urban Gardening

The makers of the agriculture documentary King Corn, Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney, have decided to take their sustainable food education program on the road, literally, with a truck-bed garden.

They are driving a pickup truck planted with fresh greens to schools and community centers across the Northeast, hoping to inspire schoolchildren to plant their own home gardens by showing how food plants can thrive even in a small space.

Photo by Jaelithe Judy. Copyright 2010. Used with permission.

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Terry V.
Terry V.2 years ago

good story and news

Carole R.
Carole R.3 years ago

Here is another great idea! I'd much rather see a garden then a fountain or another ad poster.

Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence3 years ago


Melinda K.
Past Member 4 years ago

With all the space we have there is no reason for anyone to not have nourishing food, gardening groups could grow vegies and fruits in all sorts of public areas including unused land and parks and it could be donated to charities to distribute to those in need.

Jo Asprec
Jo Asprec4 years ago

Wonderful gardens sprouting in office rooftops, malls, schoolyards, etc! Good for the communities, the people and the earth!

iii q.
g d c.4 years ago

Just like GrowNYC!!!

Great, innovative idea!

Hope the concept spreads across the country!

Laure H.
Laure H.4 years ago

Think I'll pass this on to the local mall...

Jo Asprec
Jo Asprec4 years ago

Wonderful gardens! These gardens will grow more than produce, but also closer relationships, healthy families and loving community!

Aoife O Mahony
Aoife O Mahony4 years ago

So cool. Thanks =)

John S.
Past Member 4 years ago

Sounds like a great idea.