New York is emerging as a leader in commercial rooftop agriculture, which means less pollution and fewer miles for trucks carrying produce.
Fed by the interest in locally grown produce, the new farm operations in New York are selling greens and other vegetables by the boxful to organically inclined residents, and by the bushel to supermarket chains like Whole Foods. The main difference between this century and previous ones is location: whether soil-based or hydroponic, in which vegetables are grown in water rather than soil, the new farms are spreading on rooftops, perhaps the last slice of untapped real estate in the city.
“In terms of rooftop commercial agriculture, New York is definitely a leader at this moment,” said Joe Nasr, co-author of “Carrot City: Creating Places for Urban Agriculture” and a researcher at the Centre for Studies in Food Security at Ryerson University in Toronto. “I expect it will continue to expand, and much more rapidly, in the near future.”
For city officials, the rise of commercial agriculture has ancillary benefits, as well. Rooftop farms have the potential to capture millions of gallons of storm water and divert it from the sewer system, which can overflow when it rains. And harvesting produce in the boroughs means fewer trucks on local roadways and lower greenhouse gas emissions, a goal of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration.
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