Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thoughts on vertical farming...

A 30-storey building producing enough foodstuffs to feed 50, 000 people? I think it sounds wonderful, but as Armando Carbonell noted in today's Times, "Would a tomato in lower Manhattan be able to outbid an investment banker for space in a high-rise? My bet is that the investment banker will pay more.”

Wouldn't it be great if the economic downturn revolutionized the way that we thought about food, production, ethics, and the planet's dwindling resources?

I totally volunteer to have a victory garden, and by sheer force of will my thumbs will turn from black to green. And compost! It's a very sad and embarrassing fact that for the "greatest city in the world", we are woefully behind on environmental and conservation issues. Nyc.gov reports: "New York City has the largest, most ambitious recycling program in the nation. All 3 million households, plus public schools and institutions, receive recycling collection by the Department of Sanitation." Well, NYC wants props for the sheer number of households served, fine. But after hunting around a bit on the NYCWasteLe$$ site, I found this: "At present, the ONLY plastics accepted by NYC's recycling program are plastic bottles and jugs." CRIMINAL. Our yogurt containers, takeout containers, and egg cartons? All trash. As for composting...if you can transport your composting materials to Greenmarket sites, there is community composting. Not exactly convenient or enticing for a mostly public transit-dependent population. Picture it: a crowded N train and you with your leaking, stinking bag of compost-ables. You know my cat litter will be in there too.

So yes, the time is ripe for change. But for a 30-storey space-age building in Manhattan that can feed 0.5% of the population? Why don't we focus on the infrastructure that doesn't work first? Crumbling train stations, overflowing garbage cans filled with recyclables at every street corner in the city...the problem is money. The only way that this vertical farming project would be viable would be if it was supported by private funding. Then, could we afford it?

And more importantly, would the posh Manhattan-raised tomatoes move to Brooklyn and price us out of our neighbourhoods?

1 comment:

Flushy McBucketpants said...

i'd like to think that vertical farms would end up in the ass end of queens. or even better: jersey. i'd think that property values are too high for farmers to afford building a high-rise farm on. outside of rooftop gardens and maybe converting some of central park into growing space, i don't see growing food for manhattan actually in manhattan as being financially possible.

surely we could improve nyc recycling AND establish urban gardens simultaneously. nyc could even start a composting program. yay taxes!