“I think urban farming is only in it’s very infant stages, this is only the beginning,” says James Beard-award winning chef Patrick Connolly, of NYC eatery Bobo at the beginning of New York Farm City, an inspiring short film produced by Petrina Engelke and Raul Mandru. There is so much potential to grow more food in the hearts of cities, and the movement is growing each day.
A common misconception is that some things just don’t grow that well in cities, but that’s not true. With just a little bit of determination you can grow just about anything.
“We grow everything here, from squash to basil, peppers, pumpkins — you name it, we grow it,” says Gina Keatley of Nourishing NYC. “We’re a community food program, located in East Harlem. We offer nutrition for all through our produce program. We’re growing and giving out free produce.”
The educational aspect of Nourishing NYC’s community garden program is especially important to Keatley. “We deal with people who don’t understand that carrots from underground,” she says. “I think that programs like this and gardens throughout the community are important to keep a connection between what’s healthy and what people are actually eating.”
“It’s about inspiring people, teaching them that the can grow food,” says Daniel Bowman-Simon of People’s Garden NYC, a petition to Mayor Bloomberg for the establishment of a vegetable garden in front of City Hall.
“My job is to cook food and the best thing for me is to get food that is produced nearby. It tastes better, it’s the best quality, and you’re supporting the local economy,” says Chef Connolly. “It’s great to say that the produce comes form 50 miles from here, but to say that it came from the roof above your apartment building, that’s even better.”
“I ran a rooftop farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, last summer, and we learned a lot. It was a smaller scale and we wanted to figure out what scale we need in order to come up with a business model that could survive in the city,” says Ben Flanner of Brooklyn Grange Farm. “For it to work, it has to be fiscally sustainable, be able to stand on it’s own to feet financially,” says his partner Anastasia Plakias. “The main problem with growing food in NYC is space, yet we have all these roofs that have sunlight on them all day long,” says Flanner. “This summer we grew about 12-15,000 pounds of produce.”
“We can at least raise some awareness and consciousness of what food looks and tastes like,” says Bowman-Simon. “If you can have a naked lady in front of City Hall, why not have a vegetable garden too?”
You’ll have to watch the film, above, to make sense of that one.