10 Urban Farms Transforming City Rooftops

We lose more than 50 acres of American farmland to development every hour.1 In that same amount of time, our population grows by 240 people.2

Less land to grow food + more mouths to feed = big problem.

One potential solution to the farmland shortage is to grow on what’s conventionally considered unusable space: city rooftops.

Benefits of Rooftop Farming

Besides helping meet the growing demand for food production, rooftop farms offer many benefits.

By nurturing lettuces, kale, arugula, and other vegetative crops, they literally make cities greener, which is nice. But rooftop farms also have an environmentally green or eco-friendly impact.

For example, bare roofs in cities absorb — and then radiate — more heat than green roofs (known as the “head island” effect).3 This increases energy usage and contributes to the poor air quality that often plagues big cities.

But rooftop farms help cool buildings, ultimately reducing carbon emissions. And by growing food in the communities they serve, they also lessen the carbon footprint of food transportation.

That’s just one perk of hyper-local food production, of course. When farmers grow food inside the concrete jungles that many cities create, more people have access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.

10 Revolutionary Rooftop Farms

Last month, Tower Garden Developer Tim Blank wrote this about urban farming:

At first glance, cities don’t seem to offer much space for growing food. But every building taking up space on the ground has an empty roof that’s full of potential.

Struck by that idea, I thought it would be both interesting and inspiring to look at a few Tower Farms that have taken root on city rooftops.

Bell Book & Candle in Manhattan, New York

One of the first rooftop-to-restaurant farms, Bell Book & Candle fuels its seasonal fare with dozens of Tower Gardens.

After chef John Mooney harvests a variety of herbs, vegetables, and fruits, patrons enjoy the fresh produce only six flights of stairs below where it was grown.

John also started a second rooftop farm at the Bidwell Restaurant in Washington, DC.

Chapala Gardens in Santa Barbara, California

A mother-father-daughter team runs Chapala Gardens from the top of a 100-year-old building in southern California.

Chapala Gardens offers a weekly subscription for fresh greens. And if you’re ever visiting Santa Barbara, know this: the farm doubles as a vacation rental!

David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

As though answering the cries of people everywhere for better convention center food, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center grows fresh herbs, lettuce, and other produce for Pittsburgh’s visitors.

LA Urban Farms in Los Angeles, California

Leading the local food movement in Los Angeles, LA Urban Farms not only grows its own rooftop farm — they help restaurants and business all over the world do the same.

So keep your eye on the team at LA Urban Farms. They’re taking sustainable rooftop farming from fashionable trend to widespread practice.

NYC Parks in New York City, New York

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation converted a vacant building rooftop into a vibrant garden that produces food for a local homeless shelter.

Playa in Los Angeles, California

Playa followed Bell Book & Candle in becoming a restaurant-farm hybrid, growing fresh ingredients with 35 Tower Gardens.

And it must have been a success because after Playa, chef John Sedlar started Rivera — another Los Angeles restaurant with a rooftop farm.

RebelEarth Urban Farm in Escazú, Costa Rica

On the terrace of a LEED-certified hotel and casino in Costa Rica, Lindsae Gehrlein started RebelEarth Urban Farm.

This rooftop farm supplied all kinds of healthy produce to three local restaurants.

Rouses Supermarket in New Orleans, Louisiana

Imagine if you could to the grocery store and buy herbs that were grown onsite. Talk about fresh!

Thanks to Roots on the Rooftop — the nation’s first roof-to-supermarket aeroponic farm — this dream is a reality for Rouses shoppers in New Orleans.

The Salvation Army in Blue Island, Illinois

Encouraging healthy living, involving local seniors, and addressing hunger in the community — this rooftop farm run by the Salvation Army serves many purposes.

Step Up on Vine in Hollywood, California

With 25 Tower Gardens, this housing facility for the homeless provides both shelter and nourishment for its tenants.

Step Up on Vine is also LEED-certified and uses solar power, making it prime example of eco-friendly architecture.

Want to Start Your Own Rooftop Farm?

Though rooftop farming makes a lot of sense, there are a few obstacles.

Space is limited, for example. And soil is heavy — a roof must be structurally sound enough to bear the weight. (Plus, you have to get the soil up there in the first place!)

But Tower Garden doesn’t use soil. And its unique vertical design allows you to grow 10 times as many plants as the traditional row crop layout.

These are just a few of the reasons Tower Garden is well suited for rooftop farming — and urban farming in general.

Learn more about farming with Tower Garden »

1. United States Department of Agriculture
2. United States Census Bureau
3. United States Environmental Protection Agency

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