Rooftops: the New Agricultural Commodity

Rooftops: the New Agricultural Commodity

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Amid growing concerns about food security and food safety, residents of Hong Kong have taken urban farming to a new level: their rooftops. The main motivation for this new endeavor is, according to a recent New York Times article, to ensure a ready supply of chemical free, fresh vegetables. Finding themselves limited by policies governing the sparse open land in Hong Kong, residents looked to the sky.

There are mounting concerns about the safety of the produce found in urban Chinese markets, and vegetables labeled as organic are skyrocketing in price. Legal establishment of a farm is no small feat, though. For his farm, Mr. Lam supplied $65,000: an investment for permits, irrigation, equipment and “land use.” But the price is right for those concerned with the source of the food they eat, and for others who want to buy local and safe. Rooftop farms are also a much smaller investment than buying or leasing a tract of land, and a safer one, too. Mr. Lam notes that he is able to disassemble and reassemble his farm if necessary.

Could rooftop gardens be a piece in the puzzle of supplying non-industrialized food to Chinese citizens at an affordable price? Mr. Lam might not be alone in his appreciation for what he has grown. As most people who venture into growing their own vegetables find, it is a rewarding experience, as Stella Zhou reported from her home city of Hangzhou in southern China. Access to fresh vegetables may renew an appreciation for vegetable-based dishes. Fresh vegetables may become the new vogue, as opposed to increased meat consumption.

This phenomenon is not limited to China; here in New York City, a growing number of residents and restaurants have set up their own rooftop farms, in an attempt to achieve hyper-locavorism. Knowing how your food is grown and where it comes from is one of the first steps in moving away from industrialized farming. Even with the push towards urban farming, it would be impossible to feed entire cities solely from the food currently produced in local, small farms. But with innovative ideas such as rooftop farming, businesses and residents are taking steps towards realizing the seemingly impossible, in China, the U.S. or elsewhere.

Image courtesy U.S. National Archives