Summer officially begins Friday, but the Garden State has been turning greener and more lush for weeks. Fields boast robust-looking rows of corn plants that seem to grow several inches every day, our favorite farmers markets are filling the bins with early lettuce and the first of the state’s namesake tomatoes, and some of us dream of the big South Jersey blueberries that are just around the corner.
In these days of bounty and the promise of much more to come, it’s sometimes hard to remember that not everyone can enjoy these gifts from nature and almost nobody gets them year-round. That’s why it can be inspiring to read about all the innovative urban gardening projects taking root around the globe.
In August, we brought you the story of William Sears and Vertifresh, a startup that’s growing lettuce, basil and other greens hydroponically, in retrofitted shipping containers in the heart of Denver’s industrial district. Sears scored big with a contract to provide local lettuce to salad chain Mad Greens, but his larger passion is promoting the system in new markets across the country.
In recent weeks, we’ve heard about a slew of new projects, including high-rise gardens in densely populated Singapore, historic Massachusetts textile mills repurposed as an organic lettuce farm, and projects in England and California that teach low-income children to grow their own healthy food.
- In Singapore, entrepreneur Jack Ng has created a series of aluminum towers filled with greens growing in rotating trays powered by low-energy water wheels that he sells in local grocery stores under the SkyGreens brand, as PBS Newshour reported last week.
- In Long Beach, Calif., the Long Beach Community Action Partnership has launched a program designed to provide low-income communities with healthier food and offer children a way to learn gardening and earn money by turning abandoned urban properties into produce gardens. “Teens and youth will be working the gardens to harvest fruits and vegetables to be sold in North Long Beach in the food desert, and to increase access of produce to the local community,” program director Maeve Milstead told the Long Beach Leader.
- Thousands of miles away in once-prosperous Stoke-on-Trent, England, fledgling enterprise Urbivore also wants to help low-income and unemployed populations in this town and others across the U.K. repurpose swaths of formerly industrial land into gardens that create healthier food and job opportunities. In Stoke, the plan calls for creating 16 acres of covered growing space, The Guardian reported.
- In Fall River, Mass., family-owned S & S Urban Acres created a hydroponic growing operation in the space of the historic Durfee Mills, as SouthCoast Today reported. In the space where mill workers once wove the cotton fabric that clothed the nation, S & S grows cucumbers, jalapenos, peppers, fresh greens and a variety of herbs for sale at local markets.
- Some cities are looking to eliminate hurdles to urban growing. In St. Petersburg, Fla., city officials are in the process of drafting land regulations that would not only allow but encourage urban farming, as an economic stimulus as well as a source of healthy food in more of the city’s low-income neighborhoods, The Tampa Tribune reported.
What’s growing in your city this summer? Tell us about it in the comments.
Image credit: Volokhatiuk via iStockphoto