Saturday, April 4, 2009

Farming the horizontal plane

I was delighted to hear members of the panel on Productive Urban Environments seriously discuss urban agriculture in the context of a design conference without obsessing over the potentials of vertical gardens and mega farm towers in the city. It was an exciting discussion, which mentioned the work of brilliant community based organizations such as Growing Power and New York City's Council on the Environment's New Farmer Development Project. Vibrant community based organizations are not designing tower farms in the sky. They are BUILDING them on the ground. While designers are fantasizing about pigs floating high above us, community organizers and educators at East New York Farms!, Added Value, The Food Project, the People's Grocery and many other organizations are making food system change happen right now.

What is the role that designers can play in this bottom up movement? As my interviews with Deborah Greig and Owen Taylor - two urban farmers, educators, and local food advocates - about the Work AC installation at PS1 illustrate, there is an wary enthusiasm amongst the local food community around the designer input into urban agriculture.

This morning Nina-Marie Lister outlined for us some opportunities of designers and planners. We can map interstitial spaces in cities and facilitate growth of these community based, bottom-up systems. But is that all? Can't we do more?

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