open table

This post is all about you.  Previous blog posts have revolved around interviews with industry leaders, large-scale viability issues, the path to publication, and general musings about rooftop food production.  This post, in contrast, will ideally act as a discussion.

What questions do you have about rooftop agriculture?  What’s on your mind?  Why are you interested in this topic and how does it affect your life or aspirations?  Please feel free to post any thoughts or questions that you may have, and don’t hesitate to chime in in response to other people’s comments.

Some of these conversation points may be included in the book, or will help to inform the existing topics of discussion.  Now is your chance to let it flow.  The table is open for discussion.

6 Comments on “open table

  1. As the network of commercial urban agriculture grows, do you envision city residents able to tap into the managed, rooftop gardening if they have no garden space available to themself? Would commercial growers rent space to urban dwellers similar to community gardens?

    Additionally, what policies need to be changed or set in place in order to allow urban planners and landscape architects to use rooftop gardening as a planning strategy for an additional food stream for cities as they become more dense and we become more reliant upon onsite food production?

    • Fantastic questions, Melinda. I see city rooftop community gardening as a distinctly separate use from commercial rooftop farming. Most rooftop farmers need all the acreage that they can get, and community gardens similarly need room to expand over time as they gain popularity.

      In Singapore some apartment building owners rent out rooftop garden plots to tenants from the building below. I think that this is a very interesting model; one which could be replicated in the U.S. Don’t you think?

      Any policy changes that make rooftop food production more affordable would be welcome, first and foremost. Some of the incentives that cities offer for green roofs could be extended to include certain types of rooftop agriculture. New York City is beginning to dabble in these types of incentives, and other cities will surely follow suit.

      Additional policy changes would ideally revolve around: 1) zoning, to allow for agriculture in areas that were formerly used for industry (these zones often contain buildings with large roofs); 2) subsidies, since government assistance can go a long way; 3) low interest loans for rooftop farms; and 4) tax breaks, particularly for farms and gardens in marginalized neighborhoods.

  2. Lauren, what water sources are available for roof gardens other than rain water?

  3. Shirley, water access is one of the most important considerations for rooftop farming and gardening. Water can be obtained either from municipal sources (meaning from the pipes within the building itself), or from rainwater that has been collected.

    The use of municipal water requires a rooftop point of connection, which is basically like a large pipe or hydrant on the roof, to which an irrigation system can be attached. With smaller operations, some gardeners run a hose out of a window from the building below! Municipal water provides a consistent, predictable flow, but also uses a valuable resource and may be costly, depending on the city and its water fee structure.

    Rainwater collection, or “harvesting,” as it is commonly called, is a great sustainable alternative to using municipal water. Rainwater can be harvested from various sources, which are often specified by local codes. This water can be stored on the roof in rain barrels or cisterns (depending on the roof’s structural capacity), beside the building in cisterns, or in the building’s basement in a large vessel. The latter two options require the use of pumps and electricity to move the water up to the roof.

    There is no one solution for water access, and rooftop gardeners and farmers often get creative. Multiple strategies are often used simultaneously, as well. How do other readers water their garden or farm?

  4. Are there are any problems with insects rooftop gardens?

  5. Rooftop gardens generally experience fewer pest problems than their at-grade counterparts. Nevertheless, harmful insects may find their way up to the roof, thereby disturbing crops.

    It is important to plant perennials that attract beneficial insects, in order to keep harmful insects at bay. This facet of integrated pest management (IPM) is commonly practiced on ground-level organic farms, and should be carried over to the roof. Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn plants rooftop flowers to attract beneficial insects and also to distribute to customers.

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