Despite Florida’s abundant sunshine and rainfall, there is a surprising lack of rooftop agricultural activity throughout the state. The growing conditions are perfect for food production at any altitude, and yet, most growing is reserved for the ground plain.
The one exception is I Grown My Own Veggies in Sarasota, FL. This 3,000 sf open-air hydroponic farm rests atop a glass factory in a light manufacturing area of the city. The farm’s Founder, Vincent Dessberg, began growing food on the roof of his factory in 2009 in an effort to grow food as locally as possible and empower his neighbors to follow suit. His original concept was to build a restaurant below the farm, with the slogan “Your food travels 15 feet, not 15 miles.”
While the restaurant never materialized, the farm continues to produce an impressive variety of crops, including strawberries, chard, kale, tomatoes, basil, watercress, onions, and several varieties of leaf lettuces. The hydroponic facility contains over 6,000 plants, which are grown in stacked Styrofoam containers and drip irrigated from above. Holes in the bottoms of these lightweight containers allow for water to drain from one pot down to the next, thereby minimizing water loss.
The farm produces three to four crop cycles per year, but according to Dessberg, growing during the summer months is tricky. Marketing to local restaurants has also been tricky, since most of these businesses rely upon large quantities of a few select crops rather than the large variety that Dessberg has to offer. Due to these difficulties and others, Dessberg brought on Don Gamin to manage the farm. Gamin is poised to take over completely within the next few months, and is sure to bring some fresh ideas to the table.