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31 Jul

Gotham City Eats Its Vegetables With Gotham Greens


New York City's reputation as a haven for what's new and trendy has been inspiring those who call the city home for decades, driving their creative process and mothering a plethora of subcultures. This phenomenon doesn't limit itself to genre however and the city's farming community is proof. That's right, there are farmers in New York City. Entrepreneurs with a sustainable outlook and passion for fresh, local produce are turning New York's endless high rise rooftops into a veritable paradise of hydroponic greenhouses while in the process creating a subculture of proud urban farmers.

Viraj Puri, Jenn Nelkin and Eric Haley are three of these farm cum city folk determined to give residents access to delicious tasting and locally grown produce. But because the streets of New York aren't exactly the best place plow a field, the trio looked to the skies and saw opportunity as well as a place to call their operations home. New York City, as it turns out, has almost 3,000 acres of potential farm land awaiting cultivation on top of both public and privately owned buildings. Queens tops the list with just over 1,100 acres of prospective garden space, then Brooklyn with 940 acres and Manhattan with 400.

In 2008, Gotham Greens was born and since then Puri, Nelkin and Haley have risen to local gardening fame as the city's premier rooftop producers. Their first facility in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, which was also the city's first commercial rooftop greenhouse, spans 15,000 square feet and sits atop a former bowling alley. Gotham produces herbs and leafy greens including basil and three kinds of lettuce all grown without the use of pesticides. The demand for their delicious vegetables grew so quickly that the  three are expanding operations to Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Fuelled by overwhelming support, Gotham's Queens operation found a friend in the New York Regional Economic Development Council which gave the company more than $900,000 in start up money. The greenhouse will be up and running by 2014 and has tomatoes, leafy greens and herbs on the growing roster. Gotham hopes to provide around 30 full-time jobs at the facility.  They also caught the attention of health food mega retailers, Whole Foods, who offered the company an opportunity to garden over their store in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The 20,000 square foot greenhouse will be the first commercial indoor farm partnered with a retail grocery space. Over in the Bronx, Gotham will have yet another rooftop to garden on, this time on an Oak Point food distribution site with a $400,000 grant to get them started.

Gotham Greens has no sign of slowing down and the dedication to their cause can only be a good thing. As the world's population leans towards urban dwelling - 70 percent will live in cities by 2050 - having fresh food available is a necessity. New York isn't shy about leading the way and Gotham Greens is getting them to eat their vegetables. 

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Last modified on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 10:38
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