A drop in the bucket

Could New York's urban agriculture feed even this one block in Manhattan? Photo: David Sommerstein.

Could New York's urban agriculture feed even this one block in Manhattan? Photo: David Sommerstein.

I'm in New York City this week reporting on the emergence of urban agriculture and how it relates to our Upstate rural agricultural economy, if at all.

A couple days ago, I wrote that, given all the innovations and excitement around urban farming, maybe the future holds a world where rooftop greenhouses and neighborhood gardens explode, and with advances in technology, New York City starts to feed itself.

Commenters, like "Brett", were skeptical:

Cute storyline, but let’s look at this in reality. It’s nice that NYC is learning to grow some vegetables, and maybe even a few eggs. What about the other ~ 90% of a normal human diet? Dairy, meats, grains, tree fruits, etc. etc. Good luck growing those on roof tops and vacant lots.
And, of course, sitting in this cafe on Eighth Ave in Chelsea, the skepticism is the safe bet.
For every sprinkling of chefs and restaurants and grocery stores selling New York City-grown produce, there are a million (millions?) of bodegas, chinese restaurants, hospitals, and chain stores serving food from, well, wherever in the world it comes from. And that's unlikely to change anytime soon, given our vast industrialized global food system.
And, as commenter "Anita" pointed out, a Cornell study concluded New York State doesn't have enough land to feed its population, let alone rooftops.
I was chatting with a friend who works for the city's planning department. One of her projects is to place more fresh produce in neighborhoods considered "food deserts". When I asked her about the growth of urban agriculture and the local food movement in general, she said, "well, the people who are really into local food are very passionate…everyone else has no clue." Truly a drop in the bucket.
But then I keep getting whiffs of change. Someone was talking to me about a truck that drives around Brooklyn with actual gardens bearing produce in the payload. I caught a glimpse of green grasses growing atop what looked like new-fangled "projects" in a low-income neighborhood in the south Bronx. I heard about another major rooftop greenhouse organization, called Brooklyn Grange.
It's Stephen Stills time. There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.

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