Farms in the sky

It’s tough to eat locally grown produce when you live in the city.? Sure there are farmers markets to stroll through or fancy produce places, but to really eat fresh fruit or veggies – those succulent vine ripened tomatoes, crisp green beans, mouth-watering strawberries – you’ll have to drive or pay a hefty price.

It’s unfortunate.? Because once you’ve grown your own (highly recommended I’ve got peppers, lettuce, green beans, tomatoes, various herbs and raspberries in my backyard) there is truly no going back.? One technique for urban dwellers is to grow vertically instead of laterally.

Years from now, urban dwellers might laugh at the notion of not being able to buy locally grown produce, especially if Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University, has his way.? He envisions a “vertical farm,” which is essentially a skyscraper with a farm in it, rather than an office.

Despommier estimates that it would cost $20 million to $30 million to make a prototype of a vertical farm, but hundreds of millions to build one of the 30-story towers that he suggests could feed 50,000 people. “I’m viewed as kind of an outlier because it’s kind of a crazy idea,” Despommier, 68, said with a chuckle. “You’d think these are mythological?creatures.”

Despommier, whose name in French means “of the apple trees,” has been spreading the seeds of his radical idea in lectures and through his Web site. He says his ideas are supported by hydroponic vegetable research done by NASA and are made more feasible by the potential to use sun, wind and wastewater as energy sources. Several observers have said Despommier’s sky-high dreams need to be brought down to?earth.

Sure, there will always be critics, but isn’t this the type of thinking we need in this country? America has always been about ingenuity.? Possibly, the mythical American Dream has always been, not the white picket fence and two car garage, but rather the nebulous idea that America will create solutions to problems that don’t exist yet, that we’ll dream bigger than anyone and achieve the impossible.

This is that type of dream.? Imagine if every major city had four of five of these vertical farms and transportation cost were negligible and tasty, healthy food was available to all urban citizens at a reasonable price?? Isn’t that something that America should aspire too?

If this does become a reality, then I’m requesting that instead of garden gnomes we should use garden zombies.

Comments on this entry are closed.