Look, up in the Sky! Urban Farming Puts Down Roots

UPDATE: According to the Las Vegas Sun, the NextEnergryNews story about a proposed agricultural skyscraper in Las Vegas is not true. — The Editors

Urban farming can be as simple as a backyard vegetable patch or as complicated as a proposed agricultural skyscraper in Las Vegas.

Yes, you read that right.

NextEnergryNews reports that plans are afoot for a 30-story, $200 million building which will feature crops growing on many of its floors — and the building will go up in the notoriously environmentally unfriendly city of Las Vegas.

According to the article, the project could reportedly make up to $25 million a year through selling food to nearby casinos, with perhaps another $15 million generated through tourism at the site — and the project could be completed as early as 2010.

The Las Vegas skyscraper is perhaps the most flamboyant example of a surge in urban agriculture projects.

The Web site WebUrbanist recently gathered five designs for urban farming skyscrapers, concluding: “In the long run such structures may not only provide food for hundreds of thousands of people per building but they will also relieve much of the burden on other flat landscapes where fewer and fewer usable growing spaces exist.”

Most urban farming is on a much more modest scale.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported on Oakland, Calif., resident K. Ruby and other farmers in the San Francisco Bay Area who have made it their mission to grow their own food within their crowded neighborhoods — and to educate their neighbors about how to join in.

Ruby told the Chronicle that Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” inspired her to open the Institute for Urban Homesteading, an organization dedicated to “resourcefulness, and taking whatever space you have and using it as sustainably as possible.”

The practice is not limited to the politically liberal Bay Area.

The British newspaper The Independent recently reported on Food Up Front, an organization that teaches Londoners how to grow their own food on whatever tiny spot of land they might have in front of their houses or on their balconies.

Group founder Sebastian Mayfield told the newspaper, “We wanted to reconnect people living in cities with food. You don’t have to own acres of countryside in Essex like (TV chef) Jamie Oliver to grow your own vegetables — anyone can do it using pretty much any old space.”

In the developing world, the need for urban farming can be less about environmentalism and more about survival.

Latin America Press reported recently on the Urban Agriculture program, which helps residents grow their own food in the poorest neighborhood in Bogota, Colombia.

“We need to realize: if we don’t work, we won’t have anything to eat,” one participant said.

Until the projects take off, the organization also provides free meals.

“You can’t say to people who are suffering from hunger that they come to the allotment and in three months they’ll have something to eat,” program coordinator German Bueno said. “You have to give them food immediately.”

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org


“How far can urban agriculture go?”
Latin America Press, April 10, 2008

“5 Urban Design Proposals for 3D City Farms: Sustainable, Ecological and Agricultural Skyscrapers”
WebUrbanist, March 30, 2008

“Las Vegas to Build World’s First 30 Story Vertical Farm”
NextEnergyNews, January 2, 2008

“The city-dwellers who are becoming front garden farmers”
The Independent (UK), April 17, 2008

“Urban back-to-the-land movement”
San Francisco Chronicle, April 23, 2008

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