Over 18 years and more than 160 issues of Environmental Building News
, I've written quite a few articles — I hesitate to think about how many — but out of all of those, I think I had more fun and learned more in writing my most recent than ever before. "Growing Food Locally: Integrating Agriculture into our Built Environment
" examines opportunities for producing food around, and on, our buildings that few architects, builders, or developers have yet considered.
I think I had my first vegetable garden when I was five or six — back in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. There were a few years during college and perhaps some of my time in New Mexico when gardening didn't fit into my life. But other than that, growing some of my food has always been important to me. Thus, I surprised myself to realize a few months ago that I had yet to write — or even consider — an article for EBN
addressing the potential for integrating food production into our built environment. I had nibbled (sorry!) around the edges with articles about green roofs
and passive survivability
, but for some reason it never occurred to me to tackle this topic of food production directly.
So I dove in with weeks of concentrated research, interviews, and even a quick trip across the country to participate in a symposium on "Building-Integrated Sustainable Agriculture" in Berkeley, sponsored by the start-up company Sky Vegetables.
Reflecting on this research, I gotta say, I think have the best job in the world — to be able to spend such concentrated time learning about such inspirational projects around the country! From a community gardening program in the poor, Puerto Rican neighborhoods of Holyoke, Massachusetts (Nuestras Raices), to a nonprofit farming operation in Chicago (City Farm) that figured out a way to grow vegetables safely even where soils are contaminated, to a half-acre rooftop greenhouse operation on the Upper East Side of Manhattan,
to an innovative aquaponic
operation in Wisconsin that generates all the nutrients needed for organic hydroponic vegetable production from aquaculture wastes... these are amazing stories that I think will inspire you as much as they inspired me. And if you want to learn about something really bizarre, check out the sidebar
in the article on using black soldier fly larvae to turn all sorts of organic waste into high-protein food for chickens or fish.
While we didn't squeeze it into the February issue of EBN
, I also wrote an editorial
, available only online, that elaborates a bit more on why
food production should be a part of green building.
— Alex Wilson