This editorial was written as part of a series on local food initiatives and was commissioned by the Lexicon of Sustainability to be used on their online platform.
One of the cornerstones of the modern hyperlocal food movement is the utilization of hydroponic technology, allowing plants to be grown in regions typically requiring foods to travel thousands of miles otherwise. While the concept may seem daunting, there is a range of ‘low-tech’ options that allow individuals to grow their own food, even in non-traditional settings.
For those of us in urban areas, the idea of growing our own produce may not seem viable. Without yards or acreage, it seems unlikely to engage in gardening in the traditional sense. Thankfully, the hyperlocal food movement is concerned with embracing the untraditional. The movement has become synonymous with innovation, encouraging the use of unlikely methods in creating a localized and sustainable food chain.
There are many ways to produce and harvest your own sustenance, even in the smallest of spaces. After popping into a local grocery store for fresh herbs, I was surprised to find that they had traveled nearly 1,000 miles to arrive in my basket. Herbs are perhaps the easiest way to begin dabbling with food production, as they take up little space and are generally happy plants requiring less attention than others.
If you have a larger space available, a popularized method of growing is through the use of hydroponics. While it may sound daunting, the concept is relatively low-tech. In settings where plots of ground are unavailable, hydroponics uses an irrigation system to provide sustenance and nutrients to plants. Based on their nature, hydroponic gardens tend to be safe from outdoor elements, meaning the controlled and stabilized growing environment allow for year-round harvesting.
For those looking to experiment with this method of growing, a hydroponic wick system is recommended for beginners. This method is a great small-scale introduction to urban farming and is suitable for growing everyday produce such as herbs and lettuces, which respond well to the lower capacity of shared nutrients provided by the wick system. A helpful tutorial on setting on a simple hydroponic wick system can be found here.
For those who are unable to devote the time or space to growing your own produce, there is good news. Increasingly, consumers’ collective voices are being heard as food suppliers seek out innovative methods for providing locally sourced and sustainable whole foods. Of particular interest is the partnership between Gotham Greens and Whole Foods in New York; Gotham Greens, which started on a rooftop in Greenpoint, recently leased the rooftop of the Whole Foods to expand their hydroponic growing enterprise. As part of their agreement, the urban farm sells 25% of their harvest within the Whole Foods below, allowing customers to reap the benefits of the hyperlocal food movement even if they aren’t able to grow it themselves. This pioneering approach allows food miles to be greatly reduced while allowing customers access to produce that would otherwise not be viable to grow within the city.
Although city dwellers may have previously felt at a disadvantage for participating in the hyperlocal food movement, these few methods of involvement should give you some ideas for taking advantage of fresh, local food no matter your location.