The Philadelphia Rooftop Farm (PRooF)
Philadelphians are not alone in facing substantial barriers to accessing healthy, inexpensive food in their neighborhoods — especially local, organic produce. There is a lack of quality supermarkets throughout the city, and communities that host regular farmers’ markets are still few and far between. Like many other urban dwellers, Philadelphians live far from farmland and often feel disconnected from even the most basic links in the food chain. Because we feel distant from sustainable, healthy produce, Philadelphians too often eat overly processed food that is unhealthy both personally and environmentally.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
Philadelphia is in a unique position to face these challenges because of one of its most distinctive architectural features: over an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 single-family houses, apartment buildings and commercial building have flat roofs.
Some view these roofs as a black-topped, heat-soaking detriment. Local urban farmers and green builders from the Philadelphia Rooftop Farm (PRooF) disagree.
PRooF conceives Philadelphia’s 400,000 flat roofs as a potentially empowering untapped resource that can be used in a thoughtful and efficient fashion to better the City environmentally, nutritionally and economically. PRooF sees these rooftops as one keystone of Philadelphia’s future as a green and healthy city.
WHAT PRooF INTENDS TO DO
PRooF intends to create an unparalleled not-for-profit urban farm that will take advantage of the city’s substantial flat roof acreage to make fresh, nutritional, inexpensive and extremely local food available to Philadelphians. PRooF will work with owners of individual houses, apartment buildings and commercial buildings, as well as with neighborhood organizations, to build and maintain high-yield organic vegetable and fruit gardens on flat roofs throughout the city. PRooF will harvest and distribute food from these roofs, sustaining itself by selling farm-fresh fruit and vegetables at farmers’ markets, at neighborhood farm stands and through a CSA (community-supported agriculture), sharing its bounty with its farm hosts and neighborhood organizations.
PRooF will also work with organizations throughout the city that focus on sustainability to pursue an integrated vision of what a city has to do be healthy and green. Specifically, PRooF will help fulfill many targets of the Greenworks Philadelphia plan recently put forth by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. Growing fruit and vegetables on rooftops will help the city by lowering energy consumption (greening a roof helps cool down the building below it), increasing greenery that cleans the air, minimizing landfill waste by promoting composting, providing food equity to the local neighborhoods where these rooftop farms exist, reducing stormwater runoff, and ultimately providing jobs for those involved in building and maintaining the farm.
THE PRESENT AND NEAR FUTURE
PRooF is currently laying the groundwork for a pilot project to start a ten-roof distributed farm during the 2010 growing season. PRooF plans to document every aspect of the endeavor, from cost of planter components to the amount of person-hours each task takes, from poundage of fruit and vegetable yield to the market sale value of the harvest, and use this information as the basis for a more substantial farming venture in 2011. Recently PRooF volunteers have been engineering sturdy, low-weight, low cost, self-watering planters that we will test throughout the 2009 growing season and install on the pilot program roofs next year. We are communicating with other rooftop farmers from cities like Portland, Milwaukee and Montreal to share rooftop farming knowledge and experience, and hope to implement many of their ideas this season and next.
WHAT PRooF WANTS RIGHT NOW
Right now, PRooF would just like those within Philadelphia’s sustainability community to know the project is here. We want to talk with you about PRooF!
While PRooF is very much in the incubation stage, we are confident in Philadelphians’ ability to work together to face economic and environmental challenges, and are excited for the possibility of working with anyone and everyone to transform the city into a modern marvel of urban green.
For more information about PRooF or to suggest people or organizations you think may like to be involved in any way, please contact Jay Sand at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-913-2679.