Intervale rooftop urban garden in Bronx, NY

by Robin Plaskoff Horton | Urban Gardens

When thinking of the Bronx, the northernmost of New York City’s five boroughs, one might think first of Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Zoo, or the New York Botanical Garden. But what about farming?

Up above one of the neighborhood’s residential buildings, a rooftop urban farm produced over 1000 lbs. of produce last season.

Intervale Green Rooftop Farm serves the largest multifamily, affordable housing development in the nation. The building consists of 128 affordable apartments, 39 of which were set-aside specifically for families transitioning out of New York City’s homeless shelter system.

Sponsored by Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco), the farm offers the building’s residents an opportunity to learn how to plant and harvest produce, build community bonds, and move towards a healthier, more self-sustainable lifestyle.

The folks at WHEDco have worked for nearly 20 years to transform the Bronx into “a more beautiful, equitable and economically vibrant place to live and raise a family.”

The rooftop farm began with about 550 4-inch containers full of soil but with limited potential. In 2010, the roof was redesigned for farming, and although the farm wasn’t completed until halfway through summer, resident farmers managed to harvest over 135 pounds of produce.

In addition to feeding residents and the community, Intervale’s green roof also helps collect and reduce storm water runoff and improve air quality in a neighborhood which has the second highest asthma rate in the Bronx.

Residents like the Mandervilles (above) are a beautiful example of what a positive and important experience urban farming can be for a family. Vivian came to New York City as a carpenter renovating high-end apartments, but her roots stemmed from the Georgia farm of her childhood. She wanted her children to experience growing and eating fresh vegetables and fruits just as she had throughout her youth.

Cultivating Community

The Manderville’s now grow tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapeños, basil, carrots, green beans, lemon thyme, parsley, okra, and strawberries—all in a 56-square-foot plot. As a family, they enjoy bonding with their community by sharing the surplus of their harvest, particularly at a nearby home for the elderly.

A Sound Idea

On the horizon for WHEDco’s is a hydroponic roof garden and open green space, part of a development of 270 affordable apartments, including apartments set-aside for elder musicians. The Bronx Music Heritage Center will serve as a community performance space and archive.

If projects like Intervale Farm inform the future of our urban corridors, we can look forward to greener, more vibrant communities where before there were food deserts.

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About The Author

Robin Plaskoff Horton's picture

Robin Plaskoff Horton is the publisher and creative director of the Webby-nominated and award-winning blog, Urban Gardens–a mix of urban style, design, and nature. Urban Gardens is a lifestyle story told from the ground up: from seed to harvest to kitchen while serving it all up in style, with cutting edge design objects in stylish outdoor rooms and indoor gardens. As a “coolspotter,” Robin explores the world's captivating travel destinations to experience what the global, multi-cultural, and creative universe is serving up in their own unique and sustainable style.

Urban Gardens is considered an "influencer" within the home and garden sector. Mashable named Urban Gardens "one of the top 10 must-follow home and garden Twitter accounts" and Better Homes and Gardens Magazine named Urban Gardens one of the top ten gardening blogs for 2015.

A seasoned speaker and workshop facilitator, Robin has facilitated storytelling workshops at the Mother Earth News Fair, Women at Woodstock, and The Entrepreneurial Womens Network, and was a featured speaker at the Garden Writers Association and the Garden Bloggers Conference. Robin is a contributor to Fix.com, Houzz, and has been a featured curator for Pickie and Luvocracy. 

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