There is no shortage of good ideas in St. Louis, or rather, a shortage of ideas isn’t our biggest problem. Lining up permits and any needed political support is important. Money is usually a bigger problem. So it’s interesting to see a project with funding, support, and organization that hasn’t yet been able to put down roots. This where Urban Harvest STL finds itself with the FOOD ROOF Farm project.
The FOOD ROOF Farm is what it sounds like, a rooftop farm planned for the heart of downtown St Louis. The premise is that we should grow food where we live, that forgotten or empty urban spaces can be put to productive use. Of more than 200 community gardens in St. Louis, just one is located in downtown, home to more than 13,000 residents. Urban Harvest STL built this garden on top of a parking garage, it is serving as their pilot project for rooftop farming.
While there seem to be dozens, if not more, locations where a rooftop farm could be located downtown, making it a reality requires a number of requirements to align:
- Is the location within a couple blocks of downtown’s residential core?
- Does roof have full sunlight throughout entire growing season?
- Is there elevator access, or at least stairs, to the rooftop?
- Are there utilities on the roof, electricity and water?
- Is the roof in good repair?
- Can the structure support the weight of the farm?
If these criteria are fulfilled, then the key becomes finding a landlord who understands the project and is willing to facilitate a long term lease to make it a reality. Through smart planning and hard work, Urban Harvest STL has aligned volunteers, funders, even the city around the FOOD ROOF Farm project.
The only remaining question is whether the popular idea can find a home. It could be an historic rooftop, many of which were built to support manufacturing equipment, and sometimes additional floors. The project could be at home atop new construction as well. A parking garage could work.
In a city where good, even great ideas can struggle to find support and funding, we shouldn’t let an opportunity to bring farming to downtown residents fail.
Urban Harvest Founding Director Mary Ostafi presented at TEDx Gateway Arch. Check our her presentation here:
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