Food From the Sky: Eco-Friendly Urban Garden Preserves Heirloom Produce

Jul 9, 2010
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.
Gardening can be urban with a little spatial planning and a lot of elbow grease. (Photo: Gabriel Kamener)

It's the world's first supermarket roof garden, and it's as local as the local movement gets.

It's called Food from the Sky.

Created not only to capitalize on limited urban growing space, this particular garden—planted on a grocery store rooftop—is also working to preserve heirloom vegetables, and increase community awareness in Crouch End, an area of north London.

The idea came about through the collaboration of Andrew Thornton, who owns the grocery store below, called Budgens, and Azul-Valerie Thome, the founder and project and resource development manager of the Positive Earth Project.

Already an advocate of local eating and sourcing, the pilot project was Thornton's next step. "We need to grow more food in cities; with millions of square metres of suitable growing space on the roofs of London, we want to inspire others to follow suit," he said in a post written by Thome for the Food from the Sky site.

Not only will Food from the Sky produce a great deal of veggies—many of them heirloom varieties at risk of extinction—it will also keep its own environmental impact small and help make Budgens more eco-friendly.

Thome told the BBC, "There is a lot of produce waste [in the shop] that we are bringing up to the roof, and we are transforming this into compost. We are planning to collect rainwater to water our plants."

The project began June 1 of this year. Twenty volunteers and one trusty crane hauled 10 tons of compost, fencing, and trees to the rooftop. Seeds were planted, and a celebration commenced with a picnic. Six weeks later, the blooming garden is home to pollinating bees, ladybirds, butterflies and small birds. Those little critters are an important component of Food from the Sky's goal to enhance biodiversity.

The heirloom veggies they harvest are part of that goal as well. From the group's Ning page:

Why are we wanting to save obscure varieties? Surely one carrot's very much like the next? Actually, every variation and strain is remarkably different. Each with its own taste, growing habits, cultivation time and heritage. And every rare variety we save is part of a much bigger biodiversity picture. Just as we value the ...diversity of plant and animal species, we need to keep the gene pool of the plants we grow to eat as big as possible too. So this project can help toward not just a vegetable, but a whole ecosystem.

Volunteers from The Positive Earth Project have been tending the harvest and growth of the garden. Plans are in the works for food-growing workshops for non-volunteers as well.

Photo: Gabriel Kamener/Creative Commons via Flickr

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