by Kelly O'Reilly and Greg Stefano
With the emergence of a flourishing urban farming movement in recent years, the need for certain tools to maximize more limited natural resources has also arisen. As they lead the charge to shorten the distance from the farm to the table, commercial groups and individuals alike have demonstrated the possibility for fully functioning city-based farming and growing operations across the world, providing inspiration for other intrepid growers both professional and amateur. Whether you want to grow food indoors or outside, run a massive outfit or are just interested in becoming more sustainable, we found just a few essential tools to help you grow.
Urban Farming Tools
Design students Mirko Ihirg and Olli Hirvonen devised a starter kit concept of five hand tools for urban farming and a backpack to transport them. Combining the efficiency, compactness and mobility crucial to a city-dweller, the two larger tools—a shovel and a pitchfork—share one detachable handle that can strap onto the exterior of the stylish bag, and every piece will find its proper place inside. The simplicity of the set makes it a good place to begin an urban growing adventure, so we'd be keen to see the project become a reality.
Indoor Growing Tools
Whether you are just getting started or already have a thriving indoor farm, our friends at CityGrow offer a wide selection of great products for indoor growing using hydro and aeroponics. From the super simple to the extremely high-tech, the possibilities for indoor gardening can appeal to gardeners at all levels who lack space or just want to try something new. The Apollo 3 system is engineered to provide rapid plant growth with a small learning curve. The system has a double channel root chamber to give the plant roots space and uses atomized nutrients, letting the roots absorb them quickly. For something a little simpler there is the Aerojet Hydrogarden from Botanicare. This true aeroponic system sprays the roots directly, delivering high levels of nutrients and oxygen, allowing for rapid plant growth. The system is also modular so it can be expanded or shrunk to adjust to your space. For the more casual enthusiast there is the Turbo Garden, a compact growing machine that promises higher yields and speedy results. It provides seedlings with a multitude of nutrients and is great for propagating plants or just keeping a little garden around the house.
Build it Green!
Established in 2005 in partnership with the Community Environmental Center, Build it Green! is a non-profit that provides the New York City area with salvaged and surplus building materials. With everything from reclaimed bathroom stalls to salvaged lumber, Build it Green! has a surprising selection of eco-friendly building materials. This makes them the perfect jumping off point for anyone looking to build out a DIY urban farming platform, they provide almost all the materials you would need to build planters, beds, greenhouses and just about any other essential farming structure. You can view parts of their inventory on their online shop but you have to visit to see the full, ever-changing selection. Those outside the New York area can check out their list of similar organizations throughout the Northeast U.S., or contact them to see if they have advice for anyone in your locale.
Those interested in committing to the farm-to-table movement would be wise to continue the cycle by composting what's left on the table back into the ground—especially if they live in cities where garbage disposals aren't allowed. Though it may seem like a daunting task to hold onto waste in small living quarters, the five-gallon, air-tight All Seasons Indoor Composter fits compactly under the sink and uses the Japanese method of Bokashi, an all-natural, odorless mixture packed with microorganisms to ferment waste in just 10 days, nearly half the time than traditional composting. Once planted, compost produces a rich topsoil in about a month, enriching the fertility of the soil, detoxifying chemicals in the soil and attracting helpful insects. The composter kit sells from Uncommon Goods for $48, with refills available for $12 a bag.