Self Sustaining Farm in Urban Environment

2. Zero Hunger 3. Good Health and Well-Being 7. Affordable and Clean Energy 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 15. Life on Land

Overview

Empress Green Inc, founded by husband and wife Asher Landes and Zaro Bates, is an urban farm consulting company currently managing a 4,500 square foot, self-sustained, green space atop a parking garage in Staten Island New York.

The move to sustainable local farming decreases dependency on supermarkets and foreign imports for food that can be grown locallyThe movement of crops around the world also causes pollution from the trucking and shipping industries.

It has long been thought that you need a massive area of land to have a farm and to grow your own food, however, Empress Green Inc. is attempting to change that line of thinking and create a better world for the future.

Authors

John Mayrose

John Mayrose

Antonio Lynch

Antonio Lynch

MAMADOU BARRY

MAMADOU BARRY

School

City University of New York - College of Staten Island

City University of New York - College of Staten Island

Professor

Deepa Aravind

Deepa Aravind

Innovation

Empress Green Inc, founded by husband and wife Asher Landes and Zaro Bates, is an urban farm consulting company currently managing a 4,500 square foot, consciously-cultivated, green space atop a parking garage. The farm is located within the confines of URBY, a new apartment complex on Staten Island's flourishing north shore waterfront. URBY offers its residents all the necessities as well as many perks including a communal Kitchen with a communal kitchen, outdoor pool, and a bike room. What began as a consulting contract with URBY in 2013 would eventually lead to a role as the in-house farmers.

We had the opportunity to interview Asher and received a tour of the farm. The grounds were still covered in greens like arugula, but on a cool November morning, the farm was looking ready for a New York winter. Throughout the year however, almost everything imaginable can be grown on the farm from kale, heirloom tomatoes, spinach, and lettuces. They attempt to plant crops based on conversations with residences as well as some of the restaurants they are currently supplying.

Asher explained “The farm is built on the top of the complex’s parking garage. Layered over the cement slab roof is a green roof with approximately 2 ft of soil and raised beds. The function of the green roof is to control the amount of water runoff and help retain the water to help the farm flourish.”

Self Sustaining Farm in Urban Environment

Inspiration

Zaro began apprenticing at another urban farm, Brooklyn Garage, in 2013, after graduating from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University. Some of her studies included looking at our society’s movement from an agricultural based system to more urban developments and the impact of those changes. When she met Asher, they began observing small-scale farms with the goal of how this could be implemented at URBY. Asher believes “It is important to earn a living, but it is also important to have a social impact while doing it.”

Overall impact

“The issue faced by all urban areas is that they were initially overdeveloped and allowed little area for water runoff and drainage. When a storm comes through urban areas the drainage system can be overwhelmed causing flooding.” said Asher. Cities have recently begun to incentivize builders to come up with solutions to help with this issue. Enter green roof technology and urban farming. The combination of these 2 concepts lessens the amount of water entering the city’s sewer system while allowing the growth of crops that can support the local community.

A Green Roof is a roof covered in vegetation that allows for water to be absorbed and then drained into a basin that allows that water to be used for other purposes rather than running off into the sewer systems. This is utilized on the farm in order to water the plants without having to use an external source.

This impact can be seen in the short-term by the quality of crops being grown and sold from the farm without the use of outside water sources. The success of this business is centered-around their ability to sell a comparable or better product to customers, organic and pesticide free, and they have been successful in that thus far. Instead of pesticides, ladybugs have been brought in as a natural predator of many insects.

Business benefit

In 2017, the farm hosted a market on Saturdays from May through October. According to Asher, “The CSA (Community Supporting Agriculture) program has reached its current capacity and sales to local restaurants is continuing to grow.”The residents of the building also have access to the farm's crops. Empress Green Inc. also offer an experience-based learning program to teach people about how the farm works, in hopes to expand interest in operating similar farms.

In a more health conscious and environmentally friendly world we live in, residents and the surrounding community enjoy the idea of consuming a truly organic locally grown product that is grown on a farm that benefits the environment.

Social and environmental benefit

The move to sustainable local farming removes the need for people to purchase crops, often grown in foreign countries with potentially less environmental regulation than we have in the United States. The movement of crops around the world also causes pollution from the trucking and shipping industries.

It has long been thought that you need a massive area of land to have a farm and to grow your own food, however, Empress Green Inc. is attempting to change that line of thinking and create a better world for the future.

It will take some time to see the long-term benefits of urban farming as it is currently in its infancy, but judging by the short-term benefits, the future is bright for self-sustained, local, community farming and society will be all the better because of it.

Asher hopes “this is a beginning of improving the quality of life in urban areas while providing a much-needed resource of freshly grown, local, organic crops”

Interview

Asher Landes, Owner

Asher Landes, Owner

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Empress Green Inc.

Empress Green Inc.

Staten Island, NY, United States

Business Website: http://www.empressgreen.com

Year Founded: 2016

Number of Employees: 2-10

Empress Green Inc, founded by husband and wife Asher Landis and Zaro Bates, is an urban farm consulting company currently managing a 4,500 square foot, self-sustained, green space atop a parking garage.