A Grocery Store That Lets Shoppers Harvest Their Own Crops
Devotees of buying fresh, local produce often go to a local farmers market or, if they've got the time, might drive to a local farm that allows you to pick fruits and vegetables, such as berries or asparagus, straight from the field. But Durham, North Carolina, consumers have a third option: The Farmery, an urban vertical farm and store where they can pick their own herbs and lettuces.
The project is a prototype for what Greene hopes will eventually become a much bigger store, featuring more vertical walls of crops for consumers to harvest and take home, as well as a cafe and other locally grown and produced food items. They are also working on a prototype of a "living river" system that will allow for the freshest possible fish selection, grown and caught right there on the store premises.
Benjamin Greene outlines his vision for The Farmery in this video below:
The Farmery has garnered attention across the globe. Gabriella Tagliapietra of the Australian gardening blog 727m2 is already lobbying her local policymakers to see if they can encourage a similar concept in her city:
I certainly would love one in Sydney... so much so that I just wrote to Lord Mayor Clover Moore and asked if she would be willing to implement something like this in Sydney! My hope is that we could have one of these in Sydney (which would hopefully lead to other councils coming on board across Australia).
On her blog, Permaculture Hamilton, Theresa McCuaig imagines the effect of places like The Farmery on food deserts—defined by the USDA as an urban or rural neighborhood where community members don't have access to fresh, healthy food—in her area:
Lower Hamilton residents often shop at convenience stores with high prices because transportation issues make grocery shopping difficult in a food desert. For example, there are only two north-south bus routes in Lower Hamilton, and hourly bus service on some east-west lines makes hauling groceries on the HSR prohibitive. What if it were possible to end the food desert of Lower Hamilton with shipping container grocery stores? Consider the possibilities for green collar jobs to replace some of those lost when the steel mills collapsed.
This is also a model that might help keep food costs lower for consumers who are used to seeing their produce trucked or flown in from long distances. California, where I live, is experiencing a multiyear drought that is likely to affect fruit and vegetable production as soon as next summer, which is no small matter. Most people in the United States just get what they need from their grocery store produce section without thinking about it, but if California's agricultural industry struggles or collapses, many crops, including artichokes, broccoli, celery and garlic, would become much more scarce and expensive. Business models like The Farmery create better food security for everyone who lives in the community.
Though I don't know of any other stores that are doing anything similar, there is a company in Vancouver, British Columbia, that is developing urban microfarms that work in a closed-loop system—that means waste is composted and reused to help grow more crops. The company, Urban Stream, has launched one of their systems at Luke's Corner Bar & Kitchen, a local restaurant that now grows all its herbs, microgreens and arugula right in its own backyard. It's another approach that puts shipping containers to work growing hyperlocal food that can't get any fresher.
If you had the opportunity to harvest your own greens, herbs and other food while doing the rest of your shopping, would you take advantage of it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.