A window onto urban farming

Erica Wetter | April/May 2010 issue
For most apartment dwellers, planting a vegetable garden is out of the question. That is, unless you use your window, like artists Rebecca Bray and Britta Riley, who hope to start an international “windowfarming craze” with the Windowfarms Project.
Bray and Riley were dissatisfied with the notion that urban agriculture could succeed only through government- and corporate-sponsored initiatives. So about a year ago, they began researching do-it-yourself, apartment-friendly methods of growing food. Looking to NASA and marijuana growers for information on hydroponic farming techniques, the duo soon came up with a prototype windowfarm design: dangling columns of upside-down water bottles strung together as makeshift planters, their plants drip-fed water and liquid nutrients by means of a timer-activated pump. After some experimentation, their first windowfarm was yielding weekly salads. They’ve since had success producing everything from cherry tomatoes to green beans to strawberries.
From the start, Riley and Bray’s goal was to create a flexible design that people could easily modify to suit their needs, and a large part of the project has been public outreach and how-to workshops. In the past year, the original design has continued to evolve, with participant innovation and collaboration guiding the changes. One woman is even attempting to create a plastic-free system, replacing the water bottles with hollowed-out Chinese gourds. The creative farming techniques have also begun to attract global attention, and Riley, now heading the project, reports that windowfarms have sprouted up in Finland, Hong Kong, Italy and Israel, not to mention apartments across the U.S. Some 4,000 people have downloaded instructions from the project’s website, windowfarms.org, and this spring, windowfarm kits will be available online for those who need a little extra help getting started.
Joanna Burgess, an early windowfarm adopter, lives in an old tenement building near New York City’s Little Italy and has filled a west-facing window with basil, Amish snap peas and other herbs. “You can [grow] year-round, so you’ll always have fresh herbs or fresh lettuce,” she says. “It’s also really pretty. I think of it as my garden, but also a living art piece.”

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A window onto urban farming

Erica Wetter | April/May 2010 issue
For most apartment dwellers, planting a vegetable garden is out of the question. That is, unless you use your window, like artists Rebecca Bray and Britta Riley, who hope to start an international “windowfarming craze” with the Windowfarms Project.
Bray and Riley were dissatisfied with the notion that urban agriculture could succeed only through government- and corporate-sponsored initiatives. So about a year ago, they began researching do-it-yourself, apartment-friendly methods of growing food. Looking to NASA and marijuana growers for information on hydroponic farming techniques, the duo soon came up with a prototype windowfarm design: dangling columns of upside-down water bottles strung together as makeshift planters, their plants drip-fed water and liquid nutrients by means of a timer-activated pump. After some experimentation, their first windowfarm was yielding weekly salads. They’ve since had success producing everything from cherry tomatoes to green beans to strawberries.
From the start, Riley and Bray’s goal was to create a flexible design that people could easily modify to suit their needs, and a large part of the project has been public outreach and how-to workshops. In the past year, the original design has continued to evolve, with participant innovation and collaboration guiding the changes. One woman is even attempting to create a plastic-free system, replacing the water bottles with hollowed-out Chinese gourds. The creative farming techniques have also begun to attract global attention, and Riley, now heading the project, reports that windowfarms have sprouted up in Finland, Hong Kong, Italy and Israel, not to mention apartments across the U.S. Some 4,000 people have downloaded instructions from the project’s website, windowfarms.org, and this spring, windowfarm kits will be available online for those who need a little extra help getting started.
Joanna Burgess, an early windowfarm adopter, lives in an old tenement building near New York City’s Little Italy and has filled a west-facing window with basil, Amish snap peas and other herbs. “You can [grow] year-round, so you’ll always have fresh herbs or fresh lettuce,” she says. “It’s also really pretty. I think of it as my garden, but also a living art piece.”

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