ashley englishoutdoorsmall measures

small measures with ashley: window farms

by Amy Azzarito

image sources, clockwise from top left: , , , ,, ,

Having just returned from a whirlwind up-and-back-the-next-day trip to New York, I was reminded of just how much space is at an absolute premium in the city. When the driver taking me from the airport to the hotel noted he was certain I wasn’t from the area, he said it was on account of how calm I seemed (that, and the fact that I didn’t have cell phones in both of my hands-funny man!). I told him that’s because I live on 12 secluded, quiet, forested acres. He responded that, in New York, space is measured in inches, not acres, and that only the likes of Donald Trump & Co. would ever be able to afford the property tax on Big Apple acres.

The space issue, paired with a lunch conversation when I was asked if I’d heard of “window farms”, make me realize the ingenuity and innovation that urban dwellers often exhibit to deal with living tiny. “Window farms,” this week’s small measure, are genius attempts at circumventing the need for terra firma in urban settings. If all you have is a fire escape, or even lacking that, a sunny window, fear not-you can still get in some the green growing action and you don’t even need dirt to make the magic happen.

Window farms are described as vertical hydroponic vegetable gardens fashioned out of recycled materials (such as water bottles), clay pellets, and equipment either purchased inexpensively from a local hardware or home building store or created using appropriated household items, such as a fish tank. A simple reservoir placed at the bottom of the vertical arrangement (which is held in place via wire) pumps a nutrient solution up to the top. As the solution drips, it goes from one bottle into the next, moving down through tiny openings in bottle cap tops placed on each bottle’s inverted neck. Eventually, the solution pools in the reservoir and the whole pumping/dripping process begins anew.

CLICK HERE for the rest of Ashley’s post on Window Farms!

The window farm concept was developed in February 2009 by artists Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray via an artist’s residency program at in New York City. The endeavor was sponsored by , Riley and Bray’s own interactive design firm. They were largely inspired by the impact that growing one’s food can have on the environment. According to their website, , research has indicated that growing some of one’s own food supply is advantageous “not only because of the food industry’s heavy carbon footprint” (think distances food travels from field to fork, heavy use of water, and application of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides, many petroleum derived)” but also because participating in agricultural production cultivates a valuable skill set around sustainability issues.”

Furthermore, many urban residents (particularly those considered low income) often lack access to fresh foods. Resultantly, a greater amount of packaged, manufactured, or otherwise processed (and often nutritionally devoid) food is consumed in such settings. Window farms offer an affordable, low-fi means of circumventing the need to have dirt to put down roots. To date, the diminutive farms have successfully grown tomatoes, kale, beans, cucumbers, arugula, and many herbs. They won’t grow everything (yet!), such as potatoes, or large winter squashes, or any vegetative matter requiring both a good deal of space to spread or put down roots. That said, what can grow successfully in a window farm offers many city dwellers who might otherwise be completely divorced from personal with agriculture the possibility for direct involvement.

Window farms have already garnered a good deal of press. You can read more on the project at , , , and . The first set-up successfully grew 25 plants and a salad in one week. This occurred during mid-winter, via a dimly lit 4’x6′ New York City window. Proof positive, in my opinion, that if you can make it (or grow it!) in New York, you can make it anywhere, whether you’re measuring in inches or acres!

Suggested For You


Leave a Reply

Design*Droits-Humains reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.