GrowNYC takes its urban garden network indoors to help establish a stronger connection between New Yorkers and the food they eat.
For most city dwellers, involvement with farm-fresh produce goes little further than a meander through weekend food markets. But in a space just off East 13th Street, GrowNYC is aiming to reconnect concrete-locked New Yorkers to the food they eat. Located within the Hyatt Union Square, Project Farmhouse is the non-profit’s first bricks-and-mortar home in its 45-year existence. The tall, narrow space, by Brooklyn’s ORE Design + Technology, is a unique hub in the heart of the city, a spot for kids and adults alike to re-establish roots with the earth.
GrowNYC operates 52 farmers’ markets around the city, builds community gardens and educates students about the natural environment. Last year, 6,000 school children toured their outdoor markets, and now they have a spot to extend that learning in the hands-on Boffi SoHo Teaching Kitchen within Project Farmhouse. “The kitchen needed to be elegant, and high utility,” says ORE principal Thomas Kosbau. (Boffi donated its iconic Xila system, to contribute to the group’s aims in a tangible way.) “GrowNYC has many sustainable programs that champion access to fresh food in the city, which led us to focus the assembly space around food education,” says Kosbau.
The setting is a cheeky nod to the quintessential farmhouse with its vaulted ceiling of suspended sound baffles (made from recycled plastic bottles, another gesture to the group’s sustainable mandate). ORE has worked with GrowNYC on rooftop farms and vertical growing systems before, and these experiences evolved into a hydroponic green wall as a major feature and education tool in the space. While cooking, chefs can select herbs and vegetables on the fly. “Kids love it, too. Most of the students haven’t seen anything like this,” says Laura McDonald, events director for Project Farmhouse. “It’s another way for us to interact with the food we eat.”