It's estimated that on a given day, Chicago has over 80,000 vacant lots, spanning from 6,000 to 9,000 acres. Since 1975, Kenn Dunn, of the Resource Center, a nonprofit environmental education organization in the city, has been transforming some of these abandoned spaces into gardens, with the help of community members. Dunn's green acres often have to move because of shifting urban planning, and recently, five young Chicago designers came up with the Mobile City Farmstead that allows his team to move in style. Using a diverse range of materials, such as straw bales, salvaged shipping crates, and canvas, they have teamed together to create a uniquely urban architectural prototype that doubles as an excellent place to buy salad greens.
While living in Manhattan usually means abandoning hopes of maintaining a garden, this Carnegie Hill town house includes a garden space that is home to ostrich ferns, Leucothoe, and three ginkgo biloba trees.
Laura Gabbert and Andrew Avery were looking for ways to put their seven-acre property in Los Angeles' Glassell Park to use when they met urban farmer Tara Kolla. Kolla, who heads Silver Lake Farms, legendary for its jewel-like flowers, set about transforming a section of their lot into a lush garden. Because of the limited growing space in her own backyard, Kolla relies on generous homeowners like Gabbert and Avery. "We develop growing grounds that are totally productive to us but still look lovely so the residents can enjoy them," she notes.
Pioneering chef Alice Waters has been converting schoolyards into spaces where children can grow plants and learn about making food since 1995. Her latest site, at P.S. 216 in Brooklyn, was designed by WORKac and is housed in a glass enclosure that features a greenhouse, raised beds, a chicken coop, and an indoor kitchen classroom. The structure channels runoff rainwater from its roof for reuse in the greenhouse.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Havana has become one of the world's hotbeds for urban farming, with approximately 75% of produce consumed within the city having been grown there. Farms are often located in major parks and more than 87,000 acres are dedicated to urban agriculture. Here, at the Vivero Alamar organopónico, growers harvest carrots that have been grown without pesticides or herbicides, instead using compost tea, mushroom rhizomes, artisanal pest control products, and permaculture strategies such as intercropping.
In Charleston, South Carolina, a young couple transformed a run-down 19th-century building into an inviting home complete with an extensive vegetable garden lined with citrus trees.