From a Convention Center’s Roof, ‘Walk-Off Vegetables’

Sourced from the New York Times

Alan Steel dreams of “walk-off vegetables” the way the beleaguered subspecies known as Mets fans dreams of walk-off homers. At this moment in another season of disappointment, Mr. Steel’s dream seems more likely, although patience is required, just as it is required with the Mets. The first crop won’t be planted until 2021.

Mr. Steel is planning a farm in the sky, on the roof of the extension being built at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on the Far West Side of Manhattan, where he is not only the principal proselytizer for urban agriculture, but also the president and chief executive.

“It gives us a story,” he said, and not just a story that could lead to bookings downstairs, because these days, as he quickly pointed out, “a lot of conventions are about sustainability.”

The story of rooftop farms is one that says something meaningful can be done with the last batch of unused real estate in an increasingly crowded city. Something useful.

That could have important consequences for the cityscape, but seeing “farm” and “city” in the same sentence derailed thoughts of how local locally grown produce could be — in other words, how short the trip from farm to table could be, how much fresher the produce would be when it reached the kitchen, how much less energy would be consumed than when fruits and vegetables are trucked long distances and what other benefits there might be. What came to mind was, admittedly, totally silly: “Green Acres,” the 1960s sitcom that opened with Eddie Albert singing about “land spreadin’ out so far and wide.”

By Manhattan standards, the new farm will do just that. It will run along West 40th Street, at the northern end of the convention center complex, between 11th Avenue and 12th Avenue.

But green acres, plural, it will not be. At 43,000 square feet, the Javits Center farm will not quite cover a single acre, only nine-tenths of one — 0.9871441689623508, with all the decimal places possible in an online conversion program. It will be a tiny fraction of the size of the average farm in the United States, which in 2017 was 444 acres.

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