Report Back: Farm Hack NYC
Last weekend, Brooklyn and Queens played host to New York City’s first Farm Hack. The event brought together many young urban farmers, designers, architects, and community-makers.
The gathering took on a distinct complexion in the context of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath. The damage left in the storm’s wake lent a powerful focus on the challenges unique to metropolitan infrastructures, and their capacity to overcome difficulties such as extreme weather. More than anything, the event highlighted the urgency for urban populations to generate positive change through engaging in a real relationship with innovation.
The Hack kicked off in Williamsburg at DB Co-op, a design guild whose projects focus on creating human-powered technology. Their current includes a series of composting machines, including a dry shredder and barrel sifter.
From there, our caravan moved onward via subway and bicycle to a composting and nursery site used by the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. Though the site had suffered flood damage, the discussion continued to be very lively, and stressed the recurring topic of bioremediaton, a crucial process in dealing with depleted and contaminated urban soils.
At the nearby Gowanus Studio Space, the group heard from Build It Green NYC on their scaffolding material reclamation project for raised bed construction in the city, and learned about the preservation of the city’s waterways from NYC Water.
Jae Lee of Project EATS also spoke on the inventiveness needed to address rodent problems at one of the organization’s newest community garden sites in Harlem, and Lenny Librizzi of GrowNYC demoed a bicycle-powered rooftop rainwater harvesting system.
The first evening concluded with a tour and serious feast at Brooklyn Grange’s impressive rooftop farm in Long Island City, the largest of its kind in the world.
The second day of the event took place at 3rd Ward’s education and coworking space. Presentations included a discussion on hyper-mobile milk-crate farming from Zach Pickens of Riverpark Farm, a talk from Our Goods, a web-based barter system that seeks to redefine how we value one another’s time and work, and from 596 Acres, a NYC vacant land mapping project. Feedback Farms also spoke about their continued research efforts in exploring various urban farm technologies, such as sub-irrigated planter design and automated watering systems.
Speakers Leonora Zoinsein and Liam Turkle continued the ongoing thematic dialogue of reinterpreting the parameters of “value” in our culture, leading into the highly spirited Design Charrette, which rounded out the weekend.
By the end of the day on Sunday, the NYC group was already discussing future collaborations and a possible regular meet-up in the city. We will keep you posted!
Thank you to all of our hosts, farms upstate and downstate for the fall bounty, and of course our head event chef Hannah Black.
For notes, news, and continued discussion, head to the Farm Hack NYC Forum.
Event photos viewable on the Greenhorns Flickr.