7 Offbeat Urban Farms Found Around the World

August 10, 2017

Urban farms are popping up all over the world as more communities are gaining interest in growing their own food as a way to address access, boost local economy, and spark conversations around our food systems. There's something magical about starting a seedling, tending to its growth, and harvesting it from the earth to eat. These days, you don't necessarily need soil or lots of space to grow food, as new ways and technologies to grow it are developed.

Below, we highlight seven ingenious and unexpected community farms. Now, how can we incorporate something similar into our own neighborhoods?

Brussels' UFU sightings: Urban Farm Units Photo by Designboom

Shipping containers are repurposed into all sorts of uses now. In Brussels, Damien Chivialle created one into an Urban Farm Unit, or UFU. The shipping container was designed with a greenhouse roof extension, and the entire unit has the ability to move and live wherever there is space. Hyrdoponic technology is used to grow fresh vegetables to supply local residents or restaurants, and act as a public educational garden space.

Denmark's Impact Farm would be our go-to hangout if we were nearby Photo by Human Habitat

Design firm Human Habitat takes a similar lead in Denmark, but they refurbished a shipping container into a two-story timber greenhouse. This zero-waste, pop-up project is called Impact Farm, and produces two to four tons of fruit and vegetables a year using solar energy (it can also be disassembled for relocation). The structure serves as a farm hub, cooking space, food venue, and educational workshop. The ground floor is used as multipurpose work and community recreation space. We can't imagine a better way to maximize this kind of square footage.

Public Farm 1 was the iconic structure at PS1's 10th annual summer music event series Photo by Raymond Adams
PF1's farm canopy and play space Photo by Elizabeth Felicella

PF1 was a temporary art installation at MoMA's PS1 during the summer of 2008. We think it was a wonderful idea to turn a cultural destination into a community play space that incorporated food. Aside from being an impressive sculpture, it was a place that provided refuge from the sun and hosted farmers' markets. This innovative urban garden used recyclable cardboard tubes to grow vegetables, offer solar-powered cell phone charging stations, and pools of water to cool down with.

A lush oasis among N.Y.C.'s skylines Photo by Brooklyn Grange Farm

Brooklyn Grange may be the world's largest rooftop soil farm that spreads across two roofs in New York City, growing 50,000 pounds of organic food per year. They also keep more than 30 naturally-managed honeybee hives on roofs dispersed across the city. Although it is a rooftop farming and green roofing business, Brooklyn Grange hosts educational programming, offers consultation, and nonprofit partnerships that promote healthy communities.

So far, 26 lawns have been converted into lush vegetable patches through Fleet Farming Photo by Inhabitat
Fleet Farming is a community effort that rallies volunteers and cyclists to transport food Photo by Fleet Farming

Okay, Fleet Farming isn't necessarily an urban farm, but it is a principle that can be implemented in any community, including urban environments. This Orlando, Florida-based initiative is the modern neighborhood victory garden. Think about all of those empty, grassy front yards that require fertilizers and maintenance, only to not be used. This organization transforms lawns into vegetable gardens. Community members can opt to rent their front lawns and host a fleet farm. All of the produce is available for homeowners and the surplus produce is then sold at local farmers' markets or restaurants within a five-mile radius.

In Japan, urban farms find new homes in train stations Photo by Machinaka Saien

There are rooftop community gardens spread all over Japan's train stations known as Sorado Farms. East Japan Railway Company has planned to build community gardens on top of, or near, each of its stations. If you're waiting for a train, why not get your hands a little dirty? Community members are able to purchase fresh seasonal produce or rent their own plot of land to grow their own food.

Just one of the elements of Dublin's Urban Farm initiatives Photo by Dublin Globe

Urban Farm is Ireland's first rooftop farm located in Dublin. The farm stems from being an educational project to promote sustainable living, urban agriculture, cooking, and food sharing within their community. The Urban Farm aims to make growing food a more approachable subject for people to incorporate into their everyday lives. A few noteworthy programs include: ThankPotato, where 180 different heritage and heirloom varieties are grown in upcycled water coolers; Urban Oyster, which is a community outreach program that teaches people how to grow mushrooms and compost from used coffee grounds; and Social Hops engages the community to collaborate and grow their own hops to reduce carbon emissions from importing hops, encouraging locals to develop their own craft brews.

Shop the Story

Do you know of any inspiring urban farms here or around the world? Share them with us in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Lyna Vuong

Written by: Lyna Vuong

I'm a food studies grad student, cook, and interior designer. (I love a colorful palate/palette!)

1 Comment

Annie P. August 10, 2017
Up Top Acres is doing great stuff on the roofs of Washington, DC buildings!