Some cities are overcoming this limitation by going vertical and allowing the construction of rooftop gardens. With a range of new ways to grow vegetables in a restricted space such as hydroponics or turning green rooftops into farms, access to fresh produce seems within reach. According to NPR, this trend is evident in Chicago where space is at a premium and where there are already 359 green rooftops that are well suited to convert to gardens. One such green roof has 20,000 square feet of space and is now the largest soil based rooftop farm in the midwest. While there are some barriers to doing this everywhere such as building structural issues and permits, it does have potential.
A similar concept is being tried in Baltimore, where 97% of the produce comes from outside the state of Maryland. According to this article from Johns Hopkins Magazine one project is underway to build a hydroponic garden in a 320 square foot shipping container to demonstrate the feasibility of growing food in a small space. In a city where there is a dense urban population, many abandoned buildings, and local demand for produce, the conditions are right for trying out the concept. By utilizing these spaces with the hydroponic farming concept, more produce will become available that can support the demand and even play a role in the city school system to feed students for instance.
In the future, more buildings will be designed to accommodate a variety of farming methods in and around the structure. In fact, several buildings around the U.S. and the world have already demonstrated that concept. The photo above from Singapore is a very modern example where the garden is on a separate structure spanning across the tops of three buildings. Until more architecture like this exists, enterprising companies and individuals will continue to explore ways to grow produce from existing spaces on urban rooftops as we improve access to fresh healthy food.