There once was a day in which the majority of our food was produced on a local farm.
Now, most people are lucky if they can keep a basil plant alive. (Note: They don't die easily.)
Most edible material in the store has been grown thousands of miles away, processed in one way or another, and shipped to major grocery chains. So much for the local economy.
Over the past few years, many individuals have grown tired of the mass-produced, unsustainable, monoculture farming. And many local food advocates have been fighting tooth and nail to localize the food system. Michael Madfis of Fort Lauderdale Vegetables is one of them. After years of decentralized farming in urban settings, he set up a farm on a plot of land right smack dab on downtown Fort Lauderdale's Andrews Avenue about six months back.
Now he's planning to expand with a second farm on the terrace of 110 Tower, a high-rise across the street.
Madfis' vision of decentralized urban farming includes a main hub, such as the original plot of land on Andrews Ave, and a network of piers, which will help to keep a steady supply of fresh, local produce.
Situated on the top of a parking garage seven stories up, on a terrace, the new farm will serve as the first pier in Madfis' plan. The space includes over an acre of growing area -- larger than the than original farm across the street.
While details are still being hashed out, the goal is to eventually use the building as a marketplace. With over two thousand occupants in the building, Madfis is hoping to sell from one of the retail spaces once a week or even directly from the rooftop farm itself.
Currently, the seventh floor of the building, which grants access to the terrace, is in the process of a demolish for the new tenants; so it doesn't look like customers will be able to access the farm until the build out is completed.
Even though the space is going to be used as a working farm, Madfis is aiming to make sure the area is visually pleasing.
"The building owners told us 'to take out as much of the existing landscaping as you like,'" said Madfis. "We're going to install 600 [grow] bags into the existing planters and even the former fountain, so you won't be able to see the bags. It's going to have a nice aesthetic."
The rooftop location comes with a different set of rules from farming on the ground. Bees and other pollinators don't fly that high, so Madfis is looking into the possibility of installing a hive.
The same rules go for other beneficial and predatory insects. It could either help or seriously harm the farm.
"If an aphid or something similar gets on up there on someone's clothes, there will be nothing to stop it from eating everything," said Madfis. "You see this in greenhouses frequently. It sounds like it would be much easier to prevent predatory insects, but they can be easily contaminated; once one gets in, it can wreak havoc."
Even though the elevated location might present some different problems, Madfis is excited to expand upon his local network of farms.
"Sometime in the next six months, we expecting to double our footprint," he said. "Maybe even triple it by this time next year. We're hoping to really be able to satisfy the market of providing for local restaurants by expanding our capacity."
For the record: We hope he does too.
To learn more about Fort Lauderdale Vegetables or decentralized farming, visit the website at fortlauderdalevegetables.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.