Working with local suppliers is important to us, and we’re so excited to be sending our Northeast customers butterhead lettuce from Gotham Greens with our customer favorite Macaroni & Cheese recipe.
Gotham Greens is a global pioneer of urban agriculture, leading the path for commercial scale rooftop farms. They are leading regional producers of hyper-local, premium-quality vegetables and herbs. Gotham Greens’ pesticide-free produce is grown using ecologically sustainable methods in technologically-sophisticated, 100% renewable energy-powered, climate controlled urban greenhouses. Currently, Gotham Greens has built and operates 4 facilities across New York and Chicago. We sat down with Nicole Baum, the Senior Marketing + Partnerships Manager at Gotham Greens to learn a little bit more about the Martha Stewart American Made award winner.
Q: What sparked the idea for Gotham Greens?
It was winter in NYC and our founders realized that most of the produce they were finding in the supermarkets was being flown in or trucked long distances coming from places like Mexico, California, and Israel. By the time the produce made its way to NYC, it was already a week old, had changed hands multiple times and as a result had a really short shelf life. They also began to notice that consumer preferences were shifting toward more local and sustainably produced food and realized there was an opportunity to disrupt the conventional model of agriculture. Overall they were inspired by innovation and technology, and driven by a sense of duty to address ecological issues facing our agricultural system.
Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced?
It’s been incredibly rewarding to build out our team over the years and to see how our company has continued to evolve and flourish. The greatest challenges have come from not having a prototype or precedent for what we’re doing. We built the nation’s first commercial scale rooftop greenhouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn back in 2011 and had to tackle building codes and architectural feats that a traditional farmer growing outside of the city wouldn’t have to address. As a pioneer in the urban agriculture space, we’ve had to learn on our feet and stay flexible. Initially some people thought we were crazy when we said we wanted to build commercial scale farms in the heart of NYC. Six years later, we have four high tech, commercial scale urban greenhouses across two cities with additional projects in the works.
Photo: Gotham Greens
Q: What is your ultimate mission at Gotham Greens?
Our goal is to bring our brand of premium quality urban agriculture to more cities across the country and world making them more sustainable, livable and innovative.
Q: Why urban farming?
Urban farming provides an unparalleled opportunity to increase access to healthy food, foster communities, and increase health and wellness, all while making our cities more green and sustainable. Commercial scale urban farming, as pioneered by Gotham Greens, provides an opportunity to make a significant impact on local food supply and natural resource consumption. By 2050 it’s estimated that two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities and our global population is expected to exceed nine billion! To feed those people, we believe that we need to look towards smarter farming practices that conserve water, reduce carbon emissions and connect people with their food sources. While cities don’t have a ton of arable land or fertile soil, we have tons of unutilized rooftop space. Gotham Greens’ innovative urban greenhouses produce year round fresh produce for our local communities. In both NYC and Chicago, we’re producing over a million pounds of fresh produce each year.
Q: Why NYC and Chicago?
NYC and Chicago are some of the largest cities in the US and they both have strong food scenes but lack fresh, local produce year round. Once we proved that our concept was successful and commercially viable in NYC, we started looking to other cities and Chicago was an easy choice. Both cities have rich histories of urban gardening and green roofs and we’ve been fortunate to have strong support and enthusiasm from our surrounding communities and local partners.
Photo: Gotham Greens
Q: Are there any plans to expand to other cities?
Yes! Now that we’ve proven that urban farming can be done on a commercial scale, year round and across multiple cities, we’re excited to take our concept on the road. We have several new projects in the works and are looking forward to announcing some projects in new cities later this year.
Q: What is your favorite thing about cooking/feeding other people?
“Breaking Bread” and bringing people together over a meal is an incredible way to appreciate cultural differences. A heaping bed of lettuce can be a great canvas for exploring these different flavors and cultures. As a company, we really thrive on the diversity of our team and focus on hiring locally from each of the neighborhoods where our facilities are located. This makes for fun and eclectic potlucks in our offices with dishes ranging from Tibetan momos to Spanish beans and Caribbean jerk chicken. Our line of fresh pesto always make a strong showing at these team lunches as well.
Q: What is your favorite product to grow and why?
I love our open head iceberg variety which we affectionately refer to as our Blooming Brooklyn Iceberg in NYC or our Windy City Crunch in Chicago. It’s really unique as it offers all the crunch that you’d expect from a traditional iceberg lettuce but it’s chuck full of flavor and nutrition. You can see from the color alone that it’s not your average iceberg and its crunchy, juicy stems make this full head lettuce variety particularly photogenic. Gotham Greens is all about growing locally and being culturally relevant in each city we call home, so we customize some of our product names to give homage to our unique locations.