Why Urban Gardening Landed At The U.S.’s 5th Busiest Airport

T5 Farm at JFK International

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Airport sustainability? Farm-to-plane? No matter what you call it, urban gardening is soaring to new heights with JetBlue’s new outdoor ‘T5 Farm’ at Terminal 5 in John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Urban gardening takes off

A variety of partners, including GrowNYC, TERRA Real Vegetable Chips, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, came together to create the garden which showcases New York’s agriculture. The urban gardening initiative also helps promote TERRA Blues chips, a complimentary snack on JetBlue flights which are plentiful at JFK airport.

  • The urban garden is 24,000 square feet and currently is growing more than 1,000 herbs and vegetable plants, including the blue potatoes for TERRA Blues, of course.
  • The urban garden is expected to yield two crops each year of the blue potatoes that TERRA Real Vegetable Chips uses.
  • Each harvest will produce more than 1,000 pounds.
T5 Farm at JFK International

T5 Farm at JFK International. Urban Farming is clear for take off.

Currently, the blue potatoes are grown in Maine, and then processed in New Jersey. No plans are in place to use the airport harvest for making the TERRA Blues chips, though.

Farm-to-airplane

In addition to the blue potatoes, arugula, beets, kale, basil, rosemary, mint, fennel and sage will also be tended to by JetBlue farm manager Katrina Ceguera.

Showcasing how urban farms can easily be a part of a sustainable community, the ground-level farm on the departures level of T5 is actually made from 2,300 plastic milk crates bolted together to create a raised gardening bed on a slab of concrete.

Soil used in the raised beds was created from leftovers from restaurants in the T5 terminal at JFK. Each day, roughly 300 pounds of food scraps are hauled away and composted, then brought back for the urban garden to be used in the crates.  The produce grown will be used in some of the eating establishments in the T5 terminal and also donated to local food pantries.

It is expected that students will be able to visit the farm to learn more about urban gardening, and one day passengers traveling to or from JFK will be able to visit the modern farm, too.

Creating an urban farm always has its challenges based on site plans and specific needs. And, building a raised bed garden at an airport is no different. The milk crates were spaced so that there were emergency exit lanes to facilitate a quick escape out of the airport. Birds are also not something that airports want flying around planes, so crops were chosen with care to attract smaller insects, such as bees and butterflies.

Never before have urban farming and airports been talked about in the same thought. These creative partners are changing that and raising awareness about what sustainability can look like – even at one of the world’s busiest airports.

Check out this awesome time lapse video, courtesy of GrowNYC!

Imagery courtesy of JetBlue

Kimberly Button

Kimberly Button is the author of The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home and the Editor-in-Chief of GetGreenBeWell , featuring modern, sane ideas for living a non-toxic life. A professional journalist for nearly two decades, Button has written for magazines such as Martha Stewart's Whole Living, American Airlines, AAA, Sierra, National Geographic Traveler, and Vegetarian Times. Visit KimButton.com for more information.

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