How to Farm in Your Big City Apartment

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Spevack's microgarden

An example of Jenna Spevack's microfarms, cleverly hidden below a table. Photo: Jenna Spevack.

Saying “I live in an urban environment” has long been an excuse to compromise healthy salad greens for convenience, but one New York City-based artist is out to change that.

Jenna Spevack, artist and professor of creative media at City University of New York, has created what she calls “microfarms” – mini gardens of microgreens hidden between bookcases, shelves, desks and boxes, grown with little more than seeds and a small local ecosystem.

In her upcoming exhibit at NYC gallery Mixed Greens from May 3 to June 2, Spevack will feature eight different kinds of microgreen setups in an effort to prove that with little effort, anyone can grow and eat their own healthy food.

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“I developed the microfarm so that it requires little effort – kind of like ‘do nothing farming’ for the city dweller,” Spevack says. “It’s a low-tech, sub-irrigated system that makes it easy for anyone to grow a salad in a bookshelf or under a couch.”

Spevack doesn’t only want to grow greens for herself, but also for her community. At the exhibit, a “farm stand” will serve as a place to buy greens and donate to charities that support urban agriculture.

Patrons will determine how much they’d like to spend on the greens, the proceeds of which will be donated to Spevack’s charity causes – Added Value and Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger. They can then choose to keep the greens for themselves or donate them to the same charities.

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“I looked for organizations that utilize urban agriculture for reasons mentioned above, but also used it as a tool to support citizens in need,” Spevack says. “Both Added Value and Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger educate members of the local community and teach life skills through urban agriculture and farming. This food justice component was an important aspect of my choice to partner with these and other organizations.”

Through her Kickstarter campaign, Spevack hopes to fund the project and spread the idea that anyone can farm in their own home. By donating to the campaign, supporters will receive a sampling of microgreens or varying sizes of their own microgardens. Supporters outside New York City have the option to have their seeds and home gardens shipped to them.

“I’m an artist. So, this project aims to entertain with the spectacle of a couch-turned-microfarm,” Spevack says. “But I’m also a teacher and advocate. So, it also aims to educate.

“I hope to show that anyone can grow their own food and that members of a diverse community with shared interests and values can collaborate and support the common goal of a building a resilient, healthy future.”

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