Urban Agriculture: Sprouting Farms on Rooftops and Empty Lots


Sea Change Radio returns for a second week’s coverage of the 35th Annual Conference of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA.) Sea Change Co-Host Bill Baue speaks with Gardening the Community (GtC) Director Ippy Amatul-Wadud and her sister Qamaria about this project of NOFA Massachusetts that teaches youth about organic farming in the city.  And he also speaks with Top Sprouts co-founders Alice Leung and Akshay Kolte about their startup company that puts greenhouses atop downtown buildings.

Last week’s show featured keynoter Will Allen of Growing Power in Chicago singing praises to inner-city youth for teaching him the value of bridging generations by connecting to the land.  This week, we speak with some of those inner-city youth who are seeding a love for urban agriculture.

Qamiria3Bill caught up with sisters Ippy and Qamaria Amatul-Wadud of Gardening the Community in the exhibition tent at the NOFA conference, where the youth team tabling for GtC stood out in their orange t-shirts.  Ippy and Qamaria’s enthusiasm shone brighter than their shirts, as they described their passion for urban gardening.  Amidst the din of the crowds, Bill asked Qamaria to explain what Gardening the Community does — and what her favorite aspect of the program, based in Springfield, Massachusetts, is.  The commitment to biking gtc-bikeas transportation to and from the gardens, Qamaria responded without skipping a beat, as it avoids driving cars and burning fossil fuels!

Next, Bill spoke with Ibtihaj, or Ippy, the nickname she goes by.  She piggybacked on her sister’s comments, describing in depth what it means for her to be director of Gardening the Community.

Last week, Sea Change Co-Host Francesca Rheannon invited presenters Abby Youngblood of Just Food in New York City and Scott Kellogg of the Rhizome Collective in Austin, Texas for an interview in the nearby WMUA studios, where we produce Sea Change.  At the end of the interview, they touched on the issue of rooftop greenhouses.  At about the same time, Bill was in the exhibition tent chatting with AkshayAkshay Kolte about Top Sprouts, a startup company he’s co-founding with Alice Leung to put greenhouses on rooftops in Boston and throughout New England.  The brief interview left Bill hungry for more information on Top Sprouts, so he arranged a phone interview with Kolte and Heung.

The team described how the idea to launch Top SproutsTopSprouts got planted in their heads.  They also discuss the potential for stimulus funding to support rooftop greenhouses in the future, as well as their intention of engaging with the US Green Building Council urging them to add points to LEED certification for rooftop greenhouses.  Finally, they touch on the social justice aspects of urban agriculture, affirming their intention to make rooftop greenhouses available for low-income housing, as well as creating green jobs for lower-income workers.

About Bill Baue

Bill Baue is Co-Director of Sea Change Media, a non-profit that makes connections in the shift to social, environmental, and economic sustainability. He co-hosts/produces Sea Change Radio, a nationally syndicated show that podcasts globally.