Wendy Coleman wants to bring farming to cities around the world! As the founder of LA Urban Farms, Wendy helps people start farms on rooftops, balconies, and in their own backyards! She is on a mission to create more sustainable, environmentally friendly ways to grow fruits and vegetables that eliminate the need for shipping, and helps to empower people to grow their own produce.
Wendy was inspired by her daughter and co-founder, Tara Coleman, to start LA Urban Farms. “I had never even heard the term vertical farming before, and my daughter Jessica, at the time, was at NYU creating her major all about sustainability,” Wendy tells In The Know. “She talked to me about the importance of vertical farming and how it could help to feed our growing population, and so I thought, ‘What if everybody’s front yard was an edible front yard instead of ornamental? That would solve a lot of problems.’”
The mother-daughter duo started out small with a few vertical farms in their backyard, but quickly expanded to work with businesses and restaurants across Los Angeles. “On the old Google building in Santa Monica, we put 24 gardens on that rooftop and it was the first of its kind,” Wendy recalls. “We started just going to local restaurants in Santa Monica and meeting with chefs and inviting people to come to the rooftop to see it. We started just giving the produce away and sharing our passion for what was happening on that rooftop. And that’s really how our business began.”
LA Urban Farms uses a vertical farming system that utilizes aeroponics to grow plants without the use of soil. Demonstrating how the vertical farming system works, Tara tells In The Know, “The water on the base will shower up and shower the roots every fifteen minutes off and on. And just like our cities that are growing up, these gardens are growing up, and so there’s this opportunity to think about all these unused spaces that are around us, and how we can reclaim them to grow local health food in abundance.”
Wendy explains that vertical farming is perfect for cities because it not only saves space, but saves water as well. “The low wattage submersible pot is bringing the water to the top of the garden and on the way down, it’s showering all the roots of plants like this one with nutrient rich water,” she says. “It’s just recycling over and over again until the plants absorb it or it evaporates. And that’s how it can use 90 percent less water than traditional gardening.”
Wendy hopes to make healthy produce more accessible to urban dwellers, while also helping the planet by saving water and reducing how far food has to travel. “On average, food in America travels over 1,500 miles before it reaches our plate,” Wendy explains. “Any time you can grow your own food, you’re having a positive impact, not only on your body for having food that’s more nutritious, but also on the health of the planet as well.”
In the future, Wendy imagines that cities across the world will use the vertical farming systems that LA Urban Farms is pioneering in Los Angeles. “These gardens make it possible for all of us to be 21st century urban farmers. You can grow in places where you couldn’t have grown before. Think about rooftops, parking lots, balconies, and terraces,” Wendy says. “And the possibilities for you to grow your own food are endless now.”
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