As vertical farming takes root in Philly, City Council hears of economic potential

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Some of the greens grown in Philadelphia. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Some of the greens grown in Philadelphia. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

At a Philadelphia City Council hearing, discussions of vertical farming raised some hopes for the city economy as urban farmers grow produce year round.

Vertical farming involves growing food indoors, in some cases without pesticides to make the results certified organic.  

Jack Griffin, president of Metropolis Farms in South Philadelphia, said technology has scaled down the space needed for agriculture such as his vertical-farming, hydroponic, vegan farm. Now the urban farmers need buyers for their crops and a new work force.

“Replacing the blue-collar jobs that we’ve lost with these new green-collar jobs that are supported by localized demand so they are going to be there.  We also know they are not going leave,” Griffin said. “We’re not interested in building an industry in Philadelphia and leaving, because Philadelphia is also our customer.”

Councilman Al Taubenberger, who graduated from Penn State with a degree in agriculture, said he believes vertical farming can help neighborhoods by making use of vacant factories.

“There are food deserts, there are problems here — people need jobs, people need nutrition,” he said. “I think we are on the cutting edge of something very special.”

The farms are a secret part of the city economy that should be recognized and promoted, added city controller Alan Butkovitz.

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