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Recently, our innovation squadron has been focusing energy toward the future health and vitality of our cities. We see this as an attempt to solve global problems at local levels. This work has allowed us to make a foray into urban agriculture, creating Minnesota’s first rooftop farming company, Cornerstone Rooftop Farms. Our first farm, located in Richfield, sells its fresh, local, organic, rooftop produce to Lucia’s Restaurant at 31st and Hennepin.

As we continue to work towards an ultimate goal of self-sustaining urban areas, we have started conversations with our partners in healthcare. The small piece after the jump is part of Monocle Magazine’s “Singapore Sessions,” a series of discussions bringing experts from diverse fields to the table, exploring solutions to global challenges. This piece is centered around healthcare, but, rather than being purely medically focused, the debate encompasses diet, exercise and other therapies and wellness solutions.

So, what happens if we take a peek beyond what we consider “urban,” rather looking at how we can reuse suburbia in a productive manner in order to make more sense of what and how we go about our seemingly urban lives? Kaid Benfield has this to say about these “farming is the new golf” developments,

“In theory, these “new towns” are great — self-contained entities providing walkability, efficiency, and all the services of a community within the development. So, their proponents (nearly all of whom profit from them, one way or another) claim, it is a good thing to build them almost anywhere. In practice, though, the nearby once-remote locations soon become filled with sprawl, in no small part because of the initial development, and the theoretical self-contained transportation efficiency never comes. They become commuter suburbs, just with a more appealing internal design than that of their neighbors.”

In Ben’s urban growth and development research, this very question came up and the result was an environment wherein gentrification had occurred and low income workers migrated to the first and second ring suburbs. Job retention and creation was high in the CBD, while agricultural infrastructure was built on abandoned shopping center parcels. The centers offered perfect connectivity into the CBD by way of light rail and other regional transit and the vast parking lot acreage provided optimal growing conditions.

An Urban RE:Vision Design Competition finalist created a similar concept:

Designer Forrest Fulton adds “Asphalt farming techniques allow for layering of soil, compost in containers on top of asphalt. The big box store’s roof is partially replaced with a greenhouse roof. Other details, such as the reversal of parking lot light poles into solar trees that hold photovoltaics can be implemented.”

Read more about Big Box Agriculture and The Garden Block Proposal

Thumbnail design: Discovering New Urbanism