By Jasmine Hibbitt
With each seed that is planted and every vegetable picked, a sustainable food system in New York City is becoming a reality. And thanks to photographer Rob Stephenson's solo exhibition From Roof to Table at the Camera Club in New York (CCNY), we can get a comprehensive look at the marriage of agriculture and urbanism.
In 2011, Stephenson was granted the Photo Urbanism fellowship by the Design Trust for Public Space to contribute to the organization's Five Borough Farm Project. A year later, he presented photos that capture New York City as a place where vegetable gardens thrive, forged by a dedicated subset of farmers that are making local produce closer then we could ever imagine.
Part of his collection includes images of strikingly tall buildings as the backdrop to plots of land that grow rows of kale, cabbage, tomatoes and more. Here, Stephenson said he "wanted to contextualize urban gardens in the city," and by doing so, gave us a scope of how agriculture is being carved into the skyscape.
Others removed a sense of being in the city by focusing on the gardeners and the plots they tend to. Set in areas flourishing with plants that shoot sky high or shrubs that line dusty dirt paths, these images reveal the presence of an agricultural livelihood in our five boroughs.
His objective was to "show the diversity of approaches to urban agriculture and make a document of the adapability of city spaces to food cultivation." The gardeners he met figured out ways to employ modern farming practices, such as using raised beds to avoid contaminating the soil with lead, that result in better quality produce and higher yields.
Stephenson's photographic project shows New York City as home to a network of growers who use innovative and resourceful techniques to grow crops on buildings and in between. It is evidence that a sustainable food system can take root in a major city with hard work and a clear vision. And once you see it, you'll believe it.
For more info about From Roof to Table go to:
For more info about the exhibit at the CCNY go to:
Rob Stephenson's website: www.RobStephenson.com
Jasmine Hibbitt is an Assistant Food Editor at First For Women magazine and volunteers with Slow Food NYC.