Do you ever walk around the produce section at Whole Foods and think, "My gosh this stuff looks fresh. Any fresher and they'd have to grow inside the store!" Oh yuck yuck, you're so absurd. How on Earth could a grocery store grow its own groceries inside the store? I mean, maybe if a store in central California where there's lots of space and sunshine could plant a few rows of seeds as a clever marketing stunt, but Whole Foods would have to be out of its mind to think it can actually stock its shelves with ultralocal goods. Right?
Wrong. Whole Foods is doing it. And they're not hiding the experiment away in some quiet tore in rural California either. They're doing smack dab in the middle of Brooklyn. Because if you want to make a point about urban sustainability and local foods, what better place to make it than New York City.
For its batty city farm, Whole Foods announced a new partnership with Gotham Greens this week. The Brooklyn-based produce supplier has been out in front of the urban farming trend since 2011 and already supplies a number of Whole Foods stores in the city with vegetables and leafy greens. Gotham Greens grows its goods on a rooftop in Greenpoint, a neighborhood in North Brooklyn, and doesn't use pesticides making the startup an environmentalist's best friend. Whole Foods loves that shit, too.
The details of Whole Foods' own urban farm are pretty impressive. Already under construction in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn, the new store will feature a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse on its roof. "The specially designed rooftop farm will include advanced irrigation systems that use up to 20 times less water than conventional farming as well as enhanced glazing materials and electrical equipment to reduce overall energy demand," Whole Foods bragged in a press release, adding that the proximity to the rest of New York City will mean that other nearby stores could enjoy the fruits of their labor, too.
That all sounds well and good, but what I really want to know is: Where are all the farmers? Whole Foods is a little bit vague about who will doing the heavy lifting on the rooftop oasis, but one would assume that Gotham Greens is going to staff up in order to get the operation off the ground. Along those lines, Whole Foods also brags that they'll be creating a lot of "green collar jobs" in the area, which sounds like a yuppie's way of saying they're giving back to the community.
But the residents of Gowanus know what's really going on. This bourgie takeover has been in the works for at least six years. Whole Foods was going to open a store and then they weren't and then they were and then there were protests about a historical 19th century building that Whole Foods ultimately did not tear down. The new store "hugs" the old building. And with the arrival of Whole Foods in what used to be a working class neighborhood comes the arrival of condos and yoga studios and all the other things that hipsters like.
Whether the locals like it or not, that Whole Foods will open, and those green-collared hipsters will till the soil of its rooftop farm. Most of the people that have lived nearby for the past few decades won't be able to afford the groceries, and as the neighborhood continues to change, they probably won't be able to afford rent either. If you don't like it, move to Queens. Because Brooklyn has not yet begun to gentrify.