A NYCHA resident and Green City Force graduate launches farm inside a shipping container.
Paul Philpott, 25, has grown various veggies on his farm, Gateway Greens, such as kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, and a variety of herbs, including sage, thyme, and oregano. But Gateway Greens doesn’t look the way most people imagine farms. Instead of rolling hills, barns, and tractors, Philpott’s farm is housed inside of a 40-foot shipping container in Brooklyn.
A resident of Lexington Houses in East Harlem, Philpott is one of the first group of entrepreneurs to work with Square Roots, an urban farming company that aims to empower young people to grow real food by helping them grow crops in vertical farms built in shipping containers. Philpott’s farm uses hydroponic technology, in which plants are grown in water instead of soil. Hydroponic farming can be done literally anywhere.
Philpott, a recent graduate of the Green City Force (GCF) Urban Farm Corps, was chosen to speak at GCF’s Urban Farm Corps graduation on January 19. As a GCF Corps Member he maintained the Red Hook Farm and helped build the three farms at Bayview, Howard, and Wagner Houses. The NYCHA Journal spoke with Philpott to learn more about his farm and the importance of local foods.
Why are hydroponic farms and local foods important?
Having more local food can help make a change to the food system we currently use. One thing we need to change is bringing produce from California and Florida and other faraway places to our stores. Buying locally grown vegetables and fruit will diminish our already high carbon footprint and grow more jobs in urban agriculture. One of the best things about hydroponic systems is their minimal environmental impact: They can be indoors like my farm and grow crops all year-round, even if the season outside is not right for it.
What have you learned being an entrepreneur with Square Roots?
We learn so much about sales, profit, customers, marketing, and working in hydroponic systems, but the thing that will stick with me the most is to sell my story, not just the produce I am selling.
What are your goals with your farm?
I want to bring more awareness around this idea of local food, urban farming, and agriculture. It’s not just knowing where the food comes from but who is growing your food and how it’s grown. I plan on starting memberships to my farm. All members will have weekly harvests to pick up or have delivered to their doors. No matter which they choose, the produce will go from my hands to theirs. They will know the farmer that put his time and love into their fresh produce. I would also like to work with a culinary school to help students get a full understanding of the food they’re making.