Words by Tess Becker
Food deserts - or areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food - take up much of the United States. You might imagine these are found only in rural and uninhabited land across the country. But they also include major cities and communities in disadvantaged areas.
To transform one of these deserts into a haven, Compton California has unveiled a new indoor farm with the goal of improving access to fresh food while bringing more jobs to the city.
The farm was built by Plenty, an organization that specializes in vertical farming - a form of agriculture suited to the limited space afforded in densely packed urban areas.
The company expects the farm to produce up to 4.5 million pounds of leafy greens annually in a single city block.
“Plenty is an indoor growing company so we grow plants inside without the sun in controlled environments,” said Plenty CEO Arama Kukutai. “We are producing leafy greens and we also produce tomatoes, in the future, we'll be producing strawberries and other fruit and produce.”
The Compton farm has only been open for six months but is already benefiting the community.
“The Plenty Compton Farm is bringing field-scale farming back to Compton and introducing a new generation of our community to careers in agriculture – more than 30% of the farm’s hires came from Compton,” said Mayor Emma Sharif. “Plenty’s farm is a model for how we can increase access to fresh, locally grown food for urban populations, while supporting cities’ economic development.”
Ideally, the farm in Compton will serve as a template for future endeavors, improving the California farming system.
“California agriculture is at the forefront of efforts to ensure climate-resilient food systems through the adoption of innovative technologies and practices,” said Secretary Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture. “Plenty’s new indoor vertical farm is an example of those efforts and provides an important additional method to grow fresh produce in urban centers, closer to consumers, reducing the draw on our natural resources.”
Plenty's greens are now available at Bristol Farms, Whole Foods Market stores and local grocers in Compton.
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Beacon Food Forest. This is one of the largest food forests in the country. Find out more and support them here.
Cultural Survival. They are an indigenous-led nonprofit focused on empowering indigenous Americans and helping the planet. Find out more.