Rob Stephenson | Urban Agriculture: Growing in NYC

In 1917 the Mayor’s Committee on Food Gardens issued a report documenting the creation of nearly 12,000 gardens and 1,120 acres of large plots dedicated to growing vegetables in New York City. Nearly one hundred years later, many New Yorkers have no access to fresh produce and those that do often eat food that has traveled hundreds if not thousands of miles. Economic, social and environmental concerns have fueled a revival of urban agricultural in the city.

That there is still arable land within walking distance of a subway and that a rooftop can produce as much food as a field challenges preconceptions of urban and agricultural landscapes. These images look at how traditional methods of agriculture have been adapted to succeed in an urban environment, examining the evolving relationship between a city and its food source.

Though the city still offers surprisingly pastoral spaces to farm, the future of urban agriculture is
in the adaptation of traditional growing techniques. With the influx of people to cities and a continuing rise in the financial and environmental costs of shipping food, the widespread and large-scale adoption of urban agriculture seems inevitable. New York City, with its network of backyard vegetable plots, community gardens and rooftop farms, is at the forefront of this transformation.

The project was made possible thanks in large part to Design Trust for Public Space Fellowship who also published a book of the work, From Roof to Table, in 2012.

– Rob Stephenson

Rob Stephenson’s work has been exhibited at numerous galleries and museums including The Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Jen Bekman Gallery, and The Museum of the City of New York. He has been awarded the Design Trust for Public Space Photo Urbanism fellowship and a 2013 NYFA Artist Fellowship and has been a darkroom resident at the Camera Club of New York. His first book, From Roof to Table, documenting the urban agriculture movement in New York City, was published in 2012. He lives in Brooklyn, NY