Space is often at a premium in Brooklyn—especially green space. Those who want to grow their own plants and food often have to rely on ingenuity.
One such person is local artist and designer Jenna Spevack. Stuck without a backyard, a community garden, or abundant natural light in her apartment, she devised an ingenious way of growing plentiful micro-greens without any of those things.
By refitting existing furniture—chairs, shelves, bureaus—with a simple irrigation system and cheap, energy-efficient grow lights, she has turned her apartment into a miniature farm without affecting its functionality or dramatically altering its appearance.
“I wanted to spend more time growing food, and perhaps growing it for others,” she says. “I started by turning a shelf of my bookshelf into a little greenhouse. I put in a couple of grow lights and that’s how it started.”
She has since adapted her system to several different objects including a chair, a small wooden chest, and a beautiful Victrola record player that she found abandoned in her studio building on Flatbush Avenue.
For Spevack, the lesson of this project is that people should think creatively about using the objects and the spaces that are available to them.
“I like the idea of using what you have,” she says. “Part of that comes out of not having that many funds at the moment, but it’s [also fun] to make something as beautiful as you can with whatever means you have.”
To that end, all of the materials used in the project were donated, bartered, or salvaged. The lights come from Pegasus Lighting, the seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds, and the soil from Organic Mechanics Soil Company. The homemade irrigation system consists of a pan of water with several strands of hemp rope dangling down into it, wicking the water up to the plants.
Having successfully grown several batches of microgreens, Spevack is now developing her concept into a full-on gallery show, which opens on May 3rd at Mixed Greens, a gallery located at 531 West 26th Street in Manhattan.
In addition to showing off the aesthetics of the project, Spevack hopes the show will inspire people to think in new ways about food, space, and community. Visitors will be able to purchase microgreens at a price of their own choosing, with proceeds going to local non-profits dedicated to urban agriculture.
"[What people choose to pay] will be based on where the money goes," Spevack says. "Because it is going to local non profit organizations, you might want to value it more. The whole idea [of this project] is thinking about how you value things—how you value food, how you value your neighbors, and how you value the society that you operate under."
Startup kits will also be available for those who want to begin a microfarm themselves.