Underneath New York City’s grid of traffic jams and steaming manholes, a basement contains a jungle of tiny herbs. From Thai basil to bright-faced violets, the plants grow under the glow of LEDs, their roots suspended in nothing but water. This is Farm.One, a hydroponic urban farm growing unique and flavorful herbs, flowers, and greens right in the middle of Manhattan’s restaurant scene. The vertical farm, which is open to visitors for tours, supplies bike-delivered greens to local restaurants.
The farm is based on hydroponics, meaning that plants grow with their roots submerged directly in water, not soil. This model of farming stresses sustainability. The farm doesn’t use pesticides, and they use 95 percent less water than conventional farming. And because the farm is so close to the specialty restaurants that use its produce, delivery emissions are virtually zero.
At any given time, the farm grows around 100 varieties of specialty herbs, flowers, and greens. Visitors can sample the fuzzy lavender petals of anise-hyssop flowers—minty with a light licorice flavor—or the surprisingly piney tang of raw cilantro berries. Even rarer plants are available for purchase online, including toothache (also known as “Szechuan”) buttons, whose citrusy, mouth-tingling finish can indeed help numb your oral woes, and the “cheese plant,” a coffee tree vine whose leaves linger on the taste buds with “an unusual finish of creamy roquefort.”
While at-home enthusiasts can purchase these ingredients directly from the Farm.One website, fancy restaurants form the bulk of the farm’s clientele. Conventionally, these urban eateries sourced their rare ingredients from much farther afield, using plane, train, and automobile to transport uniquely flavored flowers and herbs from upstate New York and beyond. Farm.One is helping cut down on some of those emissions costs by growing rare ingredients closer to the table. For those of us who can’t afford a white-tablecloth dining experience, however, tours of the farm come with ample taste-testing.
Update: In 2021, the company moved to a 10,000 square-foot indoor facility in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood.
Know Before You Go
Visitors have to sign up for tours in advance on the Farm.One website.