By Fredrica Syren:
We have gone from growing food at farms in the countryside to bringing it into the city and growing it in our gardens. Nowadays urban gardening is a way of life and, with creativity, people find ways to grow their own food in the middle of cities on any little green spot. For Johannes Wätterbäck, this was all old news since he has been growing food in his house in the countryside and then all around his apartment, but this was challenging. Johannes is a gardening book author who also runs the blog “Fabror Grön” (“Uncle Green”). He is from a town in Sweden, loves gardening, and always is up for a challenge. So when a friend of his looked at the rooftop of his office in an insurance company and thought, “Why not grown food here?” Johannes decided to take it on.
Now, it seems as if growing anything on a rooftop should be straight forward, but it comes with some extra challenges you don’t face with a conventional garden. First, all the material for the rooftop farm — from greenhouse to raised beds and soil and much much, more —had to be carried there … up the stairs. “The greenhouse I brought up in pieces, and it took me over 7 hours straight, so I did that instead of going to the gym,” Johannes explained. Another unexpected problem for Johannes ended up being a seagull who was protecting eggs she had laid: she did not share Johanna’s enthusiasm for growing a garden that near her nest. “For a while I was attacked every time I came up here to work on the farm,” Johannes says. Another problem is that he does not have a natural way to dispose of any garden waste like soil, old plants, leaves and branches; so everything has to be packed up in trash bags and carried down the stairs, put into a car and then transported to a recycling center. The extra work is still worth it, though, because the rooftop garden is producing loads of wonderful fruits and vegetables while also beautifying a simple building in the middle of the city, and using otherwise unused space for greening the planet. “What I really like about a roof top farm is that growing food on a roof top is perfect because it does not take way any public green areas and roof tops are usually vacant.” Johannes explains.
Today, Watterback’s rooftop farm holds many raised beds as well as a greenhouse. All the plants are initially grown in Johanna’s basement from seeds, then the seedlings are planted on the rooftop. The farm now produces everything from pumpkins, melons and eggplants to super spicy chili peppers.
I have to say that my time with Johannes was very inspiring. It’s so amazing to see how growing food is becoming a “city” activity that brings people together, beautifies the city, and does good for the planet. I hope Johannes and his family will keep helping and inspiring others to look around and ask themselves, “Can I grow something here?”
“There are so many places to grow plants and food, but what’s lacking is people who can and want to grow. Everything else is right here waiting.”