Brownfield Restoration

In many cities, areas known to urban planners as “brownfields” are being transformed into sites appropriate for urban agriculture. The EPA defines a brownfield as a “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” This site from the EPA has more technical information on brownfield remediation.

An excellent example of a city restoring a contaminated site and making it productive for agriculture can be seen in Buffalo, NY, where a commercial farmer is now growing tomatoes on a 35 acre farm that was once an industrial site. Another great example is in the city of Philadelphia, with the Greensgrow Philadelphia Project. Once a galvanized steel plant, the project now consists of a 6000 sq. foot greenhouse, raised beds, a 1500 sq. foot nursery ‘hoophouse’, a 4,000 sq. foot hydroponics system, assorted flower beds, bee hives, a farm market, and a retail nursery area. The project intends to expand with the addition of a 6000 sq. foot lot adjacent to the main farm that will become a vermiculture project.

The Greensgrow project’s philosophy is not only to provide top quality produce to local residents, but to serve as an educational center for urban consumers about how food is grown and the importance of buying produce close to home. The CEO of Greensgrow states, “we serve as a clearinghouse of information on urban agriculture issues, advocate adoption of urban agriculture as a tool for neighborhood redevelopment and act as a de facto extension agent for individuals, organizations and institutions seeking information on alternative growing systems and reuse of ‘brownfield’ land for green use.” Learn more at the project’s homepage

Want to Learn More About Brownfield Restoration? has a fact sheet defining  brownfields and explaining how they can be restored and how the fields can be used. There is also an article by Jane Dorward that provides further information and shows how the fields can be restored to become more useful and aesthetically appealing.

Brownfield Land Restoration  is a website that details initiatives to restore contaminated lands by using wildlife habitat improvements. It covers case studies, technical information, and partnerships. You can also sign up for a newsletter to stay up to date on the latest news and information.

LFPress has an interesting article on the latest techniques being used to restore previously contaminated industrial sites. The plan of attack is to send nanoparticles into the soil to react chemically with the chlorinated solvents found at industrial sites to eliminate the harmful compounds. A major advantage of this approach is that it negates the necessity of digging up the contaminants, protecting the public from exposure to them.

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