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Rouses Markets' rooftop garden catches air

Rouses Markets puts a new spin on the local produce trend with an aeroponic rooftop garden to supply its customers with herbs.

The local movement doesn’t get any closer than the rooftop. That’s where a New Orleans grocer has planted herbs for the market below.

Rouses Markets officially launches its aeroponic urban farm today (May 31, 2012).

The vertical Tower Garden uses air and a timed mist rather than soil, with “plots” growing up rather than out. A former Disney greenhouse manager developed the system used at the amusement parks as well as the Chicago O'Hare Airport Eco-Farm and Manhattan’s Bell Book & Candle restaurant.

The market calls the project Roots on the Rooftop.

Chef Louis “Jack” Treuting, Rouses culinary director, foresaw future-looking farm as a way to provide fresh herbs for the food the market’s chefs prepare. But he quickly saw potential to expand the program to package and sell herbs as well.

"I knew if our chefs wanted it, so would our customers," he said in a press release.

Managing partner Donny Rouse envisions many possibilities for the farm.

"The flat rooftop on this store is perfect for urban farming," Rouse said. "And the view of downtown is postcard-perfect. I imagine we will do a lot of dinners up here on the farm."

A focus on local has been the way of Rouses Markets since the family started in the produce business. Anthony J. Rouse grew up working for his father’s produce shipping company, City Produce, before opening his first grocery store in 1960. The company, operated by the second and third generation of the Rouse family, now has 38 locations in two states.

“My grandfather was a farmer at heart,” says Rouse. “He would have loved everything about this."

New York-based BrightFarm, too, envisions a future when grocers grow produce in their own greenhouses-elevated or otherwise.

Rooftop gardens and farming, in particular, are rising trends. They have been sprouting for years but now are propagating faster than ever. Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, a trade association, earlier this month announced that the industry grew by 115 percent in 2011. Washington, D.C., led the way with more than 800,000 square feet of gardens installed in 2011. Chicago has the greenest skyline, with 5 million square feet of planted plots.

Integrating the parcels into urban farms of the future will raise the industry to great heights, especially as technology and techniques evolve.

Do you know about other local efforts like this? Natural Foods Merchandiser magazine would love to report more about the grocers growing their own. Comment below or email me.

Discuss this Blog Entry 6

on May 7, 2014

I've found that growing snow peas, various greens, or tomatoes on our rooftop container garden doesn't produce the amount of veg to justify the effort and expense. Still, I've got an indea for a rooftop garden from and I'm going to make it come true.

on May 9, 2014

A rooftop garden is such a wonderful idea, after seeing By the Yard I decided I want to redecorate my house and make my own rooftop zen garden. I already ordered the lawn, and the stone statue.

on May 12, 2014

I'm a school teacher and we have a garden in the school's back yard, we have bonsai tools and the kids really enjoy and always look forward to afternoons where we get to spend learning to tend to a garden!

on May 14, 2014

I think planting a rooftop garden is a brilliant idea, and I'm sure it's going to catch on. I found a company website where I read about the importance of pest control when you're tending to your garden.

on May 15, 2014

I don't know any rooftop garden restaurant in the area I live in, but if there was one, I would probably eat there every other day. I was speaking to the people at about how amazing a rooftop garden would be.

on Jul 3, 2014

These rooftop gardens look amazing, they remind me of some images I've seen on I know i'd love to go out for lunch on a sunny summer day in a rooftop garden just like this one and I wish there were more just like it, maybe just one more, nearer to me.

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