Bay Area

Vacant Berkeley Lot Is Transformed Into Vertical Farm

Eden Teller/Berkeleyside

David Ceaser runs the stand, where buyers can peruse the plants and pick their own produce.

Green Skies Vertical Farm (GSV Farm) on Channing and 5th St. is even more hyperlocal than a farmer’s market. The food is grown, harvested and sold from 739 Channing Way, a once-vacant lot that now is home to stacked planters full of strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes and dozens of other edible plants.

David Ceaser started GSV Farm on April 15 this year and said that “it’s still really an experiment.” He goes by the lot that he leased several days a week, spending “two hours here, three hours there.” He has several other jobs, Ceaser said, but this is his passion.

Ceaser was formerly the business manager of an organic farm in Central Valley but soon realized the “inefficiencies” of the business model. Transporting bushels of food from Central Valley out to various farmers’ markets is incredibly wasteful, he said, and, once the farmer gets there, he or she may not sell even half of the produce in the stall. The stall across the way might also have the same products but for half the price.

GSV Farm eliminates those problems. Shoppers can peruse the produce when it’s still in the ground, taste fruits right off the plant, and pick exactly what they need – so there’s no waste. Ceaser has set up a row of planters in front with a dozen different salad greens – arugula, mizuna, sunflower sprouts and more – that are ready to be plucked and eaten, and he keeps a bowl of strawberries by the scales.

The farm’s location is serendipitous. It’s situated on the corner of Channing, a bicycle boulevard, so people can coast right up to the fence. Volunteers come from the neighborhood to tend to the planters. Marie Jensen, who lives in the area, found a flyer in her mailbox and decided to help out with her son Miles. The tasks for volunteers are whatever needs doing at the moment, whether it’s thinning the radishes or picking strawberries.

Ceaser plans to keep the farm going during Berkeley’s mild winters and is considering putting up a makeshift greenhouse by draping clear plastic sheeting around several of the planters. He’s also raising funds to buy several chickens and install an aquaponics system, in which water from a large fish tank is pumped into the vegetable beds, which are in turn fertilized by the fish feces.

Ceaser said he’s also hoping to get a few restaurants on board to buy the farm’s produce, but “it’s still in stage one.”

The business hours are on Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m.

Source: Berkeleyside []

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