Ripe Ideas

Ripe Ideas

Mia Lehrer + Associates’ Farm on Wheels was the winning design.
Courtesy Mia Lehrer + Associates

A multi-level bus stop that not only serves mass-transit users but doubles as a produce stand; a grocery store planned for a low-income neighborhood where currently fresh fruits and vegetables are all but unattainable; a proposal to rezone vacant city properties for farming uses; and a site-specific volume constructed for harvest fog: Those were just a few of the entries in a design competition dubbed Redesign Your Farmers’ Market, whose winners were announced on September 4.

Initiated 30 years after the advent of the first Farmers’ Markets in Southern California, the competition asked designers, architects, farmers, chefs, vendors, and shoppers to devise innovative improvements for the supply chain that delivers produce grown by local farmers to urban residents.

The New City Center of Urban Farming by im Studio mi/Los Angeles

Courtesy im Studio mi/Los Angeles

Sponsored by GOOD magazine, The Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, CO Architects, The Los Angeles Good Food Network, and AN, Redesign Your Farmers’ Market drew 65 entries from countries as far away as Lithuania. The range of concepts was equally far-reaching, from the simple and highly executable—new ideas for structuring booths, small containers to transport produce, or renovations to existing markets—to the sweeping and politically challenging, like Jacob Lang’s intricate planning manifesto to rezone underutilized land for farming uses in areas where fresh and inexpensive produce is most needed.

Though submissions contemplated multiple avenues of improvement, two trends were evident. The first was the use of school properties as markets/urban farmlands. The second was the reconfiguration of municipal bus lines, subway cars, or trains to convey fresh fruits and vegetables throughout cities.

The Urban Field Farm Stop By BCV Architects
Courtesy BCV Architects

Ultimately, however, the Los Angeles-based landscape architecture firm Mia Lehrer + Associates’ Farm on Wheels concept, which revitalized the centuries old notion of a centralized market and married it with a neighborhood truck system similar to that seen in Latino communities currently, won the day. Under the team¹s model, local farmers would be invited to bring their produce to a centralized Farmers Distribution Market. There, market staff would decide whether individual foods should be sold on-site or put on produce trucks that are assigned individual neighborhoods throughout the city.

The jury, composed of farmers’ market organizers, journalists, theorists, and farmers, cited Lehrer’s proposal for several reasons: for its capability to deliver food across income and ethnicities; for its keeping small farmers in charge of their own profit levels; for its inclusion of a market component allowing farmers to continue a personal interaction with consumers; and for its sustainable approach. Electric trucks would replace gasoline dinosaurs.

Hydroponic Farm(ers Market) by Michael K. Leung
Courtesy Michael K. Leung

First runner-up was The New City Center of Urban Farming by im Studio mi/Los Angeles, which integrated a farm into the Hollywood farmer’s market. The second runner-up was BCV Architects’ The Urban Field Farm Stop. The firm, based in San Francisco, melded pragmatic design with a venerable urban institution—bus-stops—doubling up uses in dense cities by configuring a produce stand into the ubiquitous commuter stops. And Hydroponic Farm(ers Market), by San Francisco architect Michael K. Leung, was the third runner-up, with an undulating, horizontal form of polypropylene mesh to enclose a hanging farm that literally feeds off fog. The mesh recalls the fleetingness of the fog it is intended to harvest, while creating a promenade for consumers who purchase the fruits of the farm at ground level.