Tomatoes on the town? Bees in the ‘burbs?

Rooftop gardens and urban farms are becoming exciting solutions for restaurants looking to green their menus either by supplying their own produce (reducing their food costs) or decreasing the travel time—and the carbon footprint—of getting food from farm to table.

Having a rooftop or restaurant garden has certainly caught on in Ontario, with one of the most extensive being the 4,000 square-foot rooftop garden at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto. The garden grows herbs, tomatoes and edible flowers—all fairly fragile produce that benefits from not having to be shipped. Beyond the vegetables, though, the rooftop at the Royal York is also home to the hotel’s six beehives, which can produce between 400 and 700 pounds of honey per year.

The newly renovated Cambridge Mill, whose energy-efficiency measures we highlighted in May, has also worked fruit trees and a vegetable garden into the design for landscaping around the restaurant.

While urban farms don’t generally operate on a commercial scale, it may not always be that way—at least, not if Canadian architect Gordon Graff has his way. Graff designed his 59-storey SkyFarm, which uses hydroponic, soilless farming to grow crops, in an effort to bring ecological sustainability to Toronto’s food supply.

While the SkyFarm is still a design on paper, other restaurants have discovered the potentials of hydroponic gardening—with nutrients delivered via “liquid soil,” plants grow faster and can be harvested earlier. Skeptical? Take a look at this video of Bell, Book and Candle restaurant in New York’s West Village.

Of course, the downside of installing beehives or a rooftop garden, hydroponic or otherwise, is that someone has to do the gardening (or the beekeeping). And for busy restaurant owners and staff, that may not be a practical option. But if you have the time, a little bit of gardening knowledge, and a desire to keep your menu as green as possible—well, a restaurant garden may be a worthy investment.

Do you have a garden at your restaurant? What do you grow? Has it been tough to keep up with it? Share your experience in the comments.

Image credit: nicholalexander