WATCH | Living above an urban farm gives farm-to-table a whole new meaning.
Tucked behind a picnic area in a shiny new apartment complex on Staten Island, a commercial farm is preparing for harvest.
The 5,000-square foot farm is among the first of its kind. It sits in the courtyard of the complex, Urby Staten Island, on two feet of soil above the parking garage.
The urban farm is still in its first season, but it is on its way to becoming a staple for its local community.
This is Zaro Bates, Urby's Farmer-in-Residence. With husband Asher Landes' help, they've grown more than 50 types of fruits and vegetables so far.
Landes also takes care of Urby's beehives.
The farm, which is owned by the development, makes its money from the produce it grows and sells to residents and the public.
"Our customers are really excited to have some new energy on Staten Island," Bates said. "This area, you know, is called the forgotten borough."
The produce they've grown ranges from mustard greens and arugula to peppers and tomatoes. They sell these at a farm stand on Saturdays, which is open to the community.
While some luxury complexes lure renters with amenities like gyms and pools, Urby is betting on its farm to attract consumers with a taste for local fare.
Food is kind of a connective link in a lot of purchasing decisions.
And though the produce isn't free, having a farm at their doorsteps creates the ultimate farm-to-table experience.
"We want to be able to offer health and an avenue to healthier eating and education around food to the community here," Bates said.
For the Brooklyn native, helping create a connection with the local community is a key goal. And the farm is ripe for consumer interest.
Locally grown produce, hyper-local sourcing, natural ingredients and environmental sustainability are all among this year's top food trends, according to the National Restaurant association.
Access to the Great Outdoors
But beyond the local food movement, being able to find nature outside their apartment doors is a huge draw for young urban professionals. As Bates puts it, the farm is "an awesome antidote to living in the city."
Residents are even welcome to help tend the farm. For Bates, a big part of the farm's focus is food and agricultural education. "Our entire culture [has] come away from eating food from a farm," she said. To "be cooking food that's made with whole foods, that's a re-education we need."
The Next Big Housing Trend?
Millennial renters represent 56 percent of all renters, according to new research from Zillow. And they value community amenities. When it comes to home buying, Zillow found 54 percent of millennials bought a house in a community with shared amenities.
Younger Americans are increasingly holding off on buying their first homes until they can afford to buy that larger home with plenty of space inside and out, Zillow Senior Economist Skylar Olsen told Circa.
"They're so constrained right now by affordability," Olsen said. "We still want that [space] eventually, we just have to put it off."
So for young people putting off getting a mortgage, apartments outfitted with farms could serve as a good alternative. "If I can't get out there, I'm gonna want something that simulates what I couldn't attain," she said.
These green complexes could help give them a sense of community and help satisfy cravings for the outdoors.