Turning Windows into Farms

Big window farm at Eyebeam, July 2009. Photo by Lindsey Castillo.

I’m a city girl. I grew up in a place that was pretty much a concrete jungle. And until I was 21, the only farms I’d seen were those on my computer screen when I played Sim Farm. That probably explains why I stared in wide-eyed wonder as Sam drove me around the vast farmlands of Wisconsin. I was so excited that the barns, silos and haystacks looked just like the images painted in my mind by the virtual game!

Gabriel Willow's Window Farm, July 2009. Photo by Gabriel Willow.

When I was working on the documentary for Project Green Heals, where we followed 98 high school students on their journeys to learn about urban agriculture, I learned about the great benefits of having food grown close-by. Food grown locally:

  • doesn’t have to be transported over hundreds of miles, so you save on gas and energy.
  • gets to you faster, so it hasn’t lost as many nutrients.
  • has no need for harmful chemical preservatives to keep them looking good longer.

Just like Singapore though, Chicago is a bustling city where buildings fill almost every square foot of the area. Without the huge plots of land, many believe it’s impossible to grow our own food. Fortunately, there are groups out there working to prove that it can be done. Uncommon Ground has turned one of Chicago’s many flat roofs into the country’s first organic rooftop farm.

Gabriel Willow's Window Farm, July 2009. Photo by Gabriel Willow.

The Jane Addams Hull House turned a small plot of land right in the middle of the city into an urban farm, growing enough food to run its soup kitchen to feed the hungry.

But what if you don’t own a restaurant or you’re not part of a large organization? What can we, as regular individuals, do about it?

Window Farms could be the answer. Imagine being able to grow food, right in your own apartment window.

Window Farms are vertical, hydroponic, modular, low-energy, high-yield edible window gardens built using low-impact or recycled local materials.

Learn in less than 3 mintues what it’s all about:

Made from recycled bottles, decorative and food bearing. I find that pretty darn cool. I’d definitely love to give growing my own food a shot in my future home. Has your family ever been into home gardening? What are your thoughts on the Window Farms?

Marshall’s Memories… the making of

For our final RTVF 380 project, Marshall, Jory, Jane and I had initialy conceptualized a piece about the state of communication in today’s world, where it can be superficial and distilled, stripped of the richness of personal connection in electronic media. Marshall's Memories ShootPeople can be so close (in proximity) and yet so far away (on an emotional level). We wanted to tell it through the story of a lonely guy finds himself engaged in communication on a far deeper level through letters in a bottle.

We just learned to shoot with the Arriflex BL-16, a pretty cool, but kinda awkwardly-shaped and heavy 16mm film camera.The first major hurdle to using this camera, was learning to load film into the magazine in complete darkness. It’s difficult enough threading the film through the little nooks and crannies of the equipment when you can see it during practice! Doing it completely blind in a changing bag to avoid accidental light exposure was definitely a challenge.

Marshall's Memories Shoot 3We shot this in 16 hours. Got ourselves out of bed at 4am so we could have a beautiful sunrise backdrop on north beach. Mother nature didn’t seem to like our idea and decided to make it a cloudy day. Since we had no car and no dolly, our trusty dorm shopping cart served as both equipment transport and as a moving seat for me as i held the camera.

We waited for the evening magic hour to shoot our last scene so we’d have sunlight shining through the multi-colored glass bottles that lined theMarshall's Memories Shoot2 windowsill to cast pretty colors onto the table.

We also experimented shooting a long take at 12fps so it’d have a sped-up effect after film processing. It turned out pretty well, considering we were racing against time to get the shot before daylight went away.

Overall, a great experience!