While rushing to board your next flight, you might not expect farmers’ markets and urban farms among the airport’s fast food joints, mani-pedi stations, and newsstands. At four U.S. airports, however, travelers are encountering exactly that. Check out how the local food movement has arrived at airline terminals in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
JetBlue’s Pop-Up Farmers’ Market at New York’s JFK
From October 29-31, JetBlue hosted a pop-up farmers’ market at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport in partnership with GrowNYC, which operates the city’s 52 greenmarkets. The market, located beyond security in Terminal 5, featured items designed to appeal to both passengers boarding a flight and arriving travelers who wanted to pick up something healthy to eat or give as a gift. The products were all grown or made in New York state, including baked goods, grains, honey, jams, maple syrup, fruit, pickles, tomato sauces, wine, beer, and hard cider. The market also included education stations, a harvest-themed photo booth, a bike blender for people-powered smoothies, a compost pile with live worms, and a recycling game.
“When you think of an airport, farms and composting do not automatically come to mind,” said Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue’s head of sustainability. “We are connecting the two because we know sustainability is an ongoing cycle. The nutritious scraps of food we compost in T5 are returned to the ground to help make New York produce.” The airline started a composting program in May with Air Ventures, the franchisee that owns and operates the Jamba Juice and Dunkin Donuts restaurants in the terminal, and Royal Waste Services to separate and haul nearly 300 pounds of food waste each day for composting. Food scraps are transported to McEnroe Farm in New York’s Hudson River Valley where it is composted into nutrient-rich soil and used to grow produce.
While the JFK farmers’ market was a short-term test, the airline has not ruled out hosting the concept again in New York or other cities.
**Aeroponic Urban Garden at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport**
Installed in the summer of 2011 as a joint collaboration between the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) and the HMS Host Corporation, O’Hare’s 928-square-foot [aeroponic garden](http://www.flychicago.com/OHare/EN/AboutUs/Sustainability/Aeroponic-Garden.aspx) is the first of its kind to be located in an airport.
Located on the mezzanine level of Terminal 3, the plants are suspended in 26 PVC towers that employ sustainable “green” technology, developed by Future Growing LLC, to grow more than 1,100 plants, including a variety of culinary herbs, gourmet lettuces, leafy greens, and other vegetables. The plants are harvested year-round and supply airport restaurants such as Tortas Frontera, Wolfgang Puck, and Wicker Park Sushi, meaning the produce may go only 20 feet from farm to table. In addition, some of the “living lettuce”—with roots intact for premium freshness—is harvested, packaged in biodegradable clamshells, and sold to airport guests. By avoiding the need to transport produce over long distances, the O’Hare urban garden plants can be picked at the peak of ripeness, thus providing both greater nutrition and more flavorful produce.
Producing and purchasing locally grown foods supports the CDA’s commitment to sustainability by strengthening the local economy and job market, providing a unique learning opportunity for travelers, and reducing urban sprawl, traffic congestion, habitat loss, and pollution from transportation of produce.