Using an Airport Terminal as Urban Rooftop Farm: JetBlue’s T5 Farm at JFK

The recent re-opening of Eero Saarinen’s 1960s TWA terminal building as a luxury hotel at New York’s John F Kennedy airport has received a lot of deserved attention recently, but for Reprogramming the City, it is the second best example of reuse coming from JFK in recent years. First place goes to JetBlue’s T5 farm––a 24,000 square-foot urban rooftop farm located at the Departures level of the airport.

Fresh local food and airport terminals are about as common a pairing as purchasing a long-haul economy ticket and looking forward to the flight. JetBlue made a leap forward to improve this with its T5 Farm.

Created through a partnership between JetBlue and TERRA brand, with support from GrowNYC and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the T5 Farm and its 3,000 crates of potato plants, herbs and other produce will also serve as an agricultural and educational resource for schools and the community. 

“Airports are like small cities”, says Sophia Mendelsohn, head of sustainability for JetBlue. “We wanted to give the community around the airport a positive way to engage with the space.”

“An airport seems like an unexpected place for a farming experiment, but what better way to explore JetBlue’s role in the food cycle than to harvest right in our own back yard at JFK.”

– Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue

“The harvests will help JetBlue and its partners in T5 become more self-sufficient by providing herbs and produce for use in some of the terminal’s restaurants and eateries, with the goal of blue potatoes eventually finding their way back in TERRA Blues served onboard,” says the airline. “Items from the T5 Farm will also be donated to local food pantries.”

The soil used for T5 Farm is supplied by an organic farm in the Hudson Valley region of New York that receives and composts food waste from selected restaurants in the airport terminal. When the produce from T5 begins appearing in terminal restaurants, a full cycle of food production will exist at JFK. 

For those not quite ready to start eating insects, the T5 Farm is a nice move forward to begin integrating transportation infrastructure with food production.

JetBlue’s T5 Farm is featured, along with 43 other projects from 17 countries in the Reprogramming the City book. Get your copy now!

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