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Molly Beauchemin

JetBlue Opens ‘Farm-to-Air’ Food Garden at JFK International Airport

Airports are transient spaces. Rarely is anything bought that lasts until the plane lands at the other end–food is eaten quickly, gum is chewed in flight (or out of boredom while waiting on delays), magazines are left in the back pocket of seats. Shops remain as people come and go, but even these (generic chain restaurants) have a feeling of impermanence. Airports are a place of travel, not a place to settle down–but now, JetBlue is putting down roots.

On October 8th, JetBlue opened a 24,000 square foot farm outside its state-of-the-art Terminal 5 at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Using drip irrigation and recycled milk crates, the farm grows JetBlue’s signature blue potato, familiar to frequent fliers as the free potato chips distributed in flight. With the goal of cultivating enough different herbs and vegetables to create several dishes, the farm also grows arugula, basil, beets, carrots, fennel, ginger, kale, lavender, mint, rosemary, and sage. The plants are carefully selected to attract bees and butterflies, but not birds (whose presence near runways is dangerous both for the animal and flights). Further integrating the farm into the ecosystem of the airport, the garden is sustained with waste from terminal restaurants–food scraps are sent to a farm in Hudson Valley for compost and soil is sent back to the airport farm.

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Eventually, the potatoes grown in the terminal will be used for the packaged chips JetBlue serves–JetBlue predicts a 1,000 pound yield of potatoes per harvest (which will take place twice a year). Other produce will be sold to restaurants in Terminal 5 or donated to food banks. Despite concerns over contamination, JetBlue assures consumers the crops grown are not exposed to any additional pollution from the airport–the farm is no different than any other urban farm. The farm will in fact help reduce air pollution, making the airport safer and more environmentally-friendly.

In addition to greening the functional barrenness of the airport, providing food to those in flight, and offsetting pollution, the farm will also be used in an educational capacity for students in Queens, who will be brought on site as part of a GrowNYC initiative.

For now, the farm will only be open to those students–but keep an eye out for the farm’s finest produce coming soon to a tray-table near you.

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