Halal Food & Community- Sunny, Mary Kate, and Anna

DSC_0016Our project began with a trip to the halal market outside the Pudong mosque on a chilly October morning.  After chatting with some of the vendors and tasting some of the food, we were hooked, and all of work in Street Food and Urban Farming began to center around the halal market.  For our second assignment we returned to the market and found a friendly couple selling 凉皮 and 肉夹馍.  At first we were hesitant to approach them because they were very busy and focused on their work, but once we did not only were they extremely kind and welcoming towards us, but as it turns out, they actually supply our cafeteria halal station with bread and dumplings.  In the interview they spoke about how much they enjoy coming to the halal market each week and how meaningful their work is to them; this inspired us to further explore what fosters the welcoming, lively atmosphere around the mosque and what factors led to the formation of the halal market.

The Pudong Mosque

The Pudong Mosque, located at 375 Yuanshen Road, can trace its beginnings to 1935 when an imam named Hong Changjin and a group of Muslims living in Pudong rented a space near Location of Pudong MosuqeDongchang Road to use as a prayer room.  The mosque was moved to its current location in  1995 (Zhou).  Every Friday, worshippers from all over Shanghai(mostly in Pudong) gather at the mosque to attend the afternoon prayer service.  In response to this influx of Muslims each week, a halal market sprung up around the mosque to cater to hungry worshippers before and after the Friday prayer service.  Because the prayer service only happens once a week, the market, which depends on the mosque’s attendees for patronage, is only there on Fridays from around nine o’clock in the morning to around five or six o’clock at night.  

Market Demographics

The market is comprised largely of Muslim vendors who bring with them tents, ingredients, wares, and cooking implements to set up mobile stands from which to sell their goods.  The items sold range from nuts and dried fruits to fresh meat, and from laboriously cooked stews (prepared on-site) to flash-fried dumplings.  Though the vendors originally came to Shanghai from all over China, a majority of them are from Xinjiang.  Within Shanghai, many live relatively close to the mosque in Pudong.  Here is a link to an interactive map of the vendor locations.

The Imam of the Pudong Mosque

The Imam of the Pudong Mosque

Though he requested not be be filmed, the current Imam offered some insights into the community of the mosque, noting that wherever there is a mosque, there is bound to be a market to serve to the worshippers.  Hailing from Yunan, he has served as the Imam for two years now, and has found that the people who attend the mosque have created a kind and peaceful community.  Though only 30 to 40 people typically come to pray on weekdays, anywhere from 800 to 900 people come on Fridays, thus providing an ample audience for the weekly halal market.  Much like the vendors, the worshippers come to the mosque from all over Shanghai but are primarily based in the Pudong area.  

The vendors themselves echoed the Imam’s sentiments about the welcoming and enjoyable atmosphere of the mosque’s community.  In particular, one couple from Xinjiang revealed that they own a successful catering and delivery business and choose to come to the market each week not from financial need, but rather because they find it a very enriching and pleasurable experience.  

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Halal Food & Community
Throughout this project, it has become clear to us that halal food and community are closely tied.  To get a better understanding of the experience of halal food in China from a Muslim perspective, we interviewed Ahmad Raja, a sophomore at NYU Shanghai, and Haider Ahmed, an NYU Shangahi freshman.  Though they had differing opinions on the availability of halal food within Shanghai, both agreed that the Pudong Mosque promotes a sense of community.

DSC_0018Despite the variety of the food, its differences by region, and the numerous places of origin of both halal food producers and consumers, one of the unifying factors we found in our research was that halal food in Shanghai fosters a community and a sense of ease.  Due to the strict regulations on halal food, many Shanghainese (and indeed Chinese in general) are more inclined to trust the safety and quality of halal foods (Sile).  This sense of trust in halal food combined with the growing Muslim population in Shanghai has led to a proliferation of halal establishments in the city.  Amanda Zhao, a  junior at NYU Shanghai and a Shanghai native, commented that, “It seems that halal food places in Shanghai are usually owned by a Muslim family. I feel halal food is a really important symbol/representative of the Muslim community in Shanghai because it’s the easiest way for common people to encounter Muslim culture”.
DSC_0015As Ms. Zhao notes, halal food not only provides affordable, reliably safe meals, but extends to become a real cultural and interpersonal staple of the city.  We saw this firsthand at the Pudong Mosque market.  While the mosque itself serves to provide the framework of a community, the market serves to cement the ties of that community and to extend it beyond a religious context.  The project Mapping Halal from Toronto University confirms that, “mosques act as magnets for halal food in their area and that as time passes, the amount of halal food locations increase. Some of the reasons for this could be that as a mosque is a community centre for Muslims, once established, attracts more people towards living nearby”, thus creating a community that is all-inclusive and accessible to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.  Though our research only covers halal food in Shanghai specifically, our findings paired with insights from our interviewees and the research of Mapping Halal point to halal food at large being a community-building influence in the areas where it is present, especially when it appears in conjunction with a mosque.
Though the core of the community it fosters may be Muslim, it also creates a welcoming communal environment for non-Muslims to experience Muslim culture and in doing so creates a community distinct from the community of the mosque.  In this way, areas where halal food is sold encourage the formation of a diverse community that is unified in the name of delicious food and (though they may not realize it) cultural exchange.
Works Cited
“Mappinghalal.” Mappinghalal. University of Toronto, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <http://mappinghalal.wix.com/mappinghalal>.
Sile, Aza Wee. “China Wants a Bite of the Booming Halal Market.” CNBC. NBCUniversal, 24 Aug. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <http://www.cnbc.com/2015/08/24/china-wants-a-bite-of-the-booming-halal-food-market.html>.
Zhou, Ruru. “Mosques in Shanghai.” ChinaHighlights. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/muslim-china/shanghai-mosque.htm>.

 

 

Week 1 Farm Blog

I was in charge of taking care of the 8th floor farm the first week of its existence. I was expecting there to be very little progress in terms of the farm and nothing much being visible, however I could not have been more wrong in my assumptions. The plants started to sprout far earlier than we had initially anticipated. The online resources that we accessed stated that the seeds would sprout within a couple of days, but in our farm, there were clearly visible stems and leaves going every which way. Halfway through the week the stems began to lean towards the window, where the majority of the light was coming from. I began rotating the entire cart daily and sometimes twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening because it took only a few hours for the flexible stems to completely change directions and I wanted to ensure that the plants would grow straight. I had never taken care of any plant this size before, my only prior experience was taking care of bonsai trees that had already grown and were not as susceptible to external forces as these small sprouts were. I had to be careful to avoid directly watering the plants as the small force of the water falling and landing at the base of the plant was almost enough to uproot them. Ultimately, I was surprised at how much joy I got from taking care of the plants for the week. Taking a break from class or studying to go and check on the plants, water them, and rotate the cart became a habit of mine that lasted far longer than the one week in which I was tasked with taking care of the farm. In the future I hope to keep more plants in my home and dorm room. They do not even need to be edible, but the enjoyment and life that they bring to urban spaces can not be replicated with art or any other furnishing and I hope that others come to understand this and keep plants in the urban homes as well.

Urban Farm Week Three

Being in charge of the farm for Week Three, I was immediately shocked by the amount some plants had already grown since we first planted. Some plants had grown about an inch or two, while others still had not sprouted.

I first checked the plants before class on Monday, and noticed by touching the soil, they they had recently been watered so I refrained from watering the plants just yet. Some plants, the ones that have successfully grown, had been moved from the original plastic containers into water bottles so there was room for the roots to grow more. I checked the plants later that afternoon before leaving school and watered them for the night. I noticed we had just gotten these new spray bottles, that made it much easier to evenly water the plants, as opposed to just using a plastic water bottle with a hole on top. The new spray bottles made it much easier to water the plants without over saturating and drowning the plants. In addition, since some plants were in the plastic water bottles now, I made sure to refill the bottom basin of the bottles to make sure there was always enough water for the fabric cloths to transfer water to the soil.

Throughout the week I would check the farm twice a day, once in the early morning around 9:30am and once later in the afternoon around 5:00pm. Most days I found the soil to be a bit dry and needed some watering. However, from the beginning of the week to the end, I did not notice any drastic change in the plants to growth. Most of the plants that had grown a couple inches since we first planted seemed to remain in that stage, and most of the larger plants we transferred into water bottles seemed to also remain the same size. Some of the plants that did not sprout yet, for the example the peppers, still remained un-sprouted by the end of the week.

In addition to the plants, I attempted to salvage the bean sprouter planter. I was originally part of the group that tried to bean sprouter in the beginning, when we first started the farm, so I went back and researched more into this bean sprouter. I cleaned out the plastic containers and found more videos online on how to go about the sprouter. I put in more beans and made sure the red stoppers were properly in and left it for a couple days. However, towards the end of the week I saw progress was not being made, and it seemed to be getting moldy once again. I ran water through the planter again toward the end of the week and hoped for the best.

In general, I was amazed by how well the farm seemed to be doing. Not being much of a green thumb, it was sometimes hard to tell if the plants needed more watering or less, but I always tried to make sure the soil was a little damp, without overwatering. I also tried to rearrange the plants so they were getting enough sunlight, but I think an issue could have been shelf space and the lack of enough light. The bean sprouter… I’m not so sure of, because when I checked in the Monday after my week in charge, it did not seem to be doing so well.

Jianbing: the Food, the People and the Village

The man (Li) and his wife

This is the previous interview that we had with Li.

A little commentary about the area that Li works in. He and his family have several stands around the Xuhui region of Shanghai down the street from the prestigious Shanghai High School, 上海中学, and East China University of Science and Technology, 華東理工大學. The following video shows a little bit about the environment and audience that Li pursued in finding his first Jianbing stand. Student’s lined up for half an hour at Li’s brand Jianbing, in this video, it is his father and mother that operate this particular stand.

His Life

The Village

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Youlou Village

Youlou Village is a small mountain village located in the hinterland of the Yimeng Mountains of Shandong Province. For those who do not know, Shandong Province is located in between Beijing and Shanghai. Prior to the widespread culture of Jianbing in Chinese cities Youlou was a very poor village. Growing and harvesting honeysuckle was the main form of income for individuals in the village. Starting in the 1990’s, large waves of families and individuals started to leave the village. However, this is not the typical Chinese migration story that many people envisage; the hundreds of millions of rural Chinese people migrating to urban centers to work in large manufacturing or textiles operations where the notorious, cheap “Made in China” wares are produced. Rather, this is the complete opposite of that story. Many of the villagers of Youlou who left the village did not leave in the typical “Chinese migration fashion.” They became entrepreneurs. They spread out all throughout China, though concentrating in large cities, and became the jianbing vendors that many people know, admire, and love.

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By 2004, the cityscape of Youlou had changed dramatically. Out of the 1226 people, around 362 families, whose hukou states they are domiciled within the village, well more than half had left to seek the treasures of selling Jianbing. Over a ten year period of development, the Jianbing industry exploded. This industry came out of nowhere. The, roughly, 700 Youlou villagers who had left the village were generating profits of more than ¥20 million RMB, around $4.35 million USD in 2015 values.

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Satellite view of Youlou Village on Google Map

Click here and zoom in and out on this Google Map to see how isolated the village is.

Li’s mother’s thoughts about the development of Youlou.

Jianbing fit into the fast, casual dining culture that developed within Chinese cities. This largely contributed to the widespread success of this dish – besides the fact that is it delicious. Although the selling of jianbing allowed villagers who had left Youlou to produce quite substantial profits, a vast majority of these were sent back to their families in the village. Thus, Youlou got rich. Planning among the villagers allowed for a unified development of the village to take advantage of the millions of renminbi flowing into the city every year. Over the last few years, such planning has led to the development of 38 new buildings within the city as well as the development and upgrading of internet and telecommunications infrastructure within the region. Moreover, such funds have allowed for the maintenance and development of basic utilities such as roads, water, and electricity infrastructure within the village. Many of these basic amenities have been less well maintained and developed within the surrounding villages of the region. Leaving the standard of living for those within Youlou far better than the surrounding area.

Jianbing Making Contest — A New Spring Festival Tradition in Youlou Village

Although Li never attended the Jianbing Contests, he told me that his fastest record is 21 seconds making one Jianbing.

(another video that focuses more on the contest itself.)

History of Jianbing

During our interview with Li, we learned a lot about the history of jianbing. Shandong-style Jianbing experienced a major transformation during the 1990s. A Bite Of China is a phenomenal TV based documentary about the history of Chinese food and its transformations over time. There is actually a very interesting segment within this show that documents the making of traditional Shandong-style Jianbing before the transformation in the 1990’s. (30:45 – 34:38) [This episode is about the interesting dynamics of Chinese breakfast from is incorporation in daily life 2,000 years ago. Watch the other seasons, it is an extremely interesting documentary about Chinese food culture!]

 

Jianbing’s history according to Li’s mother.

It was during the 1990’s when one of the Youlou villagers who had left created a new style of Jianbing. This style of Jianbing is the Shanghai-style Jianbing – it is far easier and quicker to make than the ‘original’ style. Rather than Shandong-style Jianbing which typically has a more salty character to it, the Shanghai-style Jianbing is much sweeter and plays on the tastes of the Shanghainese, and, in general, people from the south. With the Shanghai-style Jianbing obsession began. Many people came to Shanghai to learn how to make this new style of jianbing. With this new recipe in mind, Youlou villagers spread throughout the country, selling jianbing.

Strictly speaking, the new style of Jianbing has only 20 years of history. The origin of this new Jianbing is actually Shanghai, not Shandong. According to Li, the Shandongese, 山东人, do not use the sweet sauce that it is now typically found in jianbing. It was for the Shanghainese people that the recipe changed. The sweet sauce that truly made jianbing such a hit in Shanghai was the sweet sauce – a base of flour, sugar, and soy sauce.

Since that time, the Jianbing industry has exploded. There are now thousands of vendors selling Jianbing all around the country – many of which are Shandong residents but not from the original founding village of Youlou. Moreover, this has truly changed the landscape of Jianbing equipment. Prior to the mass demand of this street food around the country, Jianbing equipment was fairly specialized. Professionally made equipment cost in the range of several hundred USD which led to most vendors using handcrafted kitchenware. But this landscape is different now. Many of the large kitchen supplies manufacturers produce their own versions of the Jianbing hotplate. As seen below, this equipment is easily found on online marketplaces, like Taobao, and are fairly inexpensive to purchase.

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#Jianbing to Youlou People

During our interview, Li told us that while in elementary school he was embarrassed by the fact that his parents were Jianbing vendors in Shanghai. This embarrassment stemmed, not from a shame that his parents were vendors but, from the criticism and harassment that he would get from his classmates. However, this scene in Youlou has changed. The idea that families who sold jianbing were less than well off is now nonexistent. Introducing someone that “he sells Jianbing in Shanghai” now implies “he lives a decent life.” Not something to heckle someone about.
Now, the jianbing industry has gone as far as to dramatically alter the social scene within Youlou. There is now a large, a growing acceptance of people marrying into jianbing selling families. Particularly for the woman’s family, there has become more willingness to allow their daughter to marry men selling jianbing since they know that this ensures they will have a fairly good life. What we now find is a consolidation of the families in Youlou. Moreover, we find that more than ever before families are now directly associated with the jianbing trade.

Moreover, while talking with Li, we learned that finding a good location set up a Jianbing stand is far more difficult than many people realize. Li planned to set up a new Jianbing stand at NYU Shanghai, 上海纽约大学, campus. But upon learning that there was another Youlou vendor near to the NYU campus, Li decided to hold his stand by Shanghai High School.

This was not, though, a solo effort undergone by Li. Youlou Village understands its welfare is dependent of the success of the jianbing vendors all over the country. They have put tremendous effort into a network that we call the Youlou People’s National Network. This is a large database and network of all villagers who have left Youlou to sell jianbing. It works in a similar way to Chinese-American Employment Centers in the United States that serve to place Chinese in American jobs. The Youlou People’s National Network helps the villagers of Youlou find locations throughout China to set up stands. They also have lists of recipes that that play to the different tastes of different regions throughout China. Youlou villagers, thus, have an advantage to other vendors of food. They know the good locations, the spheres of influence that different vendors in locations have, and the recipes that are known to succeed. The market research needed to enter a market has already been done; there is no need to roll the dice for a successful venture for the people of Youlou. Granted, there are market risks that these vendors face – failure is always a possible outcome. But the people of Youlou understand the importance the jianbing trade has on their livelihood. Creating this network gives the vendors of Youlou every possible opportunity for successfully starting an enterprise thereby helping turn Youlou into a greater success story.

 

#Hukou

An interesting dilemma occurs for those of Youlou Village selling jianbing around the country, none of them have local hukou. Li pointed out during his interview with us that he and his family currently do not have a Shanghai hukou. Interestingly, though, for his everyday life activities, Li finds that this does not create many problems for him and his family. It is only when it comes to housing, education, healthcare, and other State funded or subsidized programs do issues really start to present themselves. Li describes this dichotomy very curtly.

“It’s just that we are less privileged than Shanghai citizens.”

#Income

Li and his family make an extremely good living from the small business that they run. They have quite an impressive operation going on, they run two Jianbing stands near the Shanghai High School area (上海中学), one Jianbing stand near Xujiahui (徐家汇) as well as one Youtiao stand. From these four stands they run, the Li family makes about ¥4,000 RMB a day, about $625 USD. Over a year they make around ¥1.4 million RMB a year – a whopping $227,000 USD a year. This, coming from the most humble street food vendor we have met truly took our breath away. For those thinking about dropping out of law school, we must note that this vast success from the Li family did not come overnight. Li’s father started selling Jianbing in Shanghai over 30 years ago.

Moreover, while talking with Li, we learned that running a Jianbing stand is far more difficult than many people realize. Li gets up at 4 AM every day to sell Jianbing. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that Li only gets to take the morning shift at the stand. He has a huge afternoon workload that he also needs to accomplish. During the afternoon, Li prepares the Cuibing (脆饼, crispy wonton in Jianbing) and the sweet sauce needed for the next day. Li believes that the reason his food sells so well is because his materials are so fresh. This means that Li makes sure to make a fresh stock of supplies everyday without fail.

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Cuibing (脆饼, crispy wonton in Jianbing)

Future of Jianbing

Li hopes to expand his Jianbing business. Youlou is only starting to develop. We find as jianbing spreads across China and the world, it will become the General Tso of the streets.

Interested in Li’s Jianbing? Message Sam Chen for Li’s locations: sc4849@nyu.edu

Interviews, editing, and commentary were done by – Alec Roscoe & Sam Chen

 

Week 9 Farm Post – Sam Shiyun Chen

My On-duty Week of our Window Farm is Week 9. I wrote the following blog in a manner of journal.

  • On Monday when I came to 8F, the farm seemed to have gone through a general lack of water over the weekend. The plants in the pots looked really weak and some were turning yellow. It might be that the new hydroponic system wasn’t working so well during the weekend (I don’t know.). I turned on the pump and kept on on when I went for breakfast and turned it off afterwards.
  • On Tuesday, the plants seemed to have revitalized a lot after the hydration on Monday. But some still didn’t look quite good. I suspect that it was because these plants did not gain enough support from the clay balls. So I took these plants out, put half of the clay balls back in, held the plants and put the rest of the clay balls in. Also for those plants that grew towards the sunlight, I turned them around so that they do not lean too much over the pot.
  • Wednesday when I checked the farm before our class, the plants that I thought did not get enough support did not seem to get better a lot. The rest are all continuing revitalizing.
  • Thursday: the plants didn’t seem to get enough water so I manually turned on the pump for 45 minutes and waited along.  The thyme got really dry on the leaves. I sprayed some water onto it. Hope it gets better.
  • Firday? I went home with some herbs from the farm. My parents didn’t like the scent a lot. 🙁

As a brief reflection, I still would like to say I am amazed by this hydroponic system — it just automatically runs and waters the plants. After I wrote this post, I ordered a pot of mint from Taobao, and now it’s growing vigorously on my dorm desk, which I from time to time harvest some for tea … or mojito 😉

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Urban Farm Week 2

Our week was only the second week of the urban farm, and therefore there were a couple of things we had to keep in mind. 

One, was the fact that we had to maintain watering the plants without really having visible results. We had a couple of seedlings and tiny sprouts, but unlike fully grown plants it can be hard to gauge the amount of water to use.
The second factor that we were concerned about was the level of sunlight that each plant would require. We had two tiers of plants to begin with, but the top and bottom rows experienced very different levels of sunlight. The reason for this is because the top row would get pretty consistent sunlight from the outside, whereas the bottom row only got light from the actual electric lights we were using.
A couple of days in to week 2, we noticed that a lot of the plants started leaning towards the sun and became lopsided. We switched the plants around and rotated the planters daily to ensure that they had balanced growth.
This highlights a challenge of growing plants indoors. The limitations of a room itself and therefore a roof mean that sunlight comes in at an off-angle. If there was a way to automate rotation, or only rely on UV lights in the room, then we could counter this. However, we were dealing with two sources of light and therefore had to continue to rotate.
The bean sprout planter was much harder to manage, and we attempted to replant. We re-checked the instructions and went online to figure out exactly how to plant without drowning the sprouts. We refilled the three levels of the planter and placed it to the left of the farm on the window sill so that there would be sunlight for the sprouts when they grew. 20150921_111600
At the end of the week, there were two things we had to deal with. We realized we were not watering the plants enough, and only some of the sprouts had grown. There were not distinct differences between the top and bottom shelves however and I think this was due to the differences in the actual plants we were growing in each section. The second thing was that we couldn’t get the bean sprouts to grow effectively without causing big mold problems in the three levels. We decided to abandon the effort to grown the beans after this.
-Rio Hodges

Pudong Mosque Friday Market

The Pudong Mosque, located at 375 Yuanshen Road, can trace its beginnings to 1935 when an imam named Hong Changjin and a group of Muslims living in Pudong rented a space near Dongchang Road to use as a prayer room.  The mosque was moved to its current location in  1995 (Zhou).  Every Friday, worshippers from all over Shanghai gather at the mosque to attend the afternoon prayer service.  In response to this influx of Muslims each week, a halal market sprung up around the mosque to cater to hungry worshippers before and after the Friday prayer service.  Because the prayer service only happens once a week, the market, which depends on the mosque’s attendees for patronage, is only there on Fridays from around nine o’clock in the morning to around five or six o’clock at night.

The market is comprised largely of Muslim vendors who bring with them tents, ingredients, wares, and cooking implements to set up mobile stands from which to sell their goods.  The items sold range from nuts and dried fruits to fresh meat, and from laboriously cooked stews (prepared on-site) to flash-fried dumplings.  Though the vendors originally came to Shanghai from all over China, a majority of them are from Xinjiang.  Within Shanghai, many live relatively close to the mosque in Pudong.

Vendor Shanghai Map

Vendor Locations in Shanghai

Vendor Origin

Vendor Origin

 

Link to CartoDB: https://nyu.cartodb.com/u/sunnyxiangs/viz/ed98e8e4-9bf6-11e5-80b8-0e674067d321/public_map

Though he requested not be be filmed, the current Imam offered some insights into the Untitledcommunity of the mosque, noting that wherever there is a mosque, there is bound to be a market to serve to the worshippers.  Hailing from Yunan, he has served as the Imam for two years now, and has found that the people who attend the mosque have created a kind and peaceful community.  Though only 30 to 40 people typically come to pray on weekdays, anywhere from 800 to 900 people come on Fridays, thus providing an ample audience for the weekly halal market.  Much like the vendors, the worshippers come to the mosque from all over Shanghai but are primarily based in the Pudong area.

The vendors themselves echoed the Imam’s sentiments about the welcoming and enjoyable atmosphere of the mosque’s community.  In particular, one couple from Xinjiang revealed that they own a successful catering and delivery business and choose to come to the market each week not from financial need, but rather because they find it a very enriching and pleasurable experience.  

 

Farm Blog– Lillian

The week of November 30th to December 4th was our turn to take care of the Street Food and Urban Farming class’s farm, which proved to be a lot more difficult than we had initially anticipated. We took care of the farm together and individually, depending on the time available. Below we posted our individual observations and images, along with our collective data.

Wesley did an excellent job at collecting photos (some of the best posted below):

Because the data I collected was very similar to Wesley’s, after Wednesday I decided to use this blog post as an extension to a larger question: should we be using artificial lights?

This was in response to the observations I wrote down on December 2nd:

The styrofoam box on the floor was the beginning of a stream of interesting observations. One side of the box was booming with life, the other was obviously dead; I was told later by a student that the other half had been removed to avoid bug infestation?

 There were small examples of life observed in the boxes on the top shelf– however, in general, the entire farm dis not seem to be responding well to artificial light.
 
The Dahlia Yams and the Curly Kale are especially struggling.
 
Minor Observation (or, perhaps major): Should we trying turning off the artificial lights?​
After a quick Google search, this is what I learned about light:  The sun, a torch, and a light bulb all emit energy in the form of particles called photons. The photons from the sun are a product of thermonuclear fusion. A torch uses a chemical reaction to burn. A light bulb converts electricity to photons. But a photon is a photon – and light is light – whether it comes from the sun or a flashlight.
A photon is a photon. Okay, that much is easy to follow. Then, if that is the case, why is the farm doing so poorly? Is it a human error (like people not watering it enough) — or, is an issue with technology? Then I realized: different plants grow in different regions of the planet based on how those particular species respond to intensity of light/wavelength.
To improve the functionality of the farm the second time around, I think the group should do some serious research before setting up the farm. How do the different lamps differ in light intensity? What plants grow in warmer regions generally? What plants grow in colder regions generally?
I think questions such as these could dramatically change the health and productivity of the farm!

 

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Window Farming – A Future Outlook

 

Of course, as general maintenance for the farm goes, I performed maintenance and general upkeep of the farm about every other day. I checked every single plant in its pot for its water level; if the soil was still moist, it did not need watering, and vice versa. I pruned some leaves that were growing too long, and made some slight adjustments to the positioning of the plants. I also made sure the hydroponic system was working, checking the levels of each nutrient-filled substance as well as clarifying if some plants were dead (unfortunately, a few were). I removed the dead ones and replaced them with a few potted plants, to rejuvenate the hydroponic system. During the process, there may have been a slight slip or drop of one of the plants, leading to a spill of dirt everywhere, but eventually it was cleaned up. I don’t think my week of taking care of the farm was too revolutionary in the grand scheme of the project.

But now that I look at the window farm, and with the semester coming to a close soon, I’ve noticed and thought about a few things that would affect the future of NYUSH’s window farm. What truly is the purpose of the window farm; is it not but a small educational tool for students to exercise their ‘green thumb’? Or could we go somewhere further with this project? Could it be possible to supply the school with fresh herbs, upholding a “plant what you take” policy?

I believe that something could definitely come to fruition if given enough resources and work. This semester, it was definitely fun putting the farm together and learning the structure of a hydroponic system, but so much more can be done with it. Working out all the kinks this semester, next semester could provide the farm a much less lackadaisical pursuit of knowledge, and set up a documented lab experiment. Students can keep track of the farm with a more scientific approach, and attempt to regulate variables to determine the outcome of certain situations. Thought it may just be my hope, I believe the window farm will have the capacity to become a more ‘fruitful’ venture next semester.

Farming 10/12 – 10/16

This week (10/12 – 10/16) I had the chance to take care of the plants. It was a particularly interesting week because we moved some the plants from the makeshift pots to more traditional containers. This also allowed us to use the automatic water pump, which seemed to work extremely well. Everyday I came to check on the plants, and the soiled seemed to be sufficiently wet without me having to restart the meter.

When I was watering the other plants, I was rather concerned that I wasn’t getting enough water on the actual plants. Even thought I sprayed the plants with water several times, when I came back the next day, they consistently seemed to be dry. Perhaps the mist sprayers aren’t the best way to water plants in non-traditional pots.

On Thursday, I watered the plants at night rather than around lunchtime. The lights were overwhelming and made it uncomfortable to even walk in the room. I think we should consider how long we leave the lights one. It’s not realistic; the sun doesn’t shine all day, and it’s not that bright.

We also had the chance do an experiment of sorts this week. We used 2 different fertilizers and in the four pots we used half a bottle of the first type, a full bottle of the first type, 1 box of the second type, and a control group. The plants that had the full bottle of the first type grew the most, but interestingly the control group grew the second most. Since the first fertilizer with half a bottle didn’t yield higher growth than the control, I’m not sure we can conclude anything from this experiment. Perhaps we should try this again with more rigorous operational variables.

 

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