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An airport tarmac is the last place anyone would think to look for sustainable local produce. But JetBlue is turning that assumption on its head with the unveiling of their new T5 Farm (short for JetBlue’s Terminal 5) at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. The farm is a partnership with GrowNYC, a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting gardens, farmers markets, and green space in New York City, and may eventually supply in-flight food for the airline.
JetBlue prioritized creating a healthy and vibrant farm in an unlikely environment. The plants will be secluded from planes and jet fuel, which operate mainly on the other side of the terminal building, and have been specifically chosen so that they won’t attract birds and wildlife to the airport. The 24,000 square foot farm features over 2,000 modular milk crate planters that will be filled with blue potatoes, herbs, leafy greens, carrots, and beets. Farm designer Thomas Kosbau also tried to maximize the amount of visible greenery.
The farm’s main product will be blue potatoes, which have become something of JetBlue emblem. TERRA Blues chips are served for free on every flight, and JetBlue estimates that 5.7 million bags were handed out last year. About 1,000 lbs of blue potatoes will be harvested from the farm each year, and many of them will make their way to the nearby TERRA facility to be processed into chips to develop new flavors. The eventual goal is to serve chips from the farm on JetBlue flights.
The T5 Farm will be a highly sustainable enterprise. The soil was sourced from McEnroe Organic Farm in the Hudson Valley and will be combined with selected food waste compost from the terminal itself. Much of the produce will be served at restaurants in the terminal or donated to GrowNYC and local food pantries. The farm will also serve an educational purpose: School trips will tour the site and learn about farming practices.
JetBlue’s JFK Terminal 5 is already acclaimed for its design and amenities, and the new farm will accentuate the airline’s innovative spirit. The terminal already offers free WiFi service, excellent food options, and a kid and pet friendly rooftop green space. Passengers are able to purchase GrowNYC food at the terminal Greenmarket, and will soon be able to visit the farm with an advance reservation. Although the T5 Farm isn’t the first airport garden, its high profile may inspire similar ventures by airlines and airports. It may even raise the standards for airplane food, which is something everyone can get behind.