Urban Farming Meets Upmarket Retail

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Delia Danciu, 24, a gardener, works at the Galeries Lafayette department store rooftop in Paris. Credit Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

In our quest to brighten up each day with a story, a picture, or personal observation that helps us better understand the world around us, Doreen Carvajal is our source for this story in the New York Times from the former hometown of several of our long-time contributors:

Rooftop Gardens Are Turning the Urban Shopping Scene Green

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Galeries Lafayette rooftop garden is part of a plan to transform city farming into a deluxe shopping attraction. Credit Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

PARIS — It’s a swift ride by elevator from Galeries Lafayette’s perfume section to the grand department store’s 10th-floor luxury farm with its signature scent of sage, rosemary and compost.

The rooftop garden, lush with climbing plants, tomatoes, marigolds and strawberries, is part of a plan to transform city farming into a deluxe shopping attraction for customers yearning for an exclusive green refuge — and perhaps a taste of beer brewed from the store’s homegrown hops.

For now, only select customers can experience this haute farm on the Right Bank with weekly reserved tours. Eventually, Galeries Lafayette intends to expand to other roof sections to host larger events and fashion shows among leafy, vertical walls of plants with a panoramic view of the Eiffel Tower and the city’s opera house.

This concept of organic retail farming is cropping up in other major cities — in a proposed Melbourne shopping development in Australia and Dizengoff Center, a Tel Aviv mall. In France, the trend is accelerating with support from the city government, which started a 2016 campaign, Parisculteurs, with the goal of covering city rooftops and walls with almost 250 acres of vegetation by 2020.

“It’s a new model for consumers,” said Damien Pellé, director of corporate social responsibility for Galeries Lafayette, which started its garden three years ago. “The grand department stores want to offer an exceptional experience, to give people new discoveries. It’s easy for people to order something to buy from their couch, but they can come here and visit an enchanted garden.”

The store’s hometown rival, Le Bon Marché, has also developed a private community rooftop garden for its employees. But Galeries Lafayette is hosting a working farm with more than 18,000 plants that has its own label, Farmhouse, for products from herb crackers and strawberry nougats to sage-flavored vodka.

The garden also supplies delicate aromatic plants to more than 80 chefs in Paris who seek exclusive, hard-to-find varieties of herbs…

Read the whole story here.

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