On a hot afternoon last summer at Monticello, Peter Hatch walked toward a redbrick colonial pavilion pierced with floor-to-ceiling arched windows, then past neat rows of young okra plants (Abelmoschus esculentus), then he stopped at an edging of tomato plants. Hatch, who spent the past 35 years restoring Thomas Jefferson’s legendary garden, was neither leading a group of visitors (nearly a half-million arrive yearly) through the 200-some varieties of plants, nor checking on the progress of the flowering caracalla bean or Texas bird pepper.
The future of farming is now and it is in the dark: A portable garden vending machine, called the Chef's Farm, offers a harvest of up to 60 heads of lettuce a day, without a ray of sunlight. The indoor vertical garden costs $90,000, a price that Japanese designer Dentsu hopes restaurants will be willing to pay for locally grown produce without the traditional troubles of transportation, crop variability, or outdoor growing space. The machine been touted as a gardener's solution to the apocalypse.
If you've become as interested in hydroponics (growing plants without soil) as I am, here are a couple of links worth noting.
For the past nearly two decades, a small village in Japan has been perfecting a new art form: rice paddy art. It's a hybrid of traditional illustration and farming, made possible with modern technology and new colors of rice plants. Emerging as the plants grow, the images in Inkadate's rice paddies include historic landscapes and figures, contemporary television characters, and at least one face with international appeal (for example, the "Mona Riza" in 2003).