Vertical Agriculture

Okanagan Land is expensive. Even vineyard land in the volcanic south of Germany costs a quarter as much. That’s what happens when men from across the mountains will pay nearly anything to lie in the sun. Although it makes farmland unaffordable to the young people of the valley, there might be a way for everyone to benefit. Here’s an old cotton towel bleaching factory in Wald, Switzerland, complete with agricultural promise.

Espaliered Pear Trees Against a Factory Wall

Amount of land required? Zero acres.

Try multiplying that by the number of south-facing buildings in the Okanagan and you might get some idea of the potential. Here is an espaliered pear tree near the Wald village graveyard. This one is looking well cared for.

Espalliered Pear Tree in Full Health

Wald, Switzerland.

And here’s one across from the Catholic Church. It might be near death, but with pear trees that is of little consequence. The older they grow, the better the fruit they produce.

But why stop with pears? Grapes can really benefit from all the heat and protection that a house wall offers.

Miniature Vineyard, Wald, Switzerland

Although Wald is too high in the mountains to even attempt a grape industry, it can certainly make use of humanly-built microclimates to create and maintain a grape culture.

Or what about using a house to create two completely different climactic zones and doing both at once?

Two Climactic Zone House, Jonatal, Switzerland

The wall to the right supports a healthy, espalliered grape tree. The hotter wall to the left supports a kiwi vine and a grape vine, one on either side of the door. As a result, the lawn is uncluttered.

Fruit not your thing? What about raising a crop of bees?

Wisteria, Jonatal, Switzerland

Actually a water plant, it does a pretty fine job of making use of house walls to reach the sun. This one has colonized an area four stories high, on the wall of an old water-powered textile factory. The bees that live in the shade up on the mountain spend their days here in the sun.

Imagine, an agriculture that was no longer an industry but an integral part of day-to-day life, and which took place right where you lived. Not only is it possible, but the technology to make it happen already exists. Farming vertical space costs nothing, cools houses, extends growing areas, and looks real fine. It’s the agricultural equivalent of standing up tall instead of lying down on the ground.

A course in espalier training and philosophy is going to be a part of the community development program at the Okanagan Academy. I’ll keep you posted on that. In the meantime, here’s a page with many more images.

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