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Student Projects

Urban Re-Farm

Authors: Pat Holder, David Berggren

Grades: 11th, 12th

Subjects: Engineering, Humanities

What are the motives, practices & philosophies that characterize humans’ production of food & water?

How can urban agriculture integrate the spaces, labor, resources, wastes and consumers of our immediate living environments into functional systems for producing, distributing & consuming food?

How can engineers apply innovations & technology toward more sustainable & practical food production processes?


The Urban Re-Farm project was a domestic agricultural effort during which students critically considered human living spaces in-terms of their potential to effectively produce food and reclaim water. In a time when much of our food production comes with serious questions regarding health, environmental and ethical impacts, The Urban Re-Farm provided an opportunity to engage the science, systems and philosophies behind both industrial and urban agricultural practices, and then creatively design, construct and install products – including garden beds, greywater systems, composters, water catchments and coops – for authentic customers. Each product required employing the productivity, sensibility, sustainability and personal connections that are fundamental to practical food production within our immediate living spaces. The entirety of this process was shared within a student-authored publication, illustrating the diverse aspects of developing and integrating functional urban farming practices into our lives, and lives as a reminder that it is entirely possible to engage global issues on a local level.


During the course of The Urban Re-Farm, students were asked to think deeply about diverse aspects of humans’ relationship with food production, develop & utilize technological skills related to creating a professional publication, employ engineering methods in effective & creative ways, and collaborate with their peers and customers to create innovative, space-specific urban farming systems.

At the outset of The Urban Re-Farm, students were introduced to the basic methods, tools & technologies used in engineering that served as foundations for the design and build aspects required by the later stages of the project. Further, they explored the systems by which plants and humans coexist and began developing skills in Adobe Illustrator as they cataloged observations and questions stemming from notes about plant life existing in human structures around them.


With these fundamentals in place, students researched and designed a hypothetical urban agricultural system, again depicting their work in Illustrator; the aggregate of the class’ products served to create a catalog of urban agricultural implements to be used in the customer acquisition process.


At the same time, students worked to upcycle waste from their own lives into functional planter boxes as they explored creating effective growing environments and building with re-purposed materials as important skills for the ultimate success of their work.


Finally, students collaborated with peers and an authentic customer to design, prototype, build and install an urban agricultural system specific to living space considerations and practical food and/or water needs.


Throughout the entirety of this process, students engaged in a critical examination of the science, systems and philosophies of agricultural and urban food production by way of literature, discourse and research and developed the writing and digital design skills to empower them to capture the process of learning, thinking and building that led to their final product. The experience and publication were shared with the community at exhibition, where students formally presented the specific systems they developed and installed to an audience comprised of their community, customers and collaborators.


All that students took on in each of their classes supported their work on The Urban Re-Farm. This included conducting focused research, developing familiarity with computer-aided design (CAD) and other engineering technologies, employing creative and critical commentary through writing and contributing to a group effort of conceiving and building their final product. In culmination of our teams’ efforts, our exhibition served to showcase both Humanities & Engineering content as we celebrated our work with a public audience.

  • Found Farming: Observations on the intersections of plants & humans around us
  • Urban Agricultural Systems Catalog: Products & applications
  • Upcycled Planter Boxes: Re-using to Grow
  • Customer Determination: Needs & Space-Specific Plan
  • Urban Agricultural System: Design
  • Tracing Origins: How does our food get from there to here? At what costs?
  • Urban Agricultural System: Build
  • Publication Layouts: Final Draft
  • Urban Agricultural System: Install
  • Exhibition: Panel Presentations



Supporting documents and handouts