Harbor and River Vessel Transport Company

The Sail Transport Network has printed an interview and my blog post about the Harbor and River Vessel Transport Company HARVEST

Since “Sail Transport for New York City Takes Shape” was posted on https://www.resilience.org/, and https://www.sailtransportnetwork.org/ , here are a few other websites that have picked it up using a “feed aggregator.” https://content.usatoday.com/topics/article/south+street+seaport/0cGO7ub82J1fc/1 

There is also a new video about the Vermont Sail Freight Project

harvest produce

Why HARVEST? Why Now?

The New York City Bioregion is connected tenuously to the rest of the world by literally thousands of lifelines, including an aging and increasingly failure-prone power grid; an aging and leaky water system; and a vast network of roads, rails, shipping and air routes that rely exclusively on increasingly costly fossil fuels. Like a patient on intravenous life support, any major interruption in the flow of natural resources, energy, water or food to the metropolitan area could hamstring or permanently harm its economy and people. With global oil, gas and coal production predicted to irreversibly decline in the next 10 to 20 years, this collapse becomes not a question of if, but when.

 All three of these great calamities were born out of the world’s profligate use of cheap, non-renewable fossil fuels. Like so many past boons, this one has now become a bane. It’s important to understand that all three crises are intimately linked to each other, and magnify each other: For example, a severe drought that continues in the mid-west, could cut off our region’s supply of wheat, corn and soy, causing food shortages and a financial meltdown. Peak oil requires that we drill for fossil fuels in increasingly extreme landscapes, like the deep-water Gulf of Mexico, prone to more and more powerful hurricanes, or by using hydraulic fracturing that will likely contaminate groundwater in the heart of New York and Pennsylvania farming. Our sprawling global oil pipeline stretches halfway around the globe, making us vulnerable and dependent on volatile states. An economic crash or financially-sapping resource war abroad, could wreck our balance of trade, and shatter our tax base, making it fiscally impossible to harden our infrastructure against climate change impacts, which would lead to more economic disasters. The accumulation of shocks could be catastrophic, if we do not prepare.

 One of those tenuous lifelines is the global shipping industry and the NY/NJ Port.  Higher petroleum costs, and higher wages in countries in which much of our imported goods are made could tear that lifeline.  According to Low Tech Magazine, wind powered freighters may be just as fast as the largest most “modern” container ships. 

 Eugen Maersk“The Eugen Maersk (the world’s longest ocean freighter at 1,300 feet) left Rotterdam on the tail end of a journey from Shanghai. But the giant freighter is cruising at 10 knots, well shy of her 26-knot top speed. At about half speed, fuel consumption drops to 100-150 tons of fuel a day from 350 tons, saving as much as $5,000 an hour.

The German Preussen, the largest sailing ship ever built, was launched in 1902 andPreussen travelled mainly between Hamburg (Germany) and Iquique (Chile). It was rammed by a large steam vessel in 1910. A one way trip between Germany and Chile took the cargo vessel between 58 and 79 days. The best average speed over a one way trip was 13.7 knots. The lowest average speed was 10 knots.  Additionally, one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars.  It is time for a new age of sail.”

 Who is doing it Now?:

 The use of sailing vessels as transportation is nothing new.  Many coastal schooners and sailing vessels are still working in the trade between main ports and remote islands and harbors in Africa, Caribbean, South America, 

The Indian, Ocean and the Pacific.   From Northern Ireland to Fiji, freight carrying sailingPretty Kwai smaller ships are being planned, built, and sailing.  These first forays into what will become a huge post carbon enterprise are examples of how coastal short sea shipping along the North American coasts, bays, and rivers will be changing in the near and mid-term.    Some
operating and soon to be operating examples are, the SV Kwai, Tres Hombres Packet Company, Greenheart, and B9 Shipping.   These Ocean Going Ships Inspired HARVEST.

 The idea for a the Harbor and River Vessel Transport Company came from a discussion I had a few years ago with Christina Sun an artist who blogs about things maritime at Bowsprite, and Will Van Dorp who photographs everything about New York Harbor.  Will blogs at Tugster.  During those conversations and talking with others who love sailing vessels and would like to put them to work hauling farm goods and general cargo on the Hudson River, the Bays of New York Harbor, and Long Island Sound — the genesis on an idea for just such a venture started to come together.

B9 Ship Continue reading

Local Food and Urban Agriculture

The inevitable decreasing availability of cheap fossil fuel will eventually make the transportation of food over long distances economically unfeasible, and the phrase “local food” will acquire an urgent, vital meaning beyond the current limited lifestyle implications. Local food will become less about maintaining eco-correctness and more about whether we’re going to have enough to eat! Urban agriculture is one solution, as is a food security plan that includes low carbon transportation and a new relationship with city dwellers and the farmers in the food shed.  These are a few examples of working urban farms, and a proposal for a “foodshed” preservation plan similar to the watershed plan that NYC negotiated with upstate farmers to avoid the need for expensive filtration plants.  

One of the world leaders in urban agriculture and inner city food security is Will Allen’s Will AllenGrowing Power. “Growing Power is a national nonprofit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities.  Growing Power implements this mission by providing hands-on training, on-the-ground demonstration, outreach and technical assistance through the development of Community Food Systems that help people grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner.”

bgfarm_notitleIn the NYC Bioregion one of the leaders in urban roof top agriculture is Brooklyn Grange Farms. “Brooklyn Grange is the leading rooftop farming and intensive green roofing business in the US. We operate the world’s largest rooftop soil farms, located on two roofs in New York City, and grow over 40,000 lbs of organically-cultivated produce per year. In addition to growing and distributing fresh local vegetables and herbs, Brooklyn Grange also provides urban farming and green roof consulting and installation services to clients worldwide, and we partner with numerous non-profit organizations throughout New York to promote healthy and strong local communities.”

Another start up is City Food, CityFood™ is a “triple bottom line” vertically integrated e8212c4f664f8425b4fdce2e17109768sustainable green business consulting firm and incubator focused on developing urban agricultural facilities, fostering  farm and  urban relationships and infrastructure and logistics for local food. 

Back Camera




“The greater Newark (NJ) Conservancy’s  1 acre urban farm on court street yielded almost 10,000 lbs of produce this year, and its 2.5 acre urban farm in the south ward will be coming online in the spring.  Their youth run farm stand has thrived as well.  Most of the produce we grew was sold through the farm stand to local residents.”

 The seminal question about food security for the NYC Bioregion is discussed in the “Take Action” page of this website and more specifically by slow moneySlow Money an organization  “advocating investing 50% of our money within 50 miles of our home, specifically in organic and sustainable  local food, farms, and processing.”



In order to get that locally grown food to market, there will have to be a low tech, low carbon, transportation system in place.  The Hudson River, the Bays and tributaries to New York/New Jersey Harbor, and the Long Island Sound are the “highways of the future” for sailing cargo vessels.  One such enterprise is the Vermont Sail Freight Project.cropped-crans21  

 A complementary proposal called HARVEST The Harbor and River Vessel Transport Company will be a short sea shipping business delivering local produce and seafood throughout the New York/New Jersey Harbor. HARVEST will be a “for benefit” company based on the Farm Boat concept in Seattle and the Island Market Boat in Maine.

old shoreline market

 Historically, thousands of vessels plied the waters to and from cities on the Harbor and the farming areas of New Jersey and the Hudson Valley delivering fresh local farm produce, fish, shellfish, and passengers to ports along the way. The Hudson River and the Harbor was once a bustling highway linking even the smallest communities into a web of regularly scheduled routes. Farmers, dairymen, and oystermen relied on this vibrant and diverse fleet of vessels to bring their goods to market and to receive supplies. The schooners, sloops, and steam boats provided a unique way of life for early inhabitants. For those who worked the inland waters of the Northeast, the romance of the sea was a common element in their lives.

Today, the water highways still exist and need to be reinvigorated.  Maintaining maritime trade routes is more than just a celebration of tradition. In a carbon constrained future sustainable water transport will be necessary and in the event of a regional disaster water-based community links can serve as vital infrastructure to the NY/NJ Harbor region.

NRDC’seat local Smarter Living site asks the question, “Like the idea of eating seasonal produce grown on regional farms but wonder what’s in season near you this week?”  And includes  search tools to find out where to get seasonal local foods and maps to nearby farmers’ markets and even includes directions by car, bike, walking and public transit. The site also has a smart phone application to help you locate what you are looking for.  .  



Sandy, Katrina, and Climate Justice





My OPED Sandy, Katrina, and Climate Justice was just published at NJToday.net, Harvest, NJ’s Environmental News Feed, and OEN