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A high-flying idea: JetBlue starts an airport potato farm

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(Read caption) JetBlue Airways aircraft are pictured at departure gates at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York . JetBlue's T5 Farm will grow herbs and produce, including over 3,000 crates of blue potato plants.

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Airline company JetBlue recently unveiled an urban farm in an unlikely place: Terminal 5 (T5) at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The T5 Farm will grow herbs and produce, including over 3,000 crates of blue potato plants. JetBlue calls the T5 Farm an “experiment in 'farm-to-air' innovation” and hopes it will help to educate the public, on a small scale, about the cycle of food production as it is linked to in-flight and terminal consumption. 

JetBlue flights and ground transportation emit close to 6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, but the company has brought awareness to sustainability with recycling programs, composting partnerships and now by transforming 24,000 square feet of airport tarmac near T5 into a productive and educational urban farm.

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Thousands of plastic milk crates bolted to the ground and filled with soil (made from composted T5 restaurant leftovers) make up the T5 Farm, which will grow produce for restaurants inside the terminal. JetBlue is working with TERRA Real Vegetable Chips and the non-profit GrowNYC and hopes to use the farm as a living classroom for local students and airline passengers.

Jared Simon, director of marketing for Hain Celestial, the company that makes TERRA Chips which are offered to passengers on JetBlue flights, said in an Associated Press article: "It's really about the education. There's such a desire from consumers to connect what they are eating with where it is from."

The T5 Farm will not be able to produce the volume of potatoes needed to supply the 5.8 million bags of Terra Chips served on JetBlue flights each year, but that isn’t really the goal.

Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue's sustainability manager, told NPR’s The Salt that the vision for the T5 Farm is to encourage “urban agriculture, supply local schoolchildren with a living laboratory about healthy food, give free produce to our crew members and add a literal green space to the customer experience."

This article first appeared in Food Tank.