Posts By Charli Engelhorn
Atop a Parking Garage in a Staten Island Residential Development, an Urban Farm Builds Community and ThrivesAugust 14, 2017 | Charli Engelhorn
Sometimes, the best laid plans do not always work out, and for Zaro Bates, co-founder and proprietor of Empress Green Inc., this small deviation from her plan would come to encapsulate her life in every facet.
Empress Green Inc. is an urban farming business specializing in organic food production, education, and consulting. Bates and her husband, Asher Landes, started the company in 2016, shortly after moving into the residential development Urby, a 500+ apartment complex that sits on the north shore of Staten Island, New York. The couple built and now maintain a 4,500-square-foot urban farm on top of one of the complex’s parking garages between two of the main buildings.
“During a 3-year development consultancy, we evolved several green roof and urban farm concepts that would be attractive shared amenities for the residents,” Bates says. “We decided on an intensive green roof urban market garden with a Farmer-in-Residence to manage the farm and run workshops and events for the community.”
Inspiration comes from many directions, even from tragedy. That was the case for Randy Bekendam, proprietor of Amy’s Farm, a 10-acre farm located south of Ontario, California. Bekendam runs Amy’s Farm with Amy herself, who is also his daughter.
Originally a cattle farm, Bekendam was moved to make a change and do something to bring the community together after a 3-year-old boy was killed by a drive-by shooter in nearby Pomona. Bekendam’s idea? Bring everyone together to heal their neighborhoods by growing food as a community.
“When the little boy was shot, I had never planted anything. I was not a farmer, so with this vision of growing food to build community, maybe have an impact on gang violence, and bring urban farming to the city, I realized I better become a farmer,” he says.
The 2004 film A Day Without a Mexican presented a scenario in which fresh produce from California’s farms were being sold on the black market and out of car trunks as a consequence of the sudden disappearance of the country’s Mexican population. Although satirical in nature, the message behind the film is becoming more relevant due to recent Trump administration policies regarding immigration and deportation.
According to statistics from the Farm Labor Survey of the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, in 2012, there were nearly 1.1 million farm workers, on average, working on the 2.1 million farms in the United States. Of those workers, approximately 50 percent were undocumented laborers. This percentage increased when broken down into specific crop production, with undocumented workers accounting for 67 percent of farm workers in the fruit and nut industry and 61 percent in the vegetable industry compared to nine percent and 17 percent, respectively, of farm workers who were U.S. citizens.
In Fight Against Food Poverty, L.A. Kitchen Embraces Imperfect Fruit and Intergenerational WorkforceFebruary 13, 2017 | Charli Engelhorn
Fighting hunger is more than just about food for Robert Egger, founder and CEO of L.A. Kitchen, a non-profit in Los Angeles that engages, empowers, and nourishes the local community “by reclaiming healthy, local food that would otherwise be discarded, training men and women who are unemployed for jobs, and providing healthy meals to fellow citizens,” according to the organizations mission statement.
“Fighting hunger is a political act, a social act, an economic act,” says Egger. “I want to be a source and develop a model that shows how you can feed more people a better meal with less money.”
L.A. Kitchen is modeled after Egger’s first enterprise, D.C. Central Kitchen in Washington D.C. A chance experience of accompanying friends to feed the homeless there highlighted some inadequacies Egger couldn’t ignore, such as purchasing the food when so many people in the food industry he knew lamented over wasting food at the end of the night.
To Transform the ‘Hood for Good’ Urban Farmer Chanowk Yisrael Plants Seeds not only in the Ground, but in MindsFebruary 6, 2017 | Charli Engelhorn
A common perception of farming encompasses the process of growing food and selling it to the masses. For many American farmers, this process represents their entire enterprise. Yet, for Chanowk Yisrael, being a farmer has greater significance for his family and community. With his wife and nine children, Yisrael operates the Yisrael Family Urban Farm on a half-acre plot in his backyard in South Oak Park, a historically working-class neighborhood in Sacramento, California.
Started in 2007 as a way to safeguard his family’s livelihood in the event of a recession, it took time before Yisrael got the hang of urban farming. However, once he did and came to understand the value of farming in a community, he transitioned full-time to life as a farmer.