Posts By Karen Briner
A small farm on the campus of Butler University in Indiana serves not only as a living example of the potential for urban agriculture, but is also functions as a hub for “research, education, and outreach.” The farm is managed by the University’s Center for Urban Ecology (CUE). Started in 2010 by CUE and student members of Earth Charter Butler, the farm initially occupied about a quarter of an acre of land on the university’s campus, which grew to an acre when grant money allowed for its expansion.
In 2011 the farm hired its first full-time manager and staff member, Tim Dorsey. Like many people drawn to urban farming, Tim didn’t have a background in agriculture. In fact, he graduated from college with a degree in Philosophy and only afterward became interested in issues affecting the food system, such as diminishing farmland and disappearing farm communities. Influenced by authors like Wendell Berry he soon started his own backyard garden that grew and expanded, along with his knowledge. Now Tim applies what he’s learned to the CUE farm and has embraced the project’s multiple objectives, which include creating awareness about the local food system and being a practical, living demonstration of sustainable agriculture.
On Land Once Occupied by a Tomato Cannery an Agrihood Rises to Grow New Farmers and Feed a CommunityJanuary 16, 2017 | Karen Briner
The Cannery, a farm-to-table housing development in Davis, California, is the first agrihood of its kind in California. With its own urban farm and small orchard, the unique housing development can offer its residents fresh, hyperlocal produce as well as pastured chickens and eggs.
The land for The Cannery, aptly named because it was once the site of a tomato cannery, was sold to The New Home Company by ConAgra. The City of Davis has a rule that if developmental land borders agricultural land, then a 300-foot buffer is required. In this case, the buffer was about seven acres in total. Instead of opting for a plain green space, though, the developers were attracted to the idea of creating a working farm on the land. Once the City of Davis accepted its proposal, the company turned to the Center for Land-Based Learning to plan, develop, and run the farm. It has taken over six years to get to the point where the farm is now operational.
It is believed to be a world first: a fully functioning greenhouse on wheels that plugs in much like an RV and that could offer up solutions to some of urban farming’s biggest challenges. The mobile greenhouse prototype, which goes by the name GrOwING GREEN, was born of a collaboration between architecture students at Ball State University and Butler University’s Center for Urban Ecology (CUE). It has already been recognized by the American Institute of Architects with a state award for excellence in architecture.
Timothy Gray, a professor of Architecture at Ball State, whose fourth year students designed and constructed the mobile greenhouse, points out that the mobility aspect opens up a world of possibilities, including the idea of bringing the farm to the people. As stated on their website, the prototype, “lends itself to the shifting and temporal nature of the urban farm.”
In what some might describe as a midlife crisis and others an epiphany, Daron Babcock, the executive Director of urban farming organization Bonton Farms, quit his all-consuming job in the corporate world and moved to Bonton, an impoverished inner city community in Dallas, Texas. He had already been volunteering there once a week, meeting with a group of men who had been in prison and were struggling to get their lives back on track. But two hours on a Saturday was not enough, so he decided to work full-time with the men.
After moving to Bonton, he noticed that many people were sick and dying at a rapid rate. He also learned that Bonton was a food desert, with the nearest grocery store a three hour return trip on public transportation. Daron recognized a correlation between the lack of access to healthy food and the high rate of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes – Bonton had a 300 percent higher death rate from diabetes than the county rate.
It was a collaboration between six men, three of whom suffered from diabetes and cancer, that led to a decision to plant a garden.
Dustin Lang didn’t set out to become an urban farmer. In fact, after high school he went on to study and practice corporate law. That is, until he was drawn back to the urban farm that he now runs together with his father Glen and father-in-law Jim Loy.
The aptly named LL Urban Farms in Raleigh, North Carolina, established by the Lang and Loy families in 2012, is a true family affair. The families first connected when their two eldest children, Dustin and Taylor Loy (now husband and wife), met in high school.
Coincidentally, at the time, both Dustin’s father and his future father-in-law were approaching retirement age and looking for viable small business opportunities to pursue. They looked at the potential of greenhouse agriculture and controlled environment systems, and despite the fact that neither of them had any previous professional experience in farming, decided to start a business to grow food for the local marketplace.