urban agriculture policy
The City of Detroit, once the wealthiest city in the United States, saw its population peak in 1950 at 1.8 million. In the sixty years since, population declined by 60 percent to approximately 713,000 in 2010.
As a result, the city’s once bustling 139-square miles contain an estimated 200,000 vacant parcels comprising a quarter of the city’s land area, according to the Wall Street Journal. The vacant land stretches for miles, forming vistas across urban prairies interspersed with abandoned structures.
Urban farming has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to deal with vacant property, revitalize neighborhoods and provide job skills and nutrition to remaining local residents struggling with poverty and a lack of access to fresh produce.
Roots of Change (ROC) is a California-based nonprofit developing a collaborative network of stakeholders – the public sector, nonprofits, funding sources, entrepreneurs, farmers, ranchers and concerned individuals – dedicated to seeing California with a sustainable, healthy, safe and profitable food system by the year 2030.
Tall order. But in the years since the organization’s launch in 2000, ROC has seen concrete changes come to the California food system – how we grow, transport and consume the food that nourishes a state and a nation.
A wastewater treatment plant as the site for an urban farm may seem unusual, but for Michael Boyle, a professor at Seattle University in the Environmental Studies department and director of the Urban Farm, the pairing is a natural fit. “In our time, there can’t be waste,” Boyle explains, and it is only fitting that GroCo, a locally-produced biosolids compost whose material originates at the treatment plant, is used as fertilizer.
On two acres tucked away in the southern portion of King County’s South Treatment Plant sits Urban Farm, a joint venture between Seattle University and King County Waste Water Division. The partnership came about in 2010 when Casey Plank, a former student working in the Waste Water Division, approached Boyle with the idea of developing a community project.
News Release – Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Growing Power, a leading local urban agriculture organization, today announced the launch of Farmer’s for Chicago, a new program that will make available up to five acres of City-owned vacant lots for urban farming activity, and help expand the supply chain for local neighborhood-level food production and wholesale. The city lots will be prepared for local nonprofits that will be able to install food growing equipment, and train up to 20 people in urban farming and skills.
“Once made available, these vacant lots will help stabilize communities by bringing productive activity to areas that need it around food deserts,“ said Mayor Emanuel. “Farmers for Chicago will give local residents a chance to not only learn how to grow food in their communities, but also build their own food enterprise.”
Few look at a weed-choked city lot fowled by disemboweled cars and see a future of health enhancing vegetables by the bushel full. But this is what the founders of the Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) saw 30 years ago in a down and out neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island. That ¾ acre lot, now called City Farm, represented the start of something now a whole lot of lots bigger. In following its mission to provide access to land, education and other resources to enable people in Greater Providence to grow food in environmentally sustainable ways, SCLT has grown the number of community gardens it oversees to 16.
To highlight the growth and importance of urban agriculture in the U.S., Seedstock hosted a panel on Urban Agriculture and Local Food Systems at the company’s recent Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Innovation conference. The panel explored the social and …
Aside from a little referenced law dating back to the 19th century allowing public grazing for sheep and cattle on Boston Common, Boston zoning laws make no mention of agriculture. In absence of zoning permissions, most agricultural activities are in effect forbidden. “That’s not to say that the city is out there policing people with vegetable gardens,” says Tad Read, project manager of the Urban Agricultural Zoning at the Boston Redevelopment Authority. He adds that without a legal support to lean on, farmers can be penalized if neighbors file nuisance complaints, such as odors from compost and manure application, or squawking of hens laying eggs each morning.
Mayor Thomas A. Menino aims to change that. Last fall he announced a pilot zoning project that would legalize farming on two plots of land that would serve as an experimental model for future integration of agricultural zoning laws across the city.
The world’s population is growing rapidly, and that calls for new ways of thinking about how to produce enough food while also conserving the earth’s natural resources. As a result, agricultural entrepreneurs today are striving to combine the best of traditional farming methods with new technologies in order to create food that is healthy, flavorful and locally grown.
And if that doesn’t sound like enough of a feat, there’s also the challenge of doing it all using a business model that won’t leave the farmer broke.
Southern California has become a region of growing activity for these types of ventures, and Seedstock has attempted to provide a glimpse of what that experience looks like. A panel of agricultural entrepreneurs from the region—including those using soil, hydroponic and aquaponic growing methods—gathered at UCLA on Wednesday to share their experiences.
The following is a guest post from Dan Allen, the CFO of Farmscape Gardens, a Los Angeles-based organic garden installation and maintenance company that since its founding has become the largest urban farming venture in Southern California.
In a guest post for Seedstock on Friday, Roxanne Christenson argues that urban agriculture must professionalize if it is to keep growing, creating jobs, and providing quality food for urban residents. Her observation is a good one, as even a casual survey of urban farming ventures reveals that non-profits outnumber for-profits by a wide margin. And I agree with her conclusion regarding the potential benefits of urban agriculture training programs:
“The time is ripe for the professionalization of urban agriculture. It will then not only deliver the social and environmental benefits touted by the advocates, but it will also be an industry that generates significant economic benefits as well.”
However, I take issue with Roxanne’s prescription for how we get there. She argues that the missing link is business training, along with financial and management strategies to pair with agricultural expertise.
Sustainable Ag Startup Sees Aeroponic Technology as Key to Re-integrating Agriculture into Urban EnvironsFebruary 14, 2012 | Danny Jensen
Eating locally within a hundred mile radius is certainly an impressive feat. But imagine the convenience of picking fresh produce from a farm that’s only a hundred feet away, or even ten, while still living in a crowded city.
The Waters Wheel, a Los Angeles-based company, aims to do just that by bringing the farm to your doorstep or rooftop by using aeroponic tower farms – recirculating systems that use clean recycled water in place of soil to grow food.
In Creating Fleet of Sustainable, Urban Farmers, Milwaukee-based Growing Power Seeks to End World HungerFebruary 13, 2012 | Jessica Vernabe
Will Allen, CEO and founder of Growing Power, Inc., has a straightforward goal – to end world hunger.
“It’s a lofty goal, but that’s how things should be,” said Allen, a sharecropper’s son who was a professional basketball player when he rediscovered his love for agriculture. “The only way to end world hunger is the local food system that we used to have. … Everybody would buy local food if it was available. We don’t have the infrastructure right now, so one of the things I wanted to do is prove that this could be done and this could be cash-flowed.”
Valentine’s Day finds most romantics dashing to the neighborhood florist for a fresh bouquet of flowers for their sweetheart. But roses that have been doused with toxic pesticides and shipped half way across the globe, hardly inspire romance, especially for the environmentally conscious consumer. Thankfully, Tara Kolla of Silver Lake Farms in Los Angeles, dedicates herself to growing and selling locally-grown, organic flowers for those who like to keep it green even when they’re wearing red.
Kolla’s commitment to growing flowers sustainably, and the obstacles she has faced in doing so, has even helped change gardening laws in Los Angeles to allow more people to grow and sell fruits and flowers.
This is a guest post from John Stoddard, a Founding Farmer of Higher Ground Farm in Boston. Higher Ground is currently seeking a 25,000+ square foot roof space for a farm.
Can you hear mooing coming from the Common? Listen closely: it’s distant. Like 200 years in the past distant, but it’s there – part of the spirit of Boston. It’s easy to forget in our modern local foods movement that urban agriculture is not a new idea. Yes, dairy cows and sheep once grazed the Boston Common, and the victory gardens of the first and second World Wars were successful in producing millions of pounds of food.