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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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urban agriculture policy

$2 Million in Grants for Urban Agriculture Projects Awarded to 42 Conservation Districts in US

July 20, 2016 |
Seeds@City Urban Farm, located in downtown San Diego, serves as an outdoor classroom and laboratory for the sustainable urban agriculture program at San Diego City College. (photo courtesy Damian Valdez/Seeds@City Urban Farm)

Seeds@City Urban Farm, located in downtown San Diego, serves as an outdoor classroom and laboratory for the sustainable urban agriculture program at San Diego City College. (photo courtesy Damian Valdez/Seeds@City Urban Farm)

News Release – The National Association of Conservation Districts, in partnership with USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, has awarded $2 million in grants to 42 conservation districts in 25 states to boost technical assistance capacity for urban agriculture and conservation projects.

“NACD and the conservation districts we represent work on a scale that no other conservation organization or coalition does,” NACD President Lee McDaniel told an audience of conservation leaders in Minneapolis on Sunday. “We have the reach we need to engage the 98 percent of folks who don’t necessarily produce our fuel, fiber, and food, but still can make a sizable and positive difference on the landscape.”

“With today’s announcement, NACD is broadening its base and the base of support for conservation in this country. We are going to reward, support, and encourage conservation implemented on every landscape.” Read More

Urban Agriculture Fair Celebrates Growing ‘Hyper Local’ Food Movement

July 18, 2016 |
envision urban agriculture fair san diego food systems alliance

On Saturday July 30th, San Diego Food System Alliance will be hosting an Envision Urban Agriculture Fair from 1:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M. to support the local food movement and celebrate the City of San Diego’s implementation of Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones (AB 551).

SAN DIEGO, CA – On Saturday July 30th, San Diego Food System Alliance, Slow Food Urban San Diego, International Rescue Committee, and Alchemy San Diego will be hosting an Envision Urban Agriculture Fair from 1:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M. to support the local food movement and celebrate the City of San Diego’s implementation of Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones (AB 551). The Fair will include an urban farmers market, heirloom seed swap, healthy cooking demos by chefs, soil corner with composting demos, local kombucha and beer, local organic food makers, workshops including beekeeping, resources for growers by nonprofits and nurseries, small farm animals, crafts for kids, and live music. The sponsors for the Fair includes Urban Plantations and UCSD.

Envision Urban Agriculture Fair will be held at SILO – MAKERS QUARTER™, an outdoor venue in East Village with several vacant lots nearby. The Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Ordinance (AB 551), recently ok-ed by the City Council in the City of San Diego, will provide a property tax incentive for private landowners to turn their vacant lots into urban farms and community gardens. In the City of San Diego, it is estimated that there are at least 3,000 vacant lots that are eligible for this tax incentive.   Read More

From Empty Lots to Thriving Plots: Urban Farming Expert Explains What Works

June 13, 2016 |
Neighbors at work at Blue Jay's Perch Community Garden in Baltimore, MD. Photo Credit: Florence Ma.

Neighbors at work at Blue Jay’s Perch Community Garden in Baltimore, MD. Photo Credit: Florence Ma.

From community and rooftop gardens to cultivating empty lots, urban farming has been going on as long as there have been cities. But over the past decade or so, as city residents have become more aware of the environmental, economic and community benefits of eating locally grown produce, urban farming has become a topic of wide discussion that has captured the attention and imagination of a diversity of stakeholders — from high profile restaurateurs and community advocates to the United Nations and local city councils across the US.

But does it benefit community, economy and environment? Have some of the virtues of urban agriculture been overstated? Weighing questions like these was the goal of a Johns Hopkins University study, “Vacant Lots to Vibrant Plots: A Review of the Benefits and Limitations of Urban Agriculture,” published in May by Raychel Santo, Anne Palmer and Brent Kim.

Seedstock recently caught up with Santo, the coordinator for the Food Communities and Public Health program at Johns Hopkins’ Center for a Livable Future in Baltimore, MD, to dig deeper into the study’s findings. Read More

It’s Almost Summer in the Urban Garden: Tips for Planting Hot Weather Crops

May 8, 2016 |
Zucchini. Source: Wikipedia.

Zucchini. Source: Wikipedia.

For a lot of people, Mother’s Day means two things: time to go out to brunch and time to plant the vegetable garden.

Of course, you may have put many of your plants in the ground already, but for those who like to put their vegetable garden in all at once, mid-May is often the time to do it.

The changing climate has complicated this somewhat, so gardeners in northern areas may need to wait until June to put in hot-season crops. This is particularly the case in cities where the city center may experience a several degree differential from surrounding areas. due to an urban heat island effect  Check your local USDA zone map to see where you are..

Most summer crops discussed will not tolerate a frost, let alone a freeze, although a blanket on a cold night or row cover will provide a few degrees of protection. Read More

Florida Farming Op Converts Water-Thirsty Lawns into Sustainable Food Producing Farmlettes

February 28, 2016 |
Fleet Farming in Orlando utilizes volunteers on bikes to harvest produce from participating home sites. Not only does its work spur local agriculture in the region, but it also builds community. (photo courtesy Heather Grove/Fleet Farming)

Fleet Farming in Orlando utilizes volunteers on bikes to harvest produce from participating home sites. Not only does its work spur local agriculture in the region, but it also builds community. (Photo courtesy Heather Grove/Fleet Farming)

Orlando, Florida-based Fleet Farming is helping people convert their water-thirsty and fertilizer-hungry St. Augustine grass lawns to prolific food-producing farmlettes.

The initial idea was proposed by John Rife, founder and owner of Orlando’s East End Market. Speaking at a Hive Orlando community workshop held by Ideas for Us (an NPO/NGO focused on environmental sustainability), Rife stressed the importance of farming lawns to spur local food production.

Intrigued, Ideas for Us president and founder Chris Castro refined Rife’s idea, which evolved into Fleet Farming. Castro and Heather Grove, also from East End Market, now serve as Fleet Farming co-coordinators. Read More

From Cars to Chickens: Urban Livestock Ordinance Considered in Detroit

February 2, 2016 |

By Anna Sysling

Urban Livestock Ordinance Considered in Detroit

Members of urban livestock work group in Detroit say farm animals like egg-laying chickens, ducks, goats and rabbits could be legally kept within city limits as soon as this summer.

While Detroit’s 2013 urban agriculture ordinance allows residents to cultivate plants and fish, there still isn’t any language to account for farm animals. But an urban livestock workgroup hopes to change that shortly.

Members of the group include employees of various city departments, such as the City of Detroit Planning Commission. They say farm animals like egg-laying chickens, ducks, goats and rabbits could be legally kept within Detroit city limits as soon as this summer. Their proposal also makes the case for honey bees and potentially even sheep for the purpose of grazing the city’s vacant land.

Senior Planner with the Legislative Policy Division and City of Detroit Planning Commissioner Kathryn Underwood is a member of the group. She’s been working on an urban livestock policy to present to Detroit City Council. Underwood expects a proposal will be ready to unveil in the next few months, describing it as a comprehensive ordinance that’s been years in the making. Read More

The City of Atlanta Hires First Urban Agriculture Director

December 1, 2015 |
Mario Cambardella has been named as the City of Atlanta’s very first director of urban agriculture. (photo courtesy Stephanie Stuckey Benfield/City of Atlanta)

Mario Cambardella has been named as the City of Atlanta’s very first director of urban agriculture. (Photo courtesy Stephanie Stuckey Benfield/City of Atlanta)

The City of Atlanta, Georgia last month named its first-ever urban agriculture director. Mario Cambardella is poised to officially join the city’s administrative roster, headed by Mayor Kasim Reed, in early December.

There is a critical need for such a position, according to Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, director of Atlanta’s Office of Sustainability. She says Cambardella will expand upon the city’s urban agriculture ordinance, which was adopted in June 2014 and changed Atlanta’s zoning rules to make more room for urban agricultural operations.

“We need more urban farmers,” says Benfield.  She expects Cambardella to lead the way in refining the city’s urban agriculture policy and identifying opportunities for urban agriculture in underserved communities. He will be responsible for cultivating partnerships with local nonprofits and helping would-be urban farmers to navigate the city’s permitting process. He’ll also serve as a resource for farmers’ markets. Read More

Residents and Policymakers in Lawrence, Kansas are Working to Revise Urban Agriculture Codes

November 16, 2015 |
Residents may soon be allowed to keep up to two small goats if they meet certain requirements. Image source: Wikipedia

Residents may soon be allowed to keep up to two small goats if they meet certain requirements. Image source: Wikipedia

City planners in Lawrence, Kansas are working together with local farmers to finalize changes to the city’s urban agriculture regulations. Home to the University of Kansas, this city of 80,000 hopes to work toward a strong relationship between urban farmers, non-farmer residents, and local governments in other small cities across the country, according to  local station KAHB.

In August, the city conducted a survey asking residents about the barriers they face in growing food. They received 160 responses that they hope will indicate how to best support backyard farmers and urban growers in Lawrence. Open meetings were held on September 28 and October 19 to discuss the proposed new plan, which focuses heavily on small livestock but also addresses land access and on-site sales for community gardens and urban farms, among other things. The proposal puts the spotlight on “small animals that are more appropriate in a denser urban setting,” specifically bees, birds, small goats, worms, crickets, rabbits, and fish. Read More