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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Urban Agriculture

USDA Unveils New Urban Agriculture Toolkit for Urban Farmers and Entrepreneurs

April 29, 2016 |

post_usdalogoNews Release – WASHINGTON, April 29, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today unveiled the USDA Urban Agriculture Toolkit, a new resource created by USDA’s Know Your Farmer team to help entrepreneurs and community leaders successfully create jobs and increase access to healthy food through urban agriculture. From neighborhood gardens grown on repurposed lots, to innovative mobile markets and intensive hydroponic and aquaculture operations, urban food production is rapidly growing into a mature business sector in cities across the country.

“Urban agriculture helps strengthen the health and social fabric of communities while creating economic opportunities for farmers and neighborhoods,” Vilsack said. “USDA’s Urban Agriculture Toolkit compiles guidance from our Know Your Farmer team and many private partners into one comprehensive resource to help small-scale producers manage all aspects of their business. From protecting soil health to marketing to schools and grocery store chains, USDA has tools to meet the needs of this new breed of innovative urban farmer and small business owner.” Read More

Investment Firm Bets on Tree Farms in Formerly Industrial Midwestern Cities

April 19, 2016 |
An urban hybrid poplar farm. Photo courtesy Fresh Coast Capital.

An urban hybrid poplar farm. Photo courtesy Fresh Coast Capital.

By Joy Leopold

Across the country in cities like St. Louis, MO, Battle Creek, MI, and Youngstown, OH, unsightly vacant lots are about to experience a green revival. 

That’s because Fresh Coast Capital, an investment and real estate development firm, aims to plant 27,000 trees across six cities in 2016 as part of an effort to revitalize some Midwestern cities that have suffered from the economic downturn.

The company raised $1 million in funding from private investors and received permission from city governments to plant hybrid poplar trees vacant and contaminated lots, left as factories in the cities downsized or shut down.  In some cases, the company was provided lots for a dollar. Read More

10 Cities Pushing the Bounds of Community Gardening

April 18, 2016 |
Fenway Victory Gardens photo: By M2545 (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Fenway Victory Gardens Photo: By M2545 (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Community garden” can mean a lot of things–from a neighborhood vegetable plot to a cooperative farming business. As the phrase evolves, Seedstock takes a look at ten cities which, through scale, creativity or a combination of both, are stretching the limits of what community-scale agriculture can accomplish.

Fairbanks, Alaska

You might think of central Alaska as a frigid and snowy place, and it can be. But for about 90 days in the middle of the year, the sun gets up around 4 a.m. and stays up until about midnight, making for a compact, but intense growing season. The Fairbanks Community Garden takes advantage of this, as well as the enthusiasm of Arctic gardeners who want to get outside and put some food by for the winter while they have the chance. With the help of some plastic mulch and other ground covers to warm up cold soils, Alaskan gardeners in this city demonstrate the influence determination can have on our ability to produce our own food. Read More

Spring Has Sprung: A Few Tips to Ready Your Urban Garden

April 7, 2016 |
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Chard can be planted early along with scores of other plants. Photo Credits: Brian Allnutt

In most areas of the country, the time for planting is near or nigh. Here are some reminders to help you begin to rev up the engine of your urban vegetable garden and keep it running smooth all season long.

For beginning gardeners, it might be advisable to concentrate on doing this season and not thinking too much. There are many cases of frustrated gardeners trying to figure out what to do by reading books and reading articles on the internet like this one, when the best way to learn would be to volunteer at a community garden or urban farm. It’s much easier to contextualize these things once you have a little experience growing in the soil. Read More

Growing Pains: 5 Challenges Facing Urban Agriculture (And How to Overcome Them)

April 5, 2016 |
Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that implements urban agriculture as a tool for addressing structural food inequality through education and community building. Photo Credit: MIUFI

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that implements urban agriculture as a tool for addressing structural food inequality through education and community building. Photo Credit: MIUFI

Urban populations are growing rapidly, and so is the popularity of urban agriculture with city dwellers, chefs, and policymakers. As more people place larger demands on what was originally a grassroots movement, we look at some of the hurdles and how some companies and individuals are addressing them. Read More

Ag Startup Offers ‘IKEA-style’ Line of Smart Urban Farming Kits

March 22, 2016 |
Growall. Courtesy AKER

Growall. Courtesy AKER

It all began with a beehive. Or rather, many beehives.

Aaron Makaruk, co-founder of urban farm kit manufacturer AKER, was part of a team working on an initiative called the Open Source Beehives Project, consisting of  a few ecologists, makers, engineers, and beekeepers who came together in 2014 to help tackle the issue of colony collapse in bees. 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

Can Cities Feed Themselves? A Look at Urban Farming in 5 Major American Urban Centers

February 24, 2016 |
Food Field is a for profit 4-acre urban farm based in Detroit that was founded in 2010 by Noah Link and Alex Bryan. Photo Credit: Food Field.

Food Field is a for profit 4-acre urban farm based in Detroit that was founded in 2010 by Noah Link and Alex Bryan. Photo Credit: Food Field.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that urban agriculture—the practice of cultivating and distributing food in population-dense areas—is all the rage. 

As Americans learn more about our food system and how it affects our health and the environment, many city-dwellers are looking for alternatives to pesticide-laden fruit and vegetables, GMOs and CAFOs.

In response, many farmers have turned to cultivating in cities to meet the demand for locally grown crops. And ordinary citizens are taking it upon themselves to learn how to grow their own food. Read More