Nearly $5 Million in Grants Will Create Healthier School Meals and Support Local Farmers in 39 States This School Year
WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $4.8 million in grants for 74 projects spanning 39 states that support the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) efforts to connect child nutrition programs with local farmers and ranchers through its Farm to School Program.
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.
The phrases “grow well, eat well, live well, be well” adorn the website of Indianapolis urban farm Growing Places Indy, which uses food to help people find more wholeness in their lives.
For the past seven years, the work of Growing Places Indy has evolved to include a winter farmers’ market, yoga classes, a summer apprenticeship program, educational offerings, and several urban farm sites.
The journey started with the Indy Winter Farmers Market, founded in 2008 by Laura Henderson, who now serves as executive director of Growing Places Indy. Created to give Indianapolis residents a year-round supply of locally-produced foods, the winter market operates from November to April inside the Indianapolis City Market in downtown Indianapolis.
Since its inception in 2011, Twin Cities-based Stone’s Throw Urban Farm has converted 14 vacant lots in St. Paul and Minneapolis into mini-farms.
The project began as a collaboration between several urban farmers in the Twin Cities area during the winter of 2011. The farmers began discussing how urban farming could become a viable business, relying on vegetable sales to support itself, while also providing education, improving the ecological health of the land and developing innovative sustainable agriculture methods.
Increasingly, cities are becoming viable places to grow food. But many cities tend to have more polluted soil than do rural areas. How does this affect the safety of food grown in urban settings?
A study conducted by Wayne State University in Detroit is attempting to answer this question. The study’s co-principal investigators are Lawrence Lemke, professor of geology; and Yifan Zhang, professor of nutrition and food science.
Research is taking place at two urban farms in Detroit, including Earthworks Urban Farm, and an urban farm in Auburn Hills, a Detroit suburb.
According to Lemke, soil pollution in many northern post-industrial cities like Detroit is the result of two legacies. First, soil deposited by glaciers many millennia ago naturally contains nutrients and a variety of naturally occurring metals such as arsenic. Second, soil that contains industrial residue from transportation, manufacturing, and other types of industry may also be contaminated..
The city of Tucson may soon expand its support of urban farmers. On September 17, the Tucson Planning Commission voted in favor of changing the city’s zoning laws to be more friendly to small-scale urban farms. The proposal will now go to the city council for a final vote.
Currently, many Tucsonians with vegetable gardens and backyard hens are in violation of city laws. So far, the city has been lenient with its interpretation and enforcement of the laws, but many urban farming projects are still technically illegal, and groups wishing to establish a community garden or farmers’ market are required to jump through bureaucratic hoops. If adopted, the new proposal will legalize and standardize practices that are already commonplace in parts of the city.
by Traci Knight
When Sean Conway of Lakewood, Colorado observed his neighbors watering and mowing the grass in rarely used yards, inspiration struck. He saw an opportunity to utilize those spaces for a higher purpose: to localize the food system in his neighborhood.
“It seemed silly,” says Conway while describing his new business, Micro Farms. After learning how to farm in the Peace Corp, Conway solidified his idea while working for a nonprofit in Wyoming where produce was grown for low-income populations.
The Windy City took another step toward sustainability on July 29, 2015 when Chicago’s City Council approved a new compost ordinance.
The new regulation will allow community gardens in Chicago to compost various types of organic waste, including food scraps such as vegetables and eggshells. Previously, only landscape waste was permitted for compost, such as grass and shrubbery clippings.
Formerly, community gardens and urban farms were only allowed to compost items that were produced on-site. Accepting donations of food scraps was not permitted, and permits were required for all compost containers measuring more than five cubic yards.