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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Urban Agriculture

Urban Ag Greening Offers Gateway to Stronger, Safer St. Louis

June 16, 2016 |
Gateway Greening St. Louis Urban Agriculture Organization

Gateway Greening’s mission is to educate and empower individuals to strengthen their communities through gardening and urban agriculture. Photo credit: Gateway Greening with permission from Jenna Davis.

Gateway Greening has been taking a holistic approach to urban agriculture, gardening, and education in St. Louis for more than three decades.

“Our mission is to educate and empower individuals to strengthen their communities through gardening and urban agriculture,” Gateway Greening’s Communications Manager Jenna Davis says.

While the group started out as a gardening club focused on ornamental, native, and perennial plants, Davis says it has since blossomed into a three-pronged catalyst for grassroots community building. 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

Backyard Farm Blossoms into Thriving Urban Agriculture Endeavor

June 9, 2016 |
Rishi Kumar, co-founder of The Growing Club, teaching a class. Photo courtesy of The Growing Club.

Rishi Kumar, co-founder of The Growing Club, teaching a class on raising backyard chickens. Photo courtesy of The Growing Club.

Rishi Kumar, co-founder of The Growing Club, got into urban farming because he loves plants and wanted to learn about eating healthy. It turns out he’s not the only one.

What began in 2009 with Kumar and his mother taking over increasingly large sections of a residential backyard to grow more fresh food has developed into an educational non-profit that facilitates a network of demonstration sites in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley. These sites include a ½ acre demonstration farm in Pomona, a new public demonstration garden in Claremont called The Growing Commons, and the original Growing Home, which has evolved into a heavily integrated demonstration of sustainable living techniques that can be implemented by the average homeowner or tenant. Read More

Wisconsin Urban Farming Progam Employs CSA to Bolster Access and Health in Food Desert

June 1, 2016 |
Tidy beds and rows of pots contain what will be the produce delivered to families in Racine, Wisconsin’s 'Growing Home' CSA. Photo courtesy of HALO, Inc.

Tidy beds and rows of pots contain what will be the produce delivered to low-income families by Racine, WI-based ‘Growing Home’ CSA program. Photo courtesy of HALO, Inc.

An innovative urban community supported agriculture (CSA) effort is taking root in Racine, Wisconsin to improve access to fresh, locally grown produce. The program, called ‘Growing Home,’ is a grant-funded initiative of Racine’s Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization, Inc. (HALO) whose goal is to deliver produce grown on an urban farm to families residing in a nearby ‘food desert’ where there is little or no access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Much of the produce for these CSA subscriptions is grown in a 20-by-48-foot hoop house located in a vacant parking lot just South of HALO’s offices. According to Jamie Williams, hoop house manager for HALO, grant money awarded by Sustainable Edible Economic Development, Inc. (SEED) provided the funds to purchase the Growing Home hoop house. 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

Grassroots Grows Up: Knoxville’s Old City Gardens Looks to Build New Urban Farming Model

May 5, 2016 |

Crews prepare the Old City Gardens site, expected to open later this month. Credit: Brenna Wright/Abbey Fields Farm

A new Knoxville community garden project is looking to build a new model for urban farm viability by leaning on a triad of private investment, farmers, city government.

Old City Gardens began at the impetus of local business person and state economic development commissioner Randy Boyd, who was eager to see some of the lots he owns in Old City contribute to the area’s green development. He was particularly inspired by Boston’s Fenway Victory Gardens and wanted to find a way to catalyze a similar farm or garden project in Knoxville that could supply local restaurants with fresh produce.

While shopping the idea to a local restaurateur, Boyd was directed to Brenna Wright, owner of Abbey Fields Farm, which has cultivated an urban farm a mile and a half from the Old City site for the past two seasons. Read More

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