In cities across America, the female farmer is staking her claim. Whether she is an urban homesteader, farm manager, business founder, community garden leader or maker of a movement, the female city farmer is rising. Role models for what can be done, inspiration for what can be achieved and hope for what comes next, these female growers are planting seeds of change in the urban agriculture movement.
Nefarious woodchips? Criminalized soil remediation? According to the supporters of urban grower Thomas Jackson of Toledo, OH, the level of police and city council harassment leveled against a local urban grower for having woodchips in his compost on his residential lots went far beyond outdated zoning laws and stepped things up to arrest warrants and legal pressure. All Jackson wanted to do was grow some organic produce in clean soil.
Master Gardener and multi-certified composter Thomas Jackson owns several empty urban lots in downtown Toledo. December of 2015 a complaint was filed against Jackson claiming his odorous compost was attracting vermin and in violation of residential zoning laws. A few years ago, Jackson began breaking down woodchips on the site to create a composted mulch. He wanted a contaminant free bed for his organic vegetable gardens, planning to sell his produce to area restaurants. Yet despite neighborhood support for a radius of five blocks around the site, officials insisted the neighbors were not happy with the state of the lots.
Focused on preserving traditional Jewish agricultural techniques and furthering the concept of local community, the folks at The Leichtag Foundation incubated Coastal Roots Farm in early January of 2016 after two years of planning and preparation with lots of help from Farmer D, aka Daron Joffe. Located in Encinitas, CA, Coastal Roots is an educational hub offering food, farming and spiritual wisdom for a more sustainable life.
The Leichtag Foundation, a Jewish nonprofit philanthropic organization established in the 1990s bought the 67 acre property that houses Coastal Roots Farm in 2014. Joffe was hired to create the plan and layout of the property. “The idea was for Coastal Roots Farm to be incubated by the Leichtag Foundation but then within five years to be a viable independent community farm that served Encinitas and Glenn County,” says Sona Desai, Associate Director of Coastal Roots.
Slated for Saturday, May 20, 2017 the ‘Future of Food – Urban Farming Field Trip’ will visit a series of innovative urban farming ventures in Inland Southern California that have emerged to grow the local food marketplace, increase food access, educate local communities, advocate for food equity, and improve health and nutrition. The field trip hosted by Seedstock, a social venture that seeks to foster the development of sustainable local food systems, will also include lectures from experts in urban farming.
The tour is the third in a series of Seedstock ‘Future of Food’ field trips that was recently launched to facilitate the exploration of food system innovations that are generating economic and community capital.
A small farm on the campus of Butler University in Indiana serves not only as a living example of the potential for urban agriculture, but is also functions as a hub for “research, education, and outreach.” The farm is managed by the University’s Center for Urban Ecology (CUE). Started in 2010 by CUE and student members of Earth Charter Butler, the farm initially occupied about a quarter of an acre of land on the university’s campus, which grew to an acre when grant money allowed for its expansion.
In 2011 the farm hired its first full-time manager and staff member, Tim Dorsey. Like many people drawn to urban farming, Tim didn’t have a background in agriculture. In fact, he graduated from college with a degree in Philosophy and only afterward became interested in issues affecting the food system, such as diminishing farmland and disappearing farm communities. Influenced by authors like Wendell Berry he soon started his own backyard garden that grew and expanded, along with his knowledge. Now Tim applies what he’s learned to the CUE farm and has embraced the project’s multiple objectives, which include creating awareness about the local food system and being a practical, living demonstration of sustainable agriculture.