When the recession eliminated Brian Griffith’s teaching job of 22 years, he wasn’t sure at first just what he’d do next.
“It was a difficult time,” he says. “That same year, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.”
His parents lived on a two-acre property in Riverside, California.
“There was a citrus grove there and they didn’t care for it much or pay much attention to it,” he says. “Navel oranges had been really overplanted in Riverside at one time, and there was almost no money in growing a small quantity of them if you were selling them through the packing houses.”
By Anna Sysling
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.
Scott Berndt first moved to California to start a career in hotel and restaurant management. But having spent his childhood on a farm in South Dakota and hailing from a multi-generation family of farmers, he soon emba
rked on a side project: growing tomatoes.
In 2014, Berndt’s real estate agent visited his home and asked about the crop of plants in the backyard. When Berndt told her what he was doing, and that he wished for more space, she offered the two and a half acres behind her home as a growing plot, so long as he did not use chemicals or toxins. Since Berndt was already using organic methods, and continued doing so with the flowers he cultivated on her land, it was a perfect fit. A year later, he converted an unused horse corral as additional growing space for vegetables, and Fox Farm was born.
Gary, Indiana, known for being the birthplace of Michael Jackson and home to massive steel plants, now has a high school with an urban farm program.
Last year, students at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary started the urban farm. It’s founded and operated under the principles of a business plan written as part of an entrepreneurship and personal finance class curriculum.
Urban farmers and gardeners now have a brand new way to measure their results and gather hard data thanks to the Farming Concrete Data Collection Tool Kit.
The project originated in New York City in 2009 as a collaborative venture between nonprofits Added Value Farms and the Design Trust for Public Space. The data collection tools are intended to help individual farmers quantify what they are doing in ways that will help them both improve and promote their farms.
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.