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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Urban Farming

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

5 Things to Know About Growing in Urban Soils

April 27, 2016 |
Root vegetables like beets should be carefully cleaned of urban soil. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Root vegetables like beets should be carefully cleaned of urban soil. Source: Wikimedia Commons

By Brian Allnutt

Beginning gardeners should always be prepared to garden imperfectly and learn as they go. You can make a lot of mistakes and still have a good time and pull some food out of the ground while you’re at it.

But the one area where you can’t afford to mess around–especially when gardening with children or pregnant women–is with soil contamination. Unfortunately, there are few centralized resources on urban soils and soil testing, and some dispute over what constitutes an acceptable level of various soil contaminants. However, it’s important to at least be making informed decisions about where to grow and how to grow there. Here are five key things you should be thinking about when gardening in an urban environment: 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

Detroit Gardeners Turning Crops into Cash in Brightmoor Artisans Community Kitchen

April 13, 2016 |
Brightmoor Kitchen. Photo courtesy of Brittany Bradd.

Brightmoor Kitchen. Photo courtesy of Brittany Bradd.

In the northwest area of Detroit, residents of the Brightmoor community are preparing to open the neighborhood’s first-ever commercial kitchen and community gathering space.

The Brightmoor Artisans Community Kitchen is scheduled to open at the end of April, and with it will come a wave of local gardeners-turned-entrepreneurs. 

Brightmoor has been known in past years as a food desert–the kind of place where, for many children, an after-school snack meant a trip to the liquor store for a sugary soda and bag of chips. But things are changing now. Healthier options grow in individual and community urban gardens throughout the four-square-mile neighborhood. 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

Hawaii-based Vertical Farming Enterprise, MetroGrow, Seeks to Increase Island’s Local Food Production

March 28, 2016 |
Courtesy MetroGrow

Courtesy MetroGrow

Urban, vertical farming is alive and well at MetroGrow Hawaii in Kakaako, Honolulu.

MetroGrow began growing produce in 2013 when Kerry Kakazu, MetroGrow’s founder, acquired the farm’s urban facility, although Kakazu had wanted to grow fresh, sustainable food for quite a while.

“I had been interested in hydroponics as a hobby since my education was in plant physiology, and I was interested in technology,” Kakazu says. “But I didn’t think a vertical farm could be economically feasible because of the energy cost of lighting at the time. The events that triggered the start of the farm were the rising interest in local food production, the introduction of LEDs to lower the energy cost of lighting, and wanting to be involved with the local restaurant industry.” Read More