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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
San Francisco-based Farm From a Box supplies all the components needed to create a two-acre off-grid farm, packed in a shipping container that will then serve as a farm building. It recently announced a new partnership with Netafim, an Israel-based irrigation firm with offices in 120 countries, to supply the irrigation components.
Farm From a Box is the brainchild of partners Scott Thompson and Brandi DiCarli. Their kits include renewable power systems, internet connectivity, basic farm tools, micro-drip irrigation systems and water pumps that can be adapted to fit either a ground well or municipal water supply.
News 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.”
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: