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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Urban Farming

An Indoor Farm and Urban Ag Center in the Middle of a Food Desert – Q&A with Duron Chavis

July 28, 2016 |
Aeroponic towers and hydroponic growing systems being used at Harding Street Urban Agriculture Center. (Photo courtesy of Duron Chavis)

Aeroponic towers and hydroponic growing systems being used at Harding Street Urban Agriculture Center. (Photo courtesy of Duron Chavis)

In the economically depressed and food insecure City of Petersburg, VA, a former YMCA building long neglected, but not forgotten, has become a beacon of growing hope in the community. Over the past two years the building has been refurbished and transformed into a high tech indoor farm and urban agriculture research center to provide workforce development training and increase food access through the production and distribution of high quality, fresh produce to area residents.

The center known as Harding Street Urban Agriculture Center is run by Duron Chavis, a community advocate and Indoor Farm Director at Virginia State University – College of Agriculture. Seedstock recently spoke to Chavis to learn more about the origin of Harding Street Urban Agriculture Center and its indoor farm, its goal, the sustainable methods employed in the indoor farm’s operation, and more.    Read More

Nile Valley Aquaponics Aims to Bring 100,000 Pounds of Wholesome Nutrition to a Food Desert

July 21, 2016 |
Dre Taylor (center) giving a tour of Nile Valley Aquaponics. (Photo courtesy of Males to Men)

Dre Taylor (center in white shirt) giving a tour of Nile Valley Aquaponics. (Photo courtesy of Males to Men)

In a neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri, blighted by crime and lack of economic opportunity, a transformation is taking place. A vacant lot less than an acre in size has been cleared and a greenhouse has been built that will house a self-sustaining aquaponics system. Already growing on the property are basil, thyme, parsley, a variety of leafy greens as well as tomatoes, onions, and peppers – all using home compost and with no added chemicals.

Dre Taylor, the founder of Males to Men, is the entrepreneur behind the Nile Valley Aquaponics 100,000 Pounds Food Project that aims to bring fresh, chemical-free, healthy food to a neighborhood that is considered a food desert. When asked what led him to become an urban farmer, Taylor doesn’t hesitate, “I became an urban farmer because I wanted to be self-sufficient.” Read More

$2 Million in Grants for Urban Agriculture Projects Awarded to 42 Conservation Districts in US

July 20, 2016 |
Seeds@City Urban Farm, located in downtown San Diego, serves as an outdoor classroom and laboratory for the sustainable urban agriculture program at San Diego City College. (photo courtesy Damian Valdez/Seeds@City Urban Farm)

Seeds@City Urban Farm, located in downtown San Diego, serves as an outdoor classroom and laboratory for the sustainable urban agriculture program at San Diego City College. (photo courtesy Damian Valdez/Seeds@City Urban Farm)

News Release – The National Association of Conservation Districts, in partnership with USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, has awarded $2 million in grants to 42 conservation districts in 25 states to boost technical assistance capacity for urban agriculture and conservation projects.

“NACD and the conservation districts we represent work on a scale that no other conservation organization or coalition does,” NACD President Lee McDaniel told an audience of conservation leaders in Minneapolis on Sunday. “We have the reach we need to engage the 98 percent of folks who don’t necessarily produce our fuel, fiber, and food, but still can make a sizable and positive difference on the landscape.”

“With today’s announcement, NACD is broadening its base and the base of support for conservation in this country. We are going to reward, support, and encourage conservation implemented on every landscape.” Read More

Urban Agriculture Fair Celebrates Growing ‘Hyper Local’ Food Movement

July 18, 2016 |
envision urban agriculture fair san diego food systems alliance

On Saturday July 30th, San Diego Food System Alliance will be hosting an Envision Urban Agriculture Fair from 1:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M. to support the local food movement and celebrate the City of San Diego’s implementation of Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones (AB 551).

SAN DIEGO, CA – On Saturday July 30th, San Diego Food System Alliance, Slow Food Urban San Diego, International Rescue Committee, and Alchemy San Diego will be hosting an Envision Urban Agriculture Fair from 1:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M. to support the local food movement and celebrate the City of San Diego’s implementation of Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones (AB 551). The Fair will include an urban farmers market, heirloom seed swap, healthy cooking demos by chefs, soil corner with composting demos, local kombucha and beer, local organic food makers, workshops including beekeeping, resources for growers by nonprofits and nurseries, small farm animals, crafts for kids, and live music. The sponsors for the Fair includes Urban Plantations and UCSD.

Envision Urban Agriculture Fair will be held at SILO – MAKERS QUARTER™, an outdoor venue in East Village with several vacant lots nearby. The Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Ordinance (AB 551), recently ok-ed by the City Council in the City of San Diego, will provide a property tax incentive for private landowners to turn their vacant lots into urban farms and community gardens. In the City of San Diego, it is estimated that there are at least 3,000 vacant lots that are eligible for this tax incentive.   Read More

St. Louis Org. Embraces Urban Agriculture to Empower Individuals and Strengthen Community

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