Posts By Anne Craig
When Tessa Edick was a young girl, she spent visits to her grandmother’s dairy farm in upstate New York pining over a big city life in which she would have her own elegant law office and manicured, dirt-free fingernails.
“Honestly, we were broke, and it was just smelly and embarrassing,” she says. “I wanted glamor and success. But a funny thing called life happened.”
As she grew into an ambitious communications professional, Edick found an unlikely synergy between her early farm experiences and her love of boutique culture. Beginning with her own label of specialty jarred sauces–Sauces N’ Love—that ended up selling in 4,000 stores nationally within its first five years, Edick continued to carve out a niche for herself as a food product development pro. She created lines for Tom Colicchio, Todd English, and several major retail companies, and in 2010 established her own consulting and development company called Culinary Partnership that offers everything from co-packing to TV production services.
Today, amidst the urban sprawl and paved over groves and ranches of yore, Orange County, CA residents might be surprised to learn that it is still possible to find cattle happily nibbling on grass and grazing the rolling pastures of 5 Bar Beef, a Silverado, CA-based ranching operation located in the Santa Ana Mountains. Residents can purchase 5 Bar Beef’s grass-fed, pasture-raised beef at several farmers’ markets in the county and online.
5 Bar Beef is something of a throwback, but the sustainable holistic grazing practices in use on the 800-acre ranch are entirely evidence-based — and Frank Fitzpatrick, owner and head cowboy in charge, believes that the techniques he uses offer hope for California’s water crisis and the planet at large.
Growing up in Manhattan, Dina Falconi foraged her food at the grocery store. But when she relocated to Marbletown, New York, in the foothills of the Catskills, she discovered a powerful fascination with food harvested from the earth, particularly from the wild.
“How amazing it was for me to discover that many of the ‘weeds’…surpass cultivated plants in nutrient content while also possessing additional therapeutic properties,” she writes in her book Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook.
The crowdfunded book, illustrated by botanical artist Wendy Hollender, walks would-be wild cooks through the entire plant to plate process for 50 wild plant species. And yet, as delicious as these wild plants can be, Falconi maintains an approach that also emphasizes foraging’s less tangible rewards.
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.
Rooftop gardens have been around at least since 6,000 B.C. and thrive all over the world. The benefits of growing in the sky for city dwellers are many: better air, cooler buildings, and the intangible but potent psychological boost of having green space as close as the last stop on the elevator.
And as the urban agriculture movement ramps up, urban farmers are increasingly looking upward for new spaces to grow. City land, after all, is notoriously expensive.
But there’s a steep learning curve involved in creating a viable rooftop farm any bigger than a few potted tomato plants or herbs.
“You’re looking at the liability and insurance risk of having people on a rooftop, and then you’ve got to make sure it’s structurally sound enough to withstand the extra soil weight for production,” Angie Mason, director of urban ag for the Chicago Botanic Garden, told NPR. “And you’ve got to make sure that you’re training people so that they aren’t compromising the rooftop membrane.”