What is a road block?

We move at the pace of nature. So that we observe, dip our toes, make a connection, spark an idea. And usually the idea remains dormant until conditions are just right for germination. Really, we cannot force things to be a way that is against nature—because nature has her ways, and as a part of nature we really have no choice in the matter but to accept her rules.

So what happens when an obstacle comes in the way of what we want? Well, it means to me that we have to re-evaluate our strategy. Its not a road block, merely a speed bump.

Urban Harvest has been working  very diligently—slowly but methodically—to create a fully-fleshed proposal for an urban farm.  I say full-fleshed because we tried to anticipate every question, every bit of skepticism and have an answer. We answered all the questions but one, and that one turns out to be the most important: What about the soil? A: If its contaminated, we’ll clean it up.

So as it turns out, the soil on the location we’ve chosen is contaminated—this was at one time a site for coal gassification and is considered a “brownfield,” meaning that there are likely high levels of lead, mercury and other heavy metals in the soil. This leads to the next question: do we stick with this IDEAL site and change the strategy, or do we stick with our agenda but find a new site? This is the question we are now working to answer. Obviously both options put the breaks on the plan, but in no way derails the process. In fact, it only serves to make us a stronger organization and gives us room for more credibility if we do our job well. It also gives us opportunity for building new and strengthening existing partnerships. Turn the challenge into the solution.

To go back to the issue of brownfields—so far in my research I have found a very simple and formulaic process, according to the EPA, for brownfield remediation. Your options are either A- scape off the contaminated soil and haul it away to a landfill, or B- cap it with a semi-pervious layer and build on top of that. In my mind, neither of those options are “solutions,” and hardly qualify as “remediation.” All it does is move the problem somewhere else. And if Urban Harvest is working to be a leader in sustainability—sustainable farming no less—we have to come up with a solution that truly is sustainable!

A couple of us young folk into ecological farming went to App State the other day to hear Vandana Shiva speak. She said two things that really stand out in my mind. 1- that ecological farming, or sustainable agriculture, can solve most if not all of the problems of climate change and 2- for the Edible Schoolyard to save seeds (turns out, this may be an inside joke)!


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by michelleferrier on November 4, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I’ve been running over a few speed bumps of my own as I engage my community in thinking about a community garden and playground. But I like your attitude…create solutions!

    How much space do you need for an urban farm?

    Also, I’d invite you to share your project on LocallyGrownNews.com — our readers would be interested in what you are finding and doing at Urban Harvest!

    Michelle Ferrier
    Founder, LocallyGrownNews.com


  2. Posted by lynn on November 9, 2010 at 5:51 am

    do you know the rhizome collective in austin? they did a 10 acre brownfield remediation (partial?), with a $200,000 epa grant a few years ago.

    here’s a link for the brownfield http://www.rhizomecollective.org/node/8

    or rhizomecollective.org



    • Posted by sridawn on November 9, 2010 at 2:16 pm

      I have hear of the rhizome collective and many other urban ag projects involving remediation. I’m really feeling like this is not at all a road block, but an opportunity for new projects and partnerships! Thanks!


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