Archive for the ‘Urban Farming’ Category

Paper vs Plastic? How about Basket vs Canvas?

OK, we’ve had our first couple of frosts and a long Thanksgiving holiday. Work in the garden has slowed quite a bit. Perhaps we can take a moment for a bit of a debate around the fire? Or more simply put for the purposes of this blog: which route is the better one to take – Local or Organic? Of course, the ideal answer to that question is BOTH! But what about those times when you really do need to make a choice? Not many of us here in the Piedmont are growing our own wheat for bread, for example, and our seafood, though kinda local (regional really), mostly gets here from the coast. Thanksgiving at my house included lots of locally raised and organic selections, but not all were, by any means. So what’s a responsible omnivore to do? Not exactly The Omnivore’s Dilemma (thank you, Michael Pollan!) I know, but a question that seems to keep coming up in our food discussions.

Urban winter garden with beet sprouts and onion transplants

In this blog, of course, the “basket” refers to harvesting out of our own backyards, small farms or community gardens (yay, Dunleith!) and “canvas” seems to be the bag of choice at the local organic food store (well, maybe at the local farmers’ market, too, but you get the idea). Many of us who grew this year, took great advantage of all of the good fresh choices that came out of our gardens. Some of us even canned, froze or otherwise processed some of that goodness in preparation for the long winter ahead. But now that Fall is here, the fresh-out-of-the-garden selections are, in most cases, fewer and less diverse. What’s a person to do? Continue reading

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Healing Soils

With our recent announcement that the site Urban Harvest was considering for an urban farm is contaminated, we’ve had an outpouring of ideas from the community and other national organizations. The EPA was even quick to come to the call. But things have continued to move organically, and other solutions, ideas and projects have presented themselves. (More on that later.)

As an organization with both sustainable agriculture and urban agriculture at our core, we often find these 2 techniques [sustainable and urban] to sometimes be out of sync with one another. The primary concern I have with the majority of urban ag out there, is the quality of the soil. (ie. Can it be sustainable if we often need to purchase compost/manure? If we don’t bring in new healthy soil, are we able to produce food in a healthy and sustainable way?) Growing food is great, and necessary for sustainability, but if you’re growing in contaminated soil, you create other problems, and that is not a sustainable solution. Healthy soil is most essential ingredient to the work we do, and to our civilization as a whole. If cities are to become more sustainable, healing the soil has to be a priority. And if urban agriculture is to be truly sustainable, it too has to be based on healthy soils. So this new pollution cleanup technique should be integrated to any urban ag system as well as all municipal water treatments. This is will lead to more sustainable and healthy urban agriculture.

Calling all gardeners without a garden

As many of you know, our main project thus far has been at the Dunleith Community Garden in the Aycock neighborhood. The garden was installed in June of 2009, and since then we’ve had 2 successful seasons of CSAs (community supported agriculture) and 7 neighbors renting plots.

Well, when it comes to the garden, the time to think about spring is in the fall! We’ve got some winter “cash crops” (edibles) in the ground, as well as some winter “cover crops” (to help improve the soil). This fall, we are opening the garden up for more folks to rent a plot in the spring.

In the past we have offered the option of participating in the garden through a CSA or by renting a plot. This year, we hope to fill up more of the garden with plot renters, and from there determine whether or not we will run a CSA. After all, it is a community garden, and we want our community to have ownership.

A community plot rental is a small financial investment but a large time commitment. Plot rentals give you 10 months to tend your own community plot. Spring plots will be available Feb 1, 2011 for you to prep and plant those super early spring crops (like snow peas)! If you are interested in renting a plot at the Dunleith Community Garden, please send an email to urbanharvest.gso@gmail.com and we well send you a sign-up form.

Here’s to spring veggies!

Summer/Fall CSA

Now that fall is finally here, I think I can rest a little! As far as I can tell we had a very successful Summer/Fall CSA with 7 subscribers. I can tell you, they are probably also relieved to not have to deal with several pounds of eggplants every single week! We also were successful with many kinds of sweet and hot peppers, okra, cucumbers, watermelons and winter squashes (pumpkins, spaghetti and butternut squash) in the hotter months. Despite the fact that hot weather lasted well into September, we were also able to provide broccoli raab and hakuri turnips, a gourmet salad mix with lettuces, arugula and early mustard greens.

This was our second CSA season, lasting 12 weeks (the spring CSA was 10 weeks) and we sure are learning a lot about growing, harvesting and sell food! In between our CSA seasons, we sold produce at a small farmer’s market. And as most farmer’s already know, the CSA brought in more money. I won’t necessarily say that it was more profitable, because we have a lot to learn in terms of efficiency (harvesting, washing and packing a gourmet salad mix is WAY more involved than harvesting eggplants and tossing them in the CSA crate). Continue reading

Urban Farms, the new solution

Urban planners have recently released statistics on the large-scale decrease in American farmland:  http://www.hobbyfarms.com/farm-industry-news/2010/05/20/2007-national-resources-inventory.aspx

Not surprisingly, as a growing number of Americans are living in and around city centers agricultural focus has shifted to populated urban areas . Residents in cities have made things clear : they have several innate needs … water, housing, parking, and food. We are Americans who are grouchy if we have to wait in lines, sweaty if our ac doesn’t work, and ticked off if our stomachs are empty.

In order to cater to these demands, urban planners have shifted focus to a diversify development in order to create diverse and rich micro-environment within industrial areas.  Nowadays, agriculture and businesses can be seen through a dual-focus lens rather than separate entities.

skyline of downtown Greensboro

Food production within a city locale is not only a viable option but perhaps a lasting solution as city’s increasingly fall to the category of  “food desert”.

The loss of American farmland is not synonymous with an end to American food production. It is simply a transition linked to our progression as a country. Just as we trade in Suvs for cars with better gas-mileage, we shift food production to better serve its target market or community (in this case, cities).

Food meets City: the Edible Schoolyard in downtown Greensboro.

Food meets City: the Edible Schoolyard in downtown Greensboro.

With that said, one may find that as the amount of rural farmland fades,  cities will be faced with the responsibility of providing food for the urban dwellers within it! How exciting!

To find out more about Urban Harvest and urban farming initiatives in North Carolina feel free to contact urbanharvest.gso@gmail.com

http://www.urbanharvest-gso.com/

Spreading Awareness in Urban Areas

sidewalk seed vending

I recently came across a story about a guerilla gardening initiative  in Los Angeles aimed at distributing seeds in a manner that was eye-catching and accessible.  Using public sidewalk space and their background in Design, two grad students/concerned citizens launched a sidewalk seed bomb project using vintage candy machines!

a vendor with her new batch of seed bombs

Unlike traditional gumball machines, these newly crafted machines are loaded with a lot less sugar and unconventional weaponry. Known as “seed bombs”, the gumball machines house grenade-like balls full of a compact mixture of  seeds,compost, and clay that citizens are encouraged to plant anywhere throughout the city.

a better kind of bomb

Using this innovative design as a voice for expanding urban gardening has proven successful for the two grad students. Their green gumball machines have trickled into other areas of California, in conjunction with an organization known as Greenaid, and have continued to spread awareness about urban farming and the use of vacant public areas.

The story and mission of the group is truly inspirational:

http://thecommonstudio.com/index.php?/project/greenaid/

Urban projects such as this one demonstrate the growing potential of greener cities and urban areas across the nation (literally from Los Angeles to Greensboro)!

Urban Homesteading: Cherries

At Urban Harvest we’re all about Urban Homesteading. While the original definition of homesteading involved colonizing the wild west frontier, our definition: to grow and produce as much of your needed goods on-site. Summer is optimal time for collecting the fresh, ripe fruits of as much as possible and preserving them for the harsher months. And while we certainly don’t grow everything that we preserve, we collect it from regional sources so that we can, say enjoy tomatoes in the winter, without having to go to the store (reducing our carbon footprint).

Back at the beginning of June, we picked several pounds of strawberries and froze them. We use them in smoothies, made some ice cream, and when its not so hot out (November), we’ll use them to make jelly or jam. This last week, we went up to Levering Orchard in southern VA and picked about 25 lbs of sweet cherries! And then we had to pit them all! Fortunately, in my grandmother’s recent down-sizing we acquired 2 cherry-pitters which came in very handy! Now we’ve got frozen cherries, dried cherries and in about 4 months we’ll have Brandied cherries!

The act of climbing a wooden ladder propped in the higher branches of a cherry tree was a good challenge to my fear of heights, but the view and the vast quantities of beautiful cherries were well worth it! And while sour cherries are common in the Piedmont, the sweet cherry trees don’t do as well in this climate versus the mountains. The drive was also worth while, especially since we got to stop in at the apple orchard where Justin and I were married almost 4 years ago!

Check out the rest of the photos on flicker.