Tag Archives: urban farms

Neighborhood Converts Blighted Lot into Thriving Urban Farm | For Richmond

City administrators agreed to lease Brooks the land for $100 a year for five years. Since then, Brooks, who works as an usher at San Francisco Giants games and officiates high school sports in the off-season, has filled the lot with raspberries, tomatoes growing like weeds, several varieties of onions, potatoes, artichokes, garlic, zucchini and other veggies.

For Richmond applauds the changes residents like Brooks are bringing to Richmond. This initiative is what built Richmond in the past and what will bring about its improvement in the future.

“People are taking pride in this community,” said Dr. Desmond Carson, a physician at Doctors Medical Center, the For Richmond health chair and a local parks advocate. “Not only are neighbors cleaning up blight, but they are practicing a green approach to putting fresh food on the tables here in Richmond. It improves so many aspects of the quality of life here. Residents are getting fresh food, they’re gardening, getting outside and exercising. And they’re making these neighborhoods more appealing.”

Brooks’ effort has been contagious. Now, neighbors want to turn another empty lot down the street into a park. And residents in the community are drawn to Brooks’ creation, stopping to chat, check on the watermelon plants and offer to help.

“That’s the fun thing about this garden. Folks are inspired by what we’re doing here and they want to get involved,” Brooks said.

Brooks found a way to create a sustainable garden – using recycled plastic bottles to help with irrigation – and another community member and artist created a greenhouse made of wine bottles.

via Neighborhood Converts Blighted Lot into Thriving Urban Farm | For Richmond.

Blighted East Baltimore land to become urban farm – Baltimore Business Journal

The property includes several pumping stations that used to provide water to the city. Those historic structures will be renovated to include a commercial kitchen that will serve as a food incubator for small businesses, including caterers. Land surrounding those buildings will include portable greenhouses known as “hoop houses” along the train tracks running alongside the parcel.

The site at 1801 E Oliver St. is slated to become an urban farm.

Partnerships are planned with Woodberry Kitchen, a restaurant that is seeking local produce for its menu offerings, and the nonprofit Humanim, which is planning a community kitchen on the site.

Devan said the project will create 100 construction jobs and eventually 100 permanent jobs.

BDC President Brenda McKenzie said the project will also be beneficial to the city and the neighborhood by providing access to healthy foods through a farmers market planned for the site.

“It’s also important in terms of reactivating that part of East Baltimore,” McKenzie said. “There’s been a lot of research done that shows foodie culture is another way for people to look at the city differently.”

via Blighted East Baltimore land to become urban farm – Baltimore Business Journal.

Detroit foodies promote urban farming as way to fight blight, grow economy | Crain’s Detroit Business

Detroit, which filed an $18 billion bankruptcy July 18, is reeling from the loss of more than 435,000 jobs in its metro area from 2000 to 2010, according to federal data.

Greg Willerer is embracing urban agriculture in Detroit. By selling at farmers markets, local restaurants and a community-supported agriculture project that sells his goods directly to consumers, Willerer said he can make $20,000 to $30,000 per acre in a year.

This has left it with an abundance of underused property. The city is spread over 139 square miles and has an estimated 150,000 vacant and abandoned parcels, according to a report this year by Detroit Future City, a planning project created by community leaders.

Converting some of that land to farming could clean up blight and grow jobs, regional officials say. With sufficient consumer demand and the emergence of a local food-processing industry, 4,700 jobs and $20 million in business taxes could be generated, according to a 2009 study.

“It will help,” said Mike DiBernardo, an economic development specialist with Michigan’s agriculture department. “We have so much blighted land that we can create opportunities for entrepreneurs, and we can give people in the community something to be excited about.”

via Detroit foodies promote urban farming as way to fight blight, grow economy | Crain’s Detroit Business.

Treasure Island farm for culinary students – SFGate

Coordinator Corey Block (blue shirt) with students David Christensen (left), Roul Henry and Jose Marsonet. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

And it’s not only the culinary students who take part in running the urban farm, Block said. Students from the center’s construction training programs also have participated by providing infrastructure on the 1 acre.

Block said she has no doubt that the farm is one of the draws for culinary students to choose Treasure Island over other Job Corps centers in the country. Of all the programs nationwide, Treasure Island has the highest overall job placement – 85 percent either go to work, into the military or enroll in college, according to the center.

Q: It couldn’t have been easy planting a farm on an artificial island made from fill dredged from the bay, which served as a former military base. Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found some parts of the island to be toxically contaminated, how did you handle that?

A: It was a vacant lot when we got it – just sand. We did thousands of dollars worth of testing before we did anything. Then we built the whole thing using green construction – reclaimed materials, rain water catchment and an aquaponic system.

Q: What are you growing?

A: Everything. We have 80 fruit trees: apples, pears, stone and citrus and all kinds of vegetables and herbs. We have bee hives, 20 laying hens and a rooster. We get about 20 eggs a day. The students are harvesting, depending on the season, anywhere from 200 to 600 pounds of produce a month. A hundred percent of it is used either in the culinary program or the cafeteria.

Henry examines a bunch of chard that was grown on the farm worked by Job Corps members on Treasure Island. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

Urban farm coordinator Corey Black  (right) showing Treasure Island Job Corps culinary students Kunphel Rangkor (left), from Minnesota, Roul Henry (middle) from Connecticut,  Luis Gonzalez (tie) from Puerto Rico, and Aaron Rohr (tall)  from Washington a broccoli bed on the farm onTreasure Island, Calif.,  on Monday, November 19, 2012. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

via Treasure Island farm for culinary students – SFGate.

New San Francisco legislation will jump-start urban farming | Grist

Bay Area locavores and caterpillars rejoice: An edible urban jungle is poised to sprout in San Francisco.

City supervisors approved legislation Tuesday that will help grassroots farming groups replace barren concrete and forests of weeds on vacant land and rooftops with veggie gardens, chicken coops, and honeybee hives. And the move cements San Francisco’s role as a national leader in urban food production.

“[San Franciscans] are thought of as foodies, and environmentalists,” said Laura Tam, a policy director at the nonprofit San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association (SPUR), which helped push the new rules forward. “This is a marrying of our sustainability objectives with the reputation that we have in the world.”

The legislation [PDF] follows zoning changes last year that made it easier to operate small farms and legal to sell food grown in San Francisco. This new set of laws will take it further by removing additional bureaucratic barriers for hopeful gardeners and actively searching for land they can use while providing them with seeds, tools, and advice.

A major focus of the bill is community gardening — neighbors coming together to organize, till, and cultivate plots of land in mini-farms that are managed cooperatively.

Aided by $120,000 in city funding in its first year, the Urban Agriculture Program will hire a city official or nonprofit organization to oversee all community gardening within San Francisco. The city’s utility agency will also provide additional funds to support two farms on land that it owns.

The program will audit city-owned land and rooftops in a quest to dig up potential new public gardening sites. It will also develop incentives for owners of vacant lots to allow their land to be used for community farming.

Passage of the bill follows a rise in popularity of urban farming nationally, which has been fueled by the locavore and organic food movements, and by the recession, which has left lots vacant and families hungry.

Continue reading New San Francisco legislation will jump-start urban farming | Grist

Have sledgehammer, will farm | Grist

Not too long ago, we turned some of the most productive agricultural land in the world into suburbs. The business of building homes has slowed since the 2008 recession, but it continues to be true that no matter how well-suited a spot was to growing food, if a developer wants to make money, they’ll cover farmland with houses.

In the aftermath of the housing bubble, interesting signs have begun to suggest that the economics of dirt may be shifting. In fact it might one day be more valuable to grow food on a plot of land than to plop a house down on top of it. A few farmers recently made a killing buying back the farms they’d cashed out on. Meanwhile, the value of farmland in Iowa has increased by 33 percent, setting off speculation that farmland could be the next bubble. (It’s a bubble fueled by corn for ethanol and therefore food for cars instead of people, but still, it holds promise.) And then there is the matter of the failed shopping mall in Cleveland that began doing double-duty as a greenhouse.

All of this raises the question: What about those farms that have already been converted into subdivisions? Once someone has thoughtfully poured concrete over most of your neighborhood, should you try to un-concrete it and make it a farm again? Could the McMansions of Brentwood become fertile fields again?

Science says yes, absolutely. You wouldn’t want to tear up asphalt (it’s regrettably full of carcinogenic hydrocarbons), but concrete is a different story — and it’s fairly non-toxic. According to Garrison Sposito, chair of the soil sciences division at the University of California-Berkeley, the soil underneath can be unearthed, and put to work. But it will take time before it really comes back to life, he warns. Much of what makes soil grow plants well are creatures like worms and microfauna that would not have hung around under the sidewalk once most of the air and water disappeared. They would have hightailed it out of there.

That said, Sposito adds, the top foot of dirt in any urban area is never going to be great for farming at first. It could be filled with trash, construction debris, weedkiller, and lead from automobile exhaust. All these things require different levels of remediation; for instance lead is often treated with ground-up fish bones [PDF].

People looking to farm in urban areas say that smashing concrete and making way for food is possible, but with qualifications. “Most of the time you can simply use a sledgehammer and break it into chunks,” writes Patrick Crouch, who farms at Earthworm Farm in Detroit. “Then use a large steel bar to get underneath and pry it up.” Concrete, he adds, is heavy. “I have spent hours, no, days, breaking it up, and I can tell you that while there are certain enjoyable aspects of the process, most of it is back-breaking work.” The high alkalinity of the soil in Detroit is a direct result of being surrounded by so much concrete, according to Crouch. Quicklime, which is used in making cement, has a way of harshing the soil around it.

The largest lot Crouch has ever cleared, he says, was about two-thirds of an acre. The crew took a bulldozer and scraped the site down to the subsoil. They grew food the first year it was planted, but it took at least 12 years of composting and cover crops to get close to approximating anything like Crouch’s ideal of a good pile of dirt.

So, can it be done? Yes. Should you try it? That depends on how much you like hitting things with a sledgehammer. Or how effective you are at persuading other people to hit things with a sledgehammer. Either way, you won’t have to break up a layer of concrete more than once to gain a whole new appreciation for the importance of keeping fertile soil from being paved over in the first place.

Heather Smith writes about art, science, bugs, & democracy.

via Have sledgehammer, will farm | Grist.

Plowing Over: Can Urban Farming Save Detroit and Other Declining Cities? Will the Law Allow It? – Magazine – ABA Journal


In the neighborhood of the also-abandoned St. Cyril Church, the tract—if not redeveloped—could someday add significantly to the acreage devoted to urban agriculture. Photo by James Griffioen.

It’s a warm day in April, and Skip Wiener is showing off the crown jewel of gardens that the Urban Tree Connection has created out of 29 vacant lots in the poverty-ridden Haddington neighborhood on Philadelphia’s west side.

The site, tucked away in the center of a block of 60 homes, once was used by a construction firm for storage. When Wiener, the founder and director of the UTC, was first alerted about the property by a local block captain, it was overgrown, riddled with industrial waste, and a haven for drug dealers and prostitutes.

It was just what the UTC was looking for. The nonprofit organization supports renewal efforts in low-income communities by turning abandoned open spaces into various types of gardens, including some devoted to growing fruits and vegetables.

The site is now called the Neighborhood Food Central Production Farm. Any remaining debris has been pushed to the side; wood chips have been sprinkled over the driveway; and, in the center, neat rows of vegetables are growing, marked by cheerful hand-painted signs announcing such crops as potatoes, bok choy, collards and cabbages.

The “farm” is special, partly because of its comparatively large size—two-thirds of an acre—but also because it’s the only property over which the UTC enjoys actual legal possession. On the others, says Wiener, the organization’s founder and executive director, “we’re basically squatting.”

The UTC’s farm typifies a growing but still uncertain movement to bring agriculture back to America’s cities.

The Georgia Street Community Collective exists not only to supply the community with fresh fruits and vegetables, but to provide education and leadership skills to area youth. It also supports a community center/library.


The Georgia Street Community Collective exists not only to supply the community with fresh fruits and vegetables, but to provide education and leadership skills to area youth. It also supports a community center/library. Photo by James Griffioen.



Across the nation, thousands of urban gardens and farms are sprouting on empty lots, on parkland and in schoolyards. Food is being grown on rooftops, on traffic strips, even in containers hung on the sunny sides of buildings. And it’s not just produce. Pigs, goats, bees and chickens also are becoming city residents in growing numbers.

Municipalities are embracing agriculture not only as a means to combat a host of urban woes—hunger, air pollution and the proliferation of derelict, crime-ridden abandoned properties, to name a few—but as a cornerstone to efforts to make themselves healthier and more sustainable.

For the most part, however, local land-use regulations are lagging behind the fast-growing urban agriculture phenomenon. “Most cities don’t have zoning categories that recognize agriculture activities,” says Domenic Vitiello, who teaches urban planning at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Cities across the country are scrambling to update ordinances to regulate—and often facilitate—a variety of agricultural activities, including community gardens, commercial farms, backyard chicken coops and beehives. Meanwhile, many urban food growers and agricultural businesses operate under a cloud of extralegality, waiting for the law to catch up.

An important question, though, is whether all these legal changes will matter in the long run. It’s still uncertain whether agriculture will become a permanent feature of the landscape in U.S. cities or whether it is a short-term response to setbacks caused by the Great Recession and other economic factors.

This is not the first time U.S. cities have made agriculture part of their landscapes. It happened during other major economic downturns, and both of the 20th century’s world wars. Some 20 million victory gardens were planted during World War II, producing an estimated 40 percent of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.

But after each crisis passed, agriculture largely returned to its rural homeland. When World War II ended, the victory gardens disappeared as the plots they took up were put to more traditional urban uses.

Continue reading Plowing Over: Can Urban Farming Save Detroit and Other Declining Cities? Will the Law Allow It? – Magazine – ABA Journal

Indoor and Urban Blight Farming « phantasypublishing

A City Tale: From Mighty Industrial Metropolis to Urban Blight to Idyllic Farms

Urban Farmings

In Detroit, where square miles of blighted urban lots are commonplace today, one entrepreneur launched a company to buy lots, clean them up, and convert them into luscious urban farms for profit. A Michigan State University report thinks it’s an idea worth pursuing:

“As city officials ponder proposals for urban farms, a Michigan State University study indicates that a combination of urban farms, community gardens, storage facilities, and hoop houses – greenhouses used to extend the growing season – could supply local residents with more than 75 percent of their vegetables and more than 40 percent of their fruits.”

A third of the land in the city of Detroit is vacant, and much of it is city-owned due to non-payment of property taxes. Hantz Farms is strategically investing $30 million to control up to 10,000 acres where they’ll work the land and keep it open to the public – it will be kept part of the community and neighbors can walk or ride their bike through the lots.

Urban farming on abandoned lots or on city rooftops is spreading around the world and happening in communities in New York, Chicago and more. In fact, Hantz Farms is routinely contacted by groups looking for guidance and education to replicate the process in their own cities.

Nonprofit Food Pantries: Start Farms, Teach Farming…

Leads to a Healthy Community

In a small 250 square foot indoor farm the Child Development Support Corp. (a New York City food pantry) grows enough fresh greens to feed hundreds of families each week!

As with many examples where people take personal responsibility, they tend to make decisions that provide better and longer lasting solutions.

The families at this food pantry have a renewed sense of ownership, and have access to fresh, nutritionally dense foods. Plus, the food pantry hosts regular workshops and training sessions on how to grow food at home.

“People feel very passionate about this farm; they’re eating better… They come with a different attitude; it’s all about healthy eating,” said Mireille Massac, who runs the food pantry and farm.

Other area food pantries are learning from their experience and planning to start their own indoor farms as well.

via Indoor and Urban Blight Farming « phantasypublishing.