Urban blight is dismal, disheartening and depressing. Not to mention ripe for takeover by criminal elements. Buildings that once were proud centers of commerce devolve into soulless plots of overgrown grass, graffiti and broken glass.
Rochester, New York has more than its share of urban blight within its borders, but that soon may change. A large number of abandoned buildings and empty lots lie scattered throughout the northwest inner ring just outside the downtown core, along with abandoned subway and canal beds. Sadly, this urban blight walks hand in hand with one of the highest child poverty rates in the United States.
Sustainable Intelligence LLC wants to change all this. The Rochester City Council has just voted to hire Sustainable Intelligence to develop a plan to turn abandoned properties into urban gardens and farms. Sustainable Intelligence intends to include strategies specific to Rochester’s northern climate in its plan and assist with an urban agriculture initiative once the plan wins Council approval. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is pushing for federal support of a plan that would send nine AmeriCorps members to Rochester to help.
The canal bed alone contains eight acres of uncontaminated dirt that can be converted into high yield agricultural soil with the addition of nutrient rich compost. A local foodbank is researching ways to turn its spoiled food into compost for use in urban agriculture projects. The hope is that these gardens and farms will produce low cost food for poverty stricken families and encourage the renovation of abandoned storefronts into neighborhood markets to sell the food.
Urban farming has the potential of turning the cycle of poverty around. Low income families will have access to nutritious food that will sustain children during long school days and increase their chances of success through the elimination of hunger. The markets themselves will provide much-needed jobs and revitalize neighborhoods. Revitalized neighborhoods beautify the city and restore community pride. Everybody wins.