On a chilly, cloudy Halloween morning in Detroit, about a dozen volunteers clutch steaming cups of coffee with garden gloves. They’re here to clear vegetation and line plant beds with straw for the winter. A year ago, this city-owned playground was yet another reminder of neglect in a bankrupt town: an overgrown piece of land in a neighborhood pockmarked with vacant, burned-out houses, where over a third of families live below the federal poverty line. Read more
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Food forests and edible landscapes are popping up in cities all over the nation, leading to a kind of urban foraging renaissance. But should foragers be worried about lead and other heavy metals in the food they’re finding?
Researchers at Wellesley College recently teamed up with Boston’s League of Urban Canners (LUrC) to find out. LUrC members frequently forage for food in Boston-area fruit orchards, and when one of their members tested high for blood lead levels recently, the group turned to Dan Brabander, a geoscience professor at Wellesley College, for answers. Read more
On paper, the community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription model is an ideal partnership. Members of the community support the farmer by paying for their produce in one lump sum before the harvest and then receive a weekly box of food during the growing season. In some cases, CSA boxes can provide up to four-fifths of a family’s diet.
But boxes can also be inconsistent—one week a customer can be overloaded with squash or kale, and the next week have none at all. The model also can have some downsides for farmers, who not only need to grow a diverse set of crops, but also spend time packing weekly produce boxes and staffing member pick up stations. And despite the upfront investment by CSA members, many such farmers are still struggling to make ends meet. (A 2014 Massachusetts study found that 81 percent of full-time CSA farmers aren’t earning a living wage.) Read more
With the crisp autumn air and accompanying fall migration already here, nervous poultry owners are keeping a watchful eye on backyard flocks as experts warn that another round of the deadly bird flu—also known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)—is just around the corner. Warm weather kept new outbreaks at bay, but the change in seasons will likely bring the return of the two deadly bird flu strains—H5N2 and H5N8—that wiped out nearly 50 million chickens and turkeys across the country last spring. While this could mean more economic turmoil for the commercial poultry industry, experts are also urging hobby farmers and non-commercial farmers who keep small “backyard” flocks to report any changes in their birds as soon as they occur. Read more
Elaine Brown is no stranger to radical ideas. The 72-year-old former chairwoman of the Black Panther Party has long advocated on behalf of prisoners. Now she is determined to transform a once-blighted vacant lot in West Oakland, California into a thriving urban farm business that employs former offenders. And the produce they cultivate is destined for a fine dining restaurant in a city fast gaining a reputation as an eating destination. Read more
It’s high summer and we’re lucky to be reaping the bounty of the hard work that farmers did earlier this year. Having worked on several farms across the U.S., I know that this is serious crunch time. Farmers are not only harvesting the fruits of their labors, but they’re also planting fall crops.
On an April evening in northwest Washington, D.C., 11 gardeners sat at picnic tables watching Eriks and Andrejs Brolis, co-owners of Urban Farm Plans, a landscape design company and urban farm school. Some participants looked as if they’d hurried straight from the office, wearing dresses or button-down shirts; others sported T-shirts and jeans. Read more
Nate Storey’s greenhouse in west Laramie, Wyoming, is packed with vegetables growing in long, upright plastic towers.
Storey’s set-up is an urban farmer’s dream: the waste from fish tanks fertilizes the crops through plastic tubing that drips water onto the vertical garden. The greenhouse is small, but produces a lot of food. Read more
Paul Quinn College was in a serious state of deterioration when Michael J. Sorrell took the reins as president. The historically Black college in Dallas, Texas, was millions of dollars in debt, facing dwindling student enrollment, and contending with some serious cultural issues. From the moment that Sorrell took his post, things quickly started to change.
In 2012, the city of Richmond, California, garnered national attention when its residents voted down a ballot measure to impose a tax on sugary beverages. Groups like Dunk the Junk hoped the measure would significantly hamper the city’s growing obesity problem. Doria Robinson, executive director of Urban Tilth, saw the tax as an opportunity to invest in the health of her community. Read more