This piece originally ran in Edible Brooklyn.
Matt Jefferson was surprised last summer when a refugee-intern from Burkina Faso, whom we’ll call Anna, asked if she might have some overgrown kale and mustard leaves.
They are tough and bitter when they get so big, explains Jefferson, manager for the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm, and normally go straight to the compost. But in Anna’s homeland, she’d learned to add them to soup, and here they went into her pot with peanuts, rice and dried fish power, a delicious mix of techniques she learned in Africa and ingredients she grows in Brooklyn. Read more
To get to Zenger Farm in the outer reaches of Southeast Portland, Oregon, you must pass mini-marts, gas stations, auto repair shops, a strip club, and several busy lanes of traffic. This isn’t the Portlandia that most people know.
The nearby Lents neighborhood, nicknamed “Felony Flats,” is a gritty area with no Main Street to speak of, fewer resources, and higher unemployment rates than most of Portland. And although the city has been working to revitalize the area, rebuilding streets and adding bike lanes, the results have been slow and subtle.
Spanning over nine acres, Zenger Farm is a green oasis in this kingdom of asphalt. Read more
Amy Kleinman had never had a job with lasting appeal. Most recently, Kleinman, 28 and living with Asperger syndrome, taught at a day care center. “I was having a lot of trouble there,” says Kleinman. “Not with the kids—I loved the babies. I was having problems with the adults.”
Then, three years ago, Kleinman got a job at Cleveland Crops, an urban farm and nonprofit dedicated to community development and food security. Read more
Berkeley’s Urban Adamah*, a city farm with a faith-based focus, is putting down permanent roots. This Jewish-led, organic operation began on a 1.2-acre vacant lot thanks to a temporary, rent-free lease, as we reported shortly after it opened to the public back in the summer of 2011. Read more
Urban gardeners don’t like to talk about contaminated soil. After all, who wants to dwell on the chemical legacy of industry, illegal dumping, paint chips, and leaded gasoline when you can discuss bees, the weather, or the cool purple beans you’re growing?
But city growers must tackle this elephant-in-the-room subject. That’s the message Brent Kim, a program officer at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, wants you to know. Read more
A few summers ago, my filmmaking partner, Andrew Monbouquette, and I traveled over 13,000 miles to document and learn from urban farmers for our film, Growing Cities. We visited over 150 urban farms, community gardens, food projects, tilapia tanks, backyard beehives—and everything in between—in hopes of finding our own place in the “Good Food Movement.” Read more
Urban farms are almost a cliché these days. Since the mid-2000s, media attention and increasing grassroots efforts have looked to urban farming as a kind of cure-all, a way to address a whole range of social, ecological, and economic problems facing cities and their residents. While I don’t want to dispute these ideas, I am interested in a more nuanced understanding of what it takes to make an urban farm “work.” How can these farms go beyond the hype? What challenges do urban farms face? Read more
In 2011, I collaborated with a small, ardent group of Portland State University (PSU) students to found Food Action Collective (FAC), a student-led organization centered on promoting justice within the PSU and community food system. Now, today on Food Day, I find myself ruminating over how the organization came to be and how it has evolved. Read more
Imagine a country where ideologues bent on land reform turn agriculture into the plaything of the world’s richest investors, and poor local farmers are locked out of millions of acres prime agricultural land. Then stop imagining some African country run by a despot and his friends and start picturing the United States. Rural America is on the cusp of one of the greatest transfers of land in its history and no one’s talking about it. Read more
“Operating on a month-to-month lease means you never know what will happen tomorrow or the next day,” says Caitlyn Galloway of Little City Gardens, a ¾-acre commercial farm in San Francisco’s Outer Mission district. “It makes smart investments in our business, like longer-term tools and infrastructure, much riskier.” Read more