Recent Articles About Urban Agriculture

Scale is of the utmost importance in the tech world. If your idea is good enough, the theory goes, it should be something just about everyone can use. You can charge each person pennies, but eventually those pennies add up to real dollars.

Kimbal Musk, brother of billionaire and business magnate Elon Musk, is applying that principle to the food world. With his sustainable, locally sourced restaurant chain, the Kitchen, and his nonprofit, the Kitchen Community, Musk is making inroads into both local food systems and food education which he hopes can easily be replicated throughout the country and creates a new generation of farmers in the process.

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Two surprising things happened to Curtis Stone the year he decided to start Green City Acres, in Kelowna, British Columbia. First, he became a town celebrity and, second, he made a good living doing it.

In The Urban Farmer, Growing Food for Profit on Leased and Borrowed Land, Stone lays out his methodology for building a successful farm on a quarter acre of land. He strictly follows high-density, bio-intensive methods to create a compact landscape of specialty crops grown for market. Read more

In Lincoln Smith’s basement, shiny, solid Red Oak acorns dry in racks stacked up to the ceiling. A bucket of Sawtooth acorns—a failed storage attempt—sit next to his refrigerator, the contents chewed into beehive-esque patterns by weevils.

Storage is just one example of all there is to learn about acorns as a sustainable food source, Smith says.

“Some of the Eastern Native Americans would bury whole bags of acorns in the riverbank,” he says. “It’s kind of amazing that something that was buried in the riverbank for a year could be edible food.” Read more

A puppy races down the gravel driveway to greet Tyson Hicks-Garlington. The 17-year-old teen rubs its neck as he greets his mentor of several years, John Gordon, Jr. They walk past goats and chickens inside an enormous pen, and stop before lush fields, where Hicks-Garlington introduces himself for the interview with steady eye contact and a firm handshake.

Gordon lets the young man take the lead. As the founder of BoysGrow, Gordon revels in seeing young men speak for themselves. The nonprofit organization pays at-risk teenage boys as they learn about entrepreneurship through growing and selling fresh vegetables. Under the guidance of dedicated staff and volunteers, the young men who work on this 10-acre farm outside of Kansas City, Missouri produce and market their own organic food and artisan farm products like salsa and barbecue sauce. Read more

More than half the seafood eaten globally is now farmed. And yet for some, aquaculture conjures up images of escaped fish, crowded pens, antibiotics, and ocean pollution in Asia, where nearly 90 percent of today’s aquaculture takes place. Now some entrepreneurs are bringing aquaculture on land. In the process, many hope to find a sustainable solution to the growing demand for a low-input, clean source of protein. Read more

Kyle Barnett was a rising star in the restaurant world. The Culinary Institute of America graduate had cooked at a farm-to-table restaurant and eventually landed a high-paying gig as a personal chef at a high-end art studio—a dream job for many. But despite this upward trajectory and his lifelong love affair with food, Barnett says that by 2012 he was just going through the motions. He wanted more. Read more

Under the glass-and-metal canopy of a sprawling greenhouse in Yardley, Pennsylvania, BrightFarms is growing salad greens. A lot of salad greens. Arugula and herbs and the occasional tomato–about 360,000 pounds per year–sprout up in white hydroponic trays. When the plants are ready, they are harvested, packed, and driven up the street (or just next door) to the Pennsylvania and New Jersey grocers where they will be sold.

In the coming year, the company plans to expand its presence into the Chicago and Washington, D.C. areas, boosted by a recent $13.7-million round of funding.

“We look at BrightFarms as an expansion of the local food movement,” CEO Paul Lightfoot told Civil Eats.

But not everyone agrees with that characterization. Read more

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

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