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“The tests were performed as part of the health department’s analysis of soil samples from all of Montreal’s nearly 100 community gardens. Beausoleil said about 30 gardens city-wide are contaminated. However, only 11 gardens have been closed – nine of them last year. The other affected gardens will be made public this year by the boroughs in which they are located, Beausoleil said.

“We can tell you right now, there is no worry for your health as a result of eating vegetables from this soil,” Monique Beausoleil, a toxicologist with the department — She explained that most of the contaminants were found in soil lower than the roots that most typical vegetables grow, so their absorption rate was very low.”

Montréal Gazette article, April 1, 2008.

Links to official tests and reports.

Montréal’s community gardening program – description, 14 page PDF.

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Charles Fox/Philadelphia Inquirer

Kacie King checked honey production at the North Philadelphia farm, Greensgrow, which provides fresh food where it is rare.

Published in the New York Times: May 20, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — Amid the tightly packed row houses of North Philadelphia, a pioneering urban farm is providing fresh local food for a community that often lacks it, and making money in the process.

Greensgrow, a one-acre plot of raised beds and greenhouses on the site of a former steel-galvanizing factory, is turning a profit by selling its own vegetables and herbs as well as a range of produce from local growers, and by running a nursery selling plants and seedlings.

The farm earned about $10,000 on revenue of $450,000 in 2007, and hopes to make a profit of 5 percent on $650,000 in revenue in this, its 10th year, so it can open another operation elsewhere in Philadelphia.

In season, it sells its own hydroponically grown vegetables, as well as peaches from New Jersey, tomatoes from Lancaster County, and breads, meats and cheeses from small local growers within a couple of hours of Philadelphia.

The farm, in the low-income Kensington section, about three miles from the skyscrapers of downtown Philadelphia, also makes its own honey — marketed as “Honey From the Hood” — from a colony of bees that produce about 80 pounds a year. And it makes biodiesel for its vehicles from the waste oil produced by the restaurants that buy its vegetables.

Among urban farms, Greensgrow distinguishes itself by being a bridge between rural producers and urban consumers, and by having revitalized a derelict industrial site, said Ian Marvy, executive director of Added Value, an urban farm in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn.

It has also become a model for others by showing that it is possible to become self-supporting in a universe where many rely on outside financial support, Mr. Marvy said.

Mary Seton Corboy, 50, a former chef with a master’s degree in political science, co-founded Greensgrow in 1998 with the idea of growing lettuce for the restaurants in downtown Philadelphia.

Looking for cheap land close to their customers, Ms. Corboy and her business partner at the time, Tom Sereduk, found the site and persuaded the local Community Development Corporation to buy it and then rent it to them for $150 a month, a sum they still pay.

They made an initial investment of $25,000 and have spent about $100,000 over the years on items that included the plastic-covered greenhouses and the soil that had to be trucked in to cover the steel-and-concrete foundation of the old factory site.

“The mission was: How do you take postindustrial land and turn it into some kind of green business?” said Ms. Corboy, an elfin woman with the ruddy cheeks of someone who works long hours out of doors.

She approached her early lettuce-growing operation with conventional business goals and little thought for what an urban farm could achieve.

“I thought you didn’t have to have a relationship with the community,” she said. “You would just be a business person.”

Customers said the farm was a breath of fresh air in a gritty neighborhood.

“It’s a little piece of heaven,” said Janet McGinnis, 47, who lives on nearby Girard Avenue. “We live in the city, and it makes me feel good to wake up and see flowers.”

Ms. McGinnis said she could buy herbs, bread and produce elsewhere but did so at Greensgrow because it is part of the community. “We’ve got to keep it in the community,” she said. “We have to give back.”

Despite the community goodwill, the farm lives with urban problems like theft and violence. “I have gone through every tool in the box eight or nine times,” Ms. Corboy said.

Although no one at Greensgrow is getting rich from the operation — after 10 years’ work, Ms. Corboy is making an annual salary of $65,000 — there is a sense that their time has come.

“Ten years ago when I said we were going green, people thought we were out of our minds,” Ms. Corboy said. “Now we are top of the party list.”

 

I’ve been hearing recently about a proposed plan to plant and maintain a kitchen garden on the White House lawn.  It would be a great way to spread the word about urban and kitchen gardening. Here’s a short article about the project by Roger Doiron, president of Kitchen Gardeners International.

Announce plans for a food garden on the White House lawn, making one of the White House’s eight gardeners responsible for it, with part of produce going to the White House kitchen and the rest to a local food pantry. The White House is “America’s House” and should set an example. The new President would not be breaking with tradition, but returning to it (the White House has had vegetable gardens before) and showing how we can meet global challenges such as climate change and food security.

 

 It certainly would not be the first time there was agriculture at the White House.  John Adams, the first president to occupy the White House, planted a vegetable garden there in 1800 (White House Historical Association).  In 1835 Andew Jackson created the White House Orangery, an early type of greenhouse where tropical fruit trees and flowers can be grown, and added more trees, including the famous Jackson magnolia.  The Orangery was later expanded into a greenhouse, which was torn down in 1857 to make way for the Treasury Department building.

 

Sheep on the White House Lawn, c. 1917. Library of Congress

 

The article below tells a little bit about White House vegetable gardens during the war effort.

Here is a longer article on the subject available at this link.

Message to the Next President: Eat the View

By Barbara Damrosch, published Thursday, February 28, 2007 in The Washington Post

I’ve been following the presidential campaign news, and I can’t believe no one has asked the big question: Which candidate will pledge to be the Gardening President? Who will be the one to take the lead in teaching food self-sufficiency and good nutrition to the American public? What a fine example it would set if the food miles traveled by presidential produce added up to zero.

Chef and food activist Alice Waters made headlines in 2000 by urging President Bill Clinton to plant a vegetable garden at the White House. “Send me the seeds, Alice” was his answer, as quoted in the St. Petersburg Times. But the plan was deemed out of keeping with the grounds’ formal style, and nothing came of it. Perhaps Hillary Clinton, if elected, would be willing to see it through.

The idea certainly has historical precedent. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were dedicated farmers. According to William Seale, author of “The White House Garden,” the first kitchen garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was installed by President John Adams in 1800 — to cut household expenses.

I contacted Rose Hayden-Smith, an expert on the history of wartime gardening and agriculture programs during both world wars, and she highlighted some of the first families’ efforts in the last century. Woodrow Wilson’s second wife, Edith, “raised sheep on the former White House lawn during World War I as part of the White House’s war mobilization effort,” Hayden-Smith noted. “Eleanor Roosevelt was a Victory Gardener, and grew beans and carrots on what had been the White House Lawn. This was going on by 1943. She inspired millions of other home gardeners in their efforts.” Jimmy Carter, another farmer at heart, paid particular attention to the herb garden.

Perhaps the time has come to bring back the Victory Garden in a new guise: as a war on childhood obesity, inactivity, addiction to highly processed food with empty calories, and the use of fossil fuels to grow and ship us our meals.

Roger Doiron, the director of Kitchen Gardeners International ( http://www.kitchengardeners.org), had a great suggestion: “We give tax breaks to people to encourage them to put hybrid cars in their garages and solar panels on their roofs, so why not a tax break to encourage environmentally friendly and healthy food production?” He likened his plan to deducting the square footage of a home office: the bigger your garden, the better the tax break. Those with no yard could deduct the rental fee for a community garden plot.

That would be one small step toward a healthier nation. But it would get my vote.

—–

For an additional comment from KGI’s Roger Doiron on this topic, please click here.

To cast your vote in favor of a new garden on the White House lawn, please go here and click on “rate this idea”.

Article copyright of Barbara Damrosch. Reprinted with permission.

 

If you are interested in contributing to the campaign you can do that here.

 

From Innovations Report
14.05.2008

In 1996, 180 nations—including Canada—met in Rome for the World Food Summit (WFS) to discuss ways to end hunger. Nations pledged to eradicate hunger and committed themselves to a basic target: reducing the number of undernourished people by half by 2015. Five years later, they reaffirmed their commitment to meeting the goals set out in the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action.

In the Rome Declaration, nations committed themselves to ensuring an enabling environment and implementing policies to eradicate poverty and guarantee access to sufficient, safe food to all. They also agreed to promote a fair world trade system, and to work to prevent natural disasters and other emergencies that threaten food security. They further agreed to promote the use of public and private investments in ways that foster human resources and sustainable development.

IDRC’s programs and the research it funds contribute to meeting these commitments. IDRC believes that poverty alleviation, food security, and environmental sustainability go hand in hand. It also believes that effectively addressing these interlinked challenges requires working actively with the main actors, from farmers to researchers to government officials. While this is the thrust of all of IDRC’s programs, two contribute most directly to increasing food supplies—Rural Poverty and Environment (RPE) and Urban Poverty and Environment (UPE). 

A multidisciplinary approach

In rural areas, IDRC supports research that focuses on the needs of the poor who live in fragile or degraded ecosystems. This can take many forms, from promoting participatory plant breeding of staple crops as a means to conserve biodiversity and recognize farmers’ knowledge (read more: Seeds that give – link below), to supporting collaborative management of natural resources such as watersheds and community forests. Research also seeks to support land tenure reforms and improve access to natural resources and focuses on how the poor can improve their livelihoods while better managing natural resources in a context of market liberalization and integration.

Efforts to ensure that research is relevant to the need of farmers have met with success in many areas. For example:

* In Viet Nam, IDRC-supported research has demonstrated that community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) concepts and processes, such as “farmer to farmer” methods, can be successful in reducing poverty at the commune level. The overall goal has been to develop and support processes that will reach and build sustainable livelihoods for a greater number of the poorest in upland communities (read more: Improving Natural Resource Management in Viet Nam’s Hong Ha Commune).

* In the harsh conditions of Jordan and Syria, farmer-selected lines of barley have fared as well or better than those emanating from research centres. What’s more, these varieties yield better forage and are more palatable to sheep and goats, the main sources of meat and milk products in the region (read more: CASE STUDY: North Africa and Middle East Breeding Better Barley — Together – link below). 

* In China, bridging the gap between scientists and farmers has led to the adaptation of varieties of maize to local conditions and the improvement of a number of others, contributing to both food supplies and livelihoods (read more: Bridging the Gap Between Scientists and Farmers in China). 

Growing food in the cities

In the booming urban areas of developing countries, access to land, food, and basic environmental services such as water, sanitation, and waste collection is limited, leading to increased poverty and environmental burdens. One of the goals of IDRC’s UPE program is to support research on urban agriculture (UA) as a means to increase household food security and to generate income (read more: Feeding the Sustainable City)

Thanks largely to the pioneering work of IDRC-supported researchers over the past two decades, some municipalities have now recognized the value of urban agriculture in boosting food security and reducing unemployment among the urban poor. For example:

* City councillors in Kampala, Uganda have created ordinances to better integrate farming activities into urban planning and management (read more)

* In Rosario, Argentina municipal authorities, working farmers’ groups, shantytown dwellers, and civil society organizations devised a scheme for granting tenure to unused municipal lands. As a result, more than 700 community market gardens were established, a vegetable processing agroindustry was created, and plant and craft fairs were held. This has led to sustainable food supplies and livelihoods for poor residents (read more). 

Given the challenges, IDRC and its partners are encouraging governments to team up with stakeholders to develop strategies to meet the MDGs. In answering the need for more secure land tenure for city farmers, governments at all levels could reduce poverty and help improve the lives of slum dwellers. By actively supporting urban agriculture activities, they can reduce hunger and malnutrition while promoting employment among disadvantaged groups such as women.

Innovative approaches

Because hunger and poverty are intimately linked to economic and social policies at the macro and sectoral levels, IDRC also supports research to understand these links and target policies effectively. A first step is mapping poverty and its components. Another is to link changes in these to various combinations of policies. IDRC has been doing this in over 20 developing countries since 1990 (read more: Micro Impacts of Macroeconomic and Adjustment Policies [MIMAP]). An essential component of IDRC’s work in this area is the community-based poverty monitoring system developed in 1996. First implemented in the Philippines, the Department of the Interior and Local Government has since directed all local government units to adopt the system’s 13 core indicators for measuring poverty (read more: Development Takes on a Face and an Address in the Philippines). The CBMS is now being tested, with IDRC support, in 12 countries in Asia and Africa (read more: Poverty and Economic Policy (PEP) Research Network).

IDRC also tackles poverty issues through such innovative means as the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Many Centre-supported projects demonstrate that communities with greater access to ICTs are able to generate and sustain economic growth (read more: An overview of ICTs at IDRC ). For example:

* In Kenya, a project is experimenting with ways of using the Internet to provide financial, marketing, and information services to small farmers so that they can better market their produce and boost their incomes (read more: Kenyan Farmers Discover the Internet). 

* In Senegal, farmers in remote areas can obtain up-to-the-minute market prices for their crops through portable telephones provided through an IDRC-supported project. This has directly increased participating farmers’ incomes by 30% and generated new employment for women (read more: Acacia Partner Garners Two Major ICT Prizes). 

* In India, rural knowledge centres in seven villages provide information on the price of agricultural inputs, market prices, government programs, and much more. The positive impact on villagers livelihoods has led to a movement to bring the benefits of ICTs to 600 000 villages by mid-2007 (read more: Making Waves; Mission 2007—National Alliance Every Village a Knowledge Centre).

Vivien Chiam | Quelle: ResearchSEA 
Weitere Informationen: www.idrc.ca

From the LA Times Emerald City blog

      April 22, 2008

HeartIf $3 a lb. for heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market is more than you can afford, why not make it your Earth Day resolution to grow your own veggies? In the latest New York Times Magazine, author of “An Omnivore’s Dilemma” Michael Pollan waxes lyrical about growing your own edible garden:

It’s one of the most powerful things an individual can do — to reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but more important, to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness: to change the cheap-energy mind.

Feel daunted by the prospect of creating your own edible estate? Then give the girls atHeart Beet Gardening a call. Run by three Marlborough School alumnae — Megan Bomba, Sara Carnochan, and Kathleen Redmond — Heart Beet Gardening is a little local company that’ll help you set up your own private, organic edible landscape.

Img_4506According to Megan, the organic gardening biz is booming, especially with the popularity of the local food movement. “People are looking at where they’re getting things from,” Megan says. “A lot of people are realizing they want their kids to grow up with a home gardening experience, even if they didn’t.”

I met Megan and Sara (right) at a native-and-edible garden Heart Beet recently set up for Megan’s parents (below). This 1,000-square-foot garden was planted just a few weeks ago with mostly native, drought-resistant plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Right now, the garden looks rather bare, but according to Megan and Sara, each plant will expand out about a foot, prettying up the landscape. Once the plants are set, very little water or grooming will be needed. After all, these are perennial plants that don’t require replanting.

Img_4504

In addition, the garden has an edible component. Three fruit trees — pomegranate, fig, persimmon — are each surrounded by a number of herbs and edible plants, including artichokes, lemongrass, fennel, chives, blackberries and grapes. These edible areas will of course require more water and care, but will also produce local, organic food at a very low cost.

Cost to set this up: A little under $5,000, including the recycled concrete walkway. $5 a square foot doesn’t sound too bad, considering the fact that the yard will save water while providing food for years to come.

Most of Heart Beet’s work, however, isn’t large yards but smaller vegetable gardens and edible landscapes. Want Heart Beet to help set up yours? Call them, and you could have your own garden in just a week. The cost for a 100-square-foot garden with a raised bed runs between $1,500 to $2,500 for set-up, depending on the condition of the soil, the type of irrigation system desired, and other factors particular to your garden.

Once you have the garden set up, Heart Beet can help you maintain it for $75 a month, which includes weekly visits to your garden. Of course, a vegetable garden really needs to be looked at more than once a week, and Heart Beet’s overall goal is to get more people gardening themselves. Says Megan: “It’s not rocket science.”

Heart Beet Gardening. (310) 460-9365.

Earlier: Edible Estates: Attack on the Front LawnApartment gardens and auto sprinklers

Top photo courtesy of Heart Beet Gardening; other photos by Siel

By Tamara Galbraith (TexasTam)

April 22, 2008

The Climate

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found in a 2007 study that several factors will affect mass food production in the near future:

“Overall, food production is projected to benefit from a warmer climate, but there probably will be strong regional effects, with some areas in North America suffering significant loss of comparative advantage to other regions. The U.S. Great Plains/Canadian Prairies are expected to be particularly vulnerable. Climate change is expected to improve growing conditions for some crops that are limited by length of growing season and temperature. (e.g. fruit production in the Great Lakes region and eastern Canada).”

Climate change also has a widespread effect on plant growth: the behavior and aggressiveness of certain plant diseases and pests, adverse affects on beneficial insects, birds, and animals, the composition of soil, water quantity and quality…the list goes on.

Energy Use

When the cost of produce rises, it isn’t necessarily due to a sudden freeze in Florida or a drought in California. The price of gas greatly affects food costs due to transportation expenses. Remember when something as small and light as a bunch of scallions was 3/$1?

If enough people would grow their own food, it would make a dramatic difference in energy demand, traffic congestion, and the emission of greenhouse gases.

(On a related point, produce that hasn’t logged a bunch of “food miles” is better quality. It’s fresher and isn’t bounced around in transit. According to environmental writer Bill McKibben, 75% of the apples sold in New York City come from the West Coast or overseas, even though the state produces far more apples than city residents consume. Isn’t that ridiculous?)

Food Safety

Here’s a scary stat: The FDA inspects only about 1% of the imported foods it regulates, down from 8% in 1992 when imports were far less common. (The USDA, which regulates meat and poultry, is much stricter.) The FDA also doesn’t require that exporting countries have safety systems equivalent to those in the USA.

Here’s more from a story that ran in USA Today in March, 2007:

 “The decline in FDA inspection resources has been pronounced in the past five years. While food imports have soared about 50%, the number of FDA food-import inspectors has dropped about 20%, the agency says.

“Meanwhile, more food imports come from developing countries, where pesticide use is often higher than in the USA, water quality is often worse and workers may be less likely to be trained in food safety, says Michael Doyle, head of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.

“A 2003 FDA study found pesticide violations in 6.1% of imported foods sampled vs. 2.4% of domestic foods. It has not been updated. Several years earlier, the FDA found salmonella and shigella, which can cause dysentery, in 4% of imported fruits and vegetables vs. 1.1% of domestic products.”

Ick. 

Cost

A packet of tomato seeds will set you back, on average, about $3. Let’s say 50% of the 100 seeds in the packet germinate and become fruit-bearing plants, and that each plant bears a minimum of 10 lbs. of fruit. That’s 500 lbs. of fruit for $3.

Conversely, a bag of cherry tomatoes on the vine (about a dozen, if you’re lucky) also costs $3.

Of course, when growing your own, you could calculate the cost of soil additives, tomato cages, canning supplies, water, mulch, etc., and the value of your time and effort spent tending to the plants, but I think the benefits are pretty clear.

My message is, of course: grow your own stuff. Climate can be controlled more effectively, unless you opt to have a large farm; the management of your food crops shouldn’t be all that daunting. Cloth can protect from freezes as well as hot temperatures. Soil quality can be manually altered to your crops’ needs. Everything — including watering levels, pest and disease problems, etc. — can be more closely monitored under your own watchful eye.

Best of all, you will know what – if any — pesticides and fertilizers are being applied to your food crops, instead of being forced to buy mysteriously-produced food that wasn’t safely grown or properly inspected.

Even a family of five doesn’t need much yard space to host a highly productive garden. If you’re pressed for yard space, use containers. “Vertical gardening” – training vines to grow up instead of spreading out – is also effective and efficient. If you have a yard, consider ripping out some of the grass and making it into a veggie garden. That lovely green lawn is a huge and unnecessary water waster anyway.

If you’re a rookie to vegetable gardening, do plenty of research before jumping in. Learn what grows well in your area. Work to continually improve the soil. Read about crop rotation to ensure efficient production year after year. Can and preserve the wonderful food you’ve worked hard to grow so you can enjoy it all year round.

Lastly, if you absolutely don’t have the time, space or energy to grow your own fruits and vegetables, please do your best to support local organic food markets. Check out the website localharvest.org to find the one closest to you.

References:

IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Parry, Martin L., Canziani, Osvaldo F., Palutikof, Jean P., van der Linden, Paul J., and Hanson, Clair E. (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1000 pp.

Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2007-03-18-food-safety-usat_N.htm “U.S. food imports outrun FDA resources” By Julie Schmit, USA TODAY, Mar 18, 2007 © Copyright 2007, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co., Inc.

 

And here’s the original link to the article.

Even the Wall Street Journal is talking about urban agriculture.

Check out this video about Kipp Nash and his yard farms in Boulder, CO (but you gotta be patient and watch an ad first) and the article that goes along with it.  It gives a brief description of start-up costs and profit as well.