Tag Archives: Farming Revolution

Urban Food in Cincy

Are they ahead of us?  Are we in a better position for the future than them?  Whatever, this is a great read on the one of the most vital topics facing our cities as we transition to a low energy, local future

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We Are What We Eat: A Look at Our Local Food Ecosystem

By: Sean Rhiney, 6/1/2010

Last week, Soapbox partnered with the UC Niehoff Urban Studio and the Urbanists to kick off the first edition of a four part speaker series designed to address urban sustainability issues.  Our first entrée?  Fittingly, food.

We started off with a simple, basic premise – Homegrown food is good for you. But its value and power transcend basic nutrition. As urban cities experienced decline in the 20th century, access to fresh, local produce, and simply prepared food gave way to unhealthy fast food and corner markets with scant a vegetable in sight. We wanted to know what it takes to re-create a culture of fresh, healthy food. And how do we as urbanists help to ensure it’s a sustainable enterprise?

To lead the discussion we invited some local thought leaders on food.  Thomas Acito, owner of Cafe de Wheels and member of the Cincinnati Food Truck Alliance, Joanne Drilling, the new executive chef at Murphin Ridge Inn, Matt Ewer, owner of  Farm Fresh Delivery, and Karen Kahle, Resource Development Director, Corporation for Findlay Market gathered to share their thoughts and answer our questions. Mary Stagaman, Associate Vice President, External Relations at the University of Cincinnati, served as our guide.

Stagaman began the discussion asking about the importance of a food ecosystem. Sounds complex, but a food eco-system isn’t as contrived as it might sound.  Drilling said it could be the simplest, aggregate of things revolving around ‘community.’

“A neighborhood where a whole bunch of different things are happening. Farmers growing, greenhouses, chef owned restaurants, wine bars, farmers markets and all the citizens who are eating there.”

Ewer said an ecosystem is all about access. “Systems that allow local food to get in the community to connect,” he said. In Cincinnati’s ecosystem, Ewers considers top soil “our greatest resource.”  Ewer is the owner of Farm Fresh Delivery, an online home delivery service that provides organic produce and natural groceries to its members. For a healthy ecosystem Ewer said, “it comes down to family farms.”

Another important role in a food eco-system is the food consumer. Kahle, Resource Development Director of Findlay Market, grew up in Northwestern Ohio and was the Continue reading

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Turning a parking lot into a community garden

Pomegranate Center is the great firm that we’ve partnered with to help us plan and build the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden. They do community improving work all over – here is one great example.  We are fortunate to have this group working in our city – we can learn from them, and then keep it going ourselves!  This is from their website.

Crossroads Community Garden gateway

Crossroads Shopping Center in Bellevue, WA, is an extraordinary gathering place for many reasons: a superb international food court, free live music, a farmer’s market, and fierce chess tournaments.  So it was no surprise to us when Ron Sher, Crossroad’s developer, told us about his vision to turn part of a parking lot into a community garden. Pomegranate Center worked with gardeners and volunteers over three days to transform this lot into a beautiful, memorable community space.

On June 12, 2009, the sound of power tools bounced off of pavement and across the mall parking lot calling the attention of shoppers and movie-goers passing by. Over the next three days, we worked together to build a garden fence, gateway, kiosk, benches and a picnic shelter. Over 30 volunteers – including every community gardener with a plot on the site – gave their time to this project. “I knew we were getting a fence,” said Alex, a new gardener at the site and avid volunteer at the workshops. “But I had no idea it would be this beautiful!”

Crossroads is now home to yet another unique community space – a parking lot p-patch!

Crossroads P-Patch Painting

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Urban Gardening in Lex

My friend Sherry M is an urban gardener.  Her backyard garden has fruits and vegetables.  She and her husband built the raised beds with recycled lumber, the pathways with recycled brick.  They say their soil is as good as anywhere.  They have three rain barrels and a compost turner. 

I said I loved visiting them, because I was coming to the frontier of the new world.  And it feels good.  Harvest that asparagus!

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“The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food’

This sounds like a great book – the link to the website selling it is in the article :

How a Band of Youthful Entrepreneurs Are Resuscitating an Ailing Vermont Town With a New Economy Based on Local Foods

By Barry Estabrook, The Atlantic
Posted on March 29, 2010, Printed on April 2, 2010

http://www.alternet.org/story/146220/

 

The words local, seasonal, and sustainable have been repeated so often and with so little thought that they have become soothing background noise, feel-good mood-music for any socially conscious eater worth his or her naturally obtained organic sea salt. So it’s refreshing to encounter a book that treats the subject intelligently.

Was it Holden Caulfield who said the measure of a good book was one that makes you want to call the author on the phone? Reading Ben Hewitt’s The Town That Food Saved impelled me to pay a visit to the author at his home, a raggedy farmstead at the end of a rutted, muddy, unmarked lane tucked among the folds and hollows of north-central Vermont.

Tall and lanky, Hewitt is in his late thirties and grew up in rural, working-class Vermont. His formal education ended before he was able to complete high school. On the morning we met, his red knit cap was flecked with bits of hay, and he wore a faded blue shirt and olive-green work pants dabbed with either mud or manure from the dozen or so cows and sheep in the shed next to his house.

The central character in Hewitt’s book is the town of Hardwick, about eight miles from where he lives. A half-burned-out commercial building dominates the main intersection. It’s an apt metaphor for the one-blinking-light village. Between 1880 and 1920, Hardwick prospered. It was a major source of granite for the building trade. When reinforced concrete replaced rock as a construction material, the community fell into decay. Today, the town’s name is rarely seen in print without the adjective “hardscrabble.”

But Hardwick may be changing. A band of youthful, boundlessly articulate entrepreneurs are rebuilding the area’s economy on a foundation that may be more substantial than the bedrock on which its first boom was based: sustainable, local food production.

On the surface Hardwick’s rags-to-not-quite riches story has everything needed to appeal to diehard foodies. As Hewitt writes, “To the enterprising freelance journalist (c’est moi), it presented itself as a gift, neatly wrapped in recycled paper and adorned with a big, fat biodegradable bow.”

Whether food has really saved Hardwick is a matter of some debate, which, to his credit, Hewitt airs thoroughly and without bias. But there can be no argument that food has given the town its 15 minutes of fame and then some. Write-ups have appeared in the late Gourmet magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, and the New York Times. Emeril Legasse even visited town to film an episode of “Emeril Green.”

Hewitt is an amiable skeptic and a storyteller of rare skill who seems incapable of crafting a dull sentence. He calls his tale’s key players agrepreneurs. Tom Stearns of High Mowing Organic Seeds is the movement’s hyperkinetic mouthpiece. Pete Johnson of Pete’s Greens combines unbridled ambition with an entrepreneurial green thumb. Andy and Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm quietly produce $15-a-pound artisanal cheese that may provide a value-added financial model for dairy farmers struggling under depressed milk prices. A few dozen other well-drawn characters populate this bucolic foodscape. Many came from “away.” With their degrees from prestigious liberal arts colleges, most are fond of articulating the philosophical underpinnings of their agrarian ventures. None see any contradiction between doing good work and making money—preferably lots of it.

Undeniably, their efforts have brought 125 jobs to an area where every job counts. In doing so, they have created a vibrant, mutually supportive community centered on food. But Hewitt is also well aware of the ironies and shortcomings of the locavore trend and its upscale cachet. In a town of 3,200 that still has a median income 25 percent below the state’s average and an unemployment rate 40 percent above it, real locals are more likely to buy processed cheese from the Grand Union supermarket than pick up a piece of artisanal blue cheese from the farmers’ market, and more likely to dine on $3.38 chicken fried rice at the Yummy Wok than venture across main Street into Claire’s, a “community supported restaurant” that features local fare and offers nine-dollar vegetable tagines and 24-dollar grass-fed steaks that can be washed down with a selection of decidedly non-local wines.

In the course of researching The Town That Food Saved, Hewitt found that the issue of food systems was far more complex than he had first thought. “I wanted to ask what it really means to create a localized food system,” he told me over coffee, one of the few items on his daily menu he does not produce. “It’s hard—culturally, economically, and in terms of people’s habits. Readers looking for empirical answers should look elsewhere. In a way, this book is more about questions than answers.”

 Still, Hewitt comes away feeling that Hardwick’s recent history may be providing a template for a food system that could save all of us. “The fact is that our nation’s food supply has never been more vulnerable. And we, as consumers of food, share that vulnerability, having slowly, inexorably relinquished control over the very thing that’s critical to our survival,” Hewitt writes. What is at risk, he contends, is the entire model of the way we nourish ourselves. Fixing this broken model is a matter of national urgency.

 Should our industrial food system collapse, the Hewitt family (which includes his wife and two young boys) will have far less to worry about than most of us. They raise 80 percent of the food they eat: in addition to all their vegetables, they produce milk, beef, lamb, pork, chicken, eggs, blueberries, raspberries, apples, and maple syrup. Their house, which they built with help from friends, gets its electricity from solar panels and its heat from wood stoves.

 Where does that leave the rest of us? “For 100 years food production has been headed in one direction,” Hewitt told me. “The people I profile are all articulating steps to get us going in a different direction.”

  Barry Estabrook is a former contributing editor at Gourmet magazine. His work on a dairy farm and fishing boat taught him that writing about food was easier than producing it. 

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Local Agricultural Independence

This is such a great example of local resilience.  This is located in a small town in the heart of a farming region.  Do we have anything like that here?  We very well may, maybe I  just haven’t heard about it.  If we don’t, why not?  If you care about the importance of a local food economy at all, check this out.

(Montana’s) Mission Mountain:

The Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center is a full function food processing, research and development facility consisting of 11 major modules along with office space, conference and lunch rooms. The food processing facility is United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Montana Department of Agriculture Organic program inspected.

The goal of the Mission Mountain Food Processing Center is to retain agricultural food dollars in Montana communities. We strive to meet our goal through the incubation of food businesses and the through the development of source verified, value added agricultural products that are grown, processed and packaged in Montana and marketed to our farm to cafeteria and restaurant partners. In addition to food processing, we provide warehouse storage for dry and perishable agricultural goods.

Production Room

http://www.mmfec.com/fpc.html

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Meet a young farmer leading a greenhorn ‘guerilla’ movement

by Erik Hoffner

Severine von Tscharner Fleming

Severine von Tscharner Fleming is the director of the forthcoming film The Greenhorns and founder of the crucial new young farmer organization of the same name. Here’s her no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners perspective on the young farmers movement. Make no mistake, this woman is dedicated and smart — and she’s recruiting.

Q. What is Greenhorns all about?

A. It’s about the community of young farmers in this country. We are a nonprofit organization that works to promote, recruit, and support young farmers. Mostly what we do is produce media — print resources, new media, and programming for young farmers. Recently, there has also been an emphasis on events.

Q. Did it come about before or after the film?

A. The whole thing started with the film, with the idea that we’d better document this glorious and burgeoning movement, and share the excitement with more young people who might be inclined to enter agriculture professionally. But soon we realized that making a movie takes a long time, and that we’d better start communicating in other ways as well. So we started a wiki for relevant resources, a blog for news and video ephemera, then we got a weekly radio show and podcast on Heritage Radio Network, we began to tweet, etc.

Q. What are you growing, and where? What got you going in ag?

A. Last season, my friends Michelle, Anya, and I, with help from my little brother Charlie, ran our own farm, smithereen farm, in the Hudson Valley of New York. We planted an orchard, raised pigs, rabbits, laying hens, a few fowl, and about three-quarters of an acre of vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

We sold to three fancy restaurants, an organic grocery store, and a farmers market. We also dried 2,000 marjoram plants and sold them to Formaggio Kitchen, a fancy food store in Cambridge, Mass.

Farming is pretty much the love of my life. Back in college I was part of a posse starting the Pomona College Organic Farm, a very guerilla project, a permaculture fruit orchard with permanent raised beds. We had such a wonderful time building that farm, hustling hoses, hauling mulch, hosting work/harvest parties — but we had quite a trouble convincing the college of its merit. Goes to show the changing climate for agriculture within the groves of academe, because the farm is now on the college’s admission tour!

This coming season I’ll be working on my friend Dina Brewster’s farm The Hickories in Connecticut. It’s a 200-family member organic CSA with fruit, vegetables, and meat. Dina is a bad-ass young farmer, ex-poetry teacher, and sage greenhorn.

Q. I did several farm apprenticeships in the 1990s, but was unable to figure out how to get some land of my own that I could afford. Is access to land still an issue? Continue reading

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Look What Our Friends in Louisville Are Doing

Alert reader Becca S passed this along – pretty cool – maybe we could get something like this going here?

15Thousand Farmers

Planting a Seed to Feed Ourselves

Growing community through

neighborhood-based, organic farming


The Vision:

15Thousand Farmers helps create, empower, and inspire 15,000 new, organic, neighborhood backyard/front yard farmers in Louisville, KY to feed their families and themselves and to give away! How?  By using simple and easy instructions, checklists and materials and ongoing support provided through local growers and resources that will provide everything needed to start Easy Farms in our yards, on decks or in community gardens.

What is an Easy Farm?

Everything you need to know to start growing a simple and easy food, herb and flower garden in your yard. We’ll provide everything you need to become an organic backyard farmer – diagrams, instructions and checklists for creating a 4′ x 4′ Easy Farm.

for more:  http://15thousandfarmers.com/Home_Page.html

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Raised Beds in the City

A very simple way to become more independent:

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Thoughts About Food Security

Alert Reader Matt B. came across a great discussion about local food security – see what you think:

From WNC Observer at the Oil Drum (link below):

“What to do about food security? May I suggest the following:

Imagine a bull’s eye target. The concentric rings represent zones of action, starting in one’s kitchen and radiating outward.

Right in the center is the Kitchen, and this symbolizes Developing the capacity and capability of preparing your own meals from scratch using whole, basic foodstuffs. Many people can’t cook at all, and many others can cook very little. They are too dependent upon fast food and processed food. If we are confronted with a food security crisis, then the ability to work with simple, basic ingredients and prepare them into at least edible, if not delicious, meals, will be an important survival skill. Furthermore, most of the action strategies in the rings radiating outward will consist of obtaining or growing and storing these basic, simple foodstuffs, so you will have to know how to transform them into edible sustenance. Continue reading

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Fresh Food for Our Neigborhoods NOW

New York City has instituted great way to get fresh food into neighborhoods where stores don’t offer it:  Green Cart.
 
We have that problem here, in the East End for example. But there are many places in Lexington, on both sides of Main Street, that need handy fresh foods. Not everyone has a car, or the time to ride the bus, to a supermarket. This idea provides a balance: bringing food into the neighborhood, but without the overhead of actually building a structure. Keeps costs down, which keeps prices down, which enables more people to buy healthy food. Better health, and a better quality of life result. Who can be against that? Thanks to smart person Becca S for the tip! 
 
Here’s a snippet from the NYC Green Cart website:

“Green Carts are mobile food carts that offer fresh produce in certain New York City areas. Local Law 9, signed by Mayor Bloomberg on March 13, 2008, establishes 1,000 permits for Green Carts.

The Green Cart Initiative is supported by a $1.5 Million grant from the Laurie M Tisch Illumination Fund. This grant funds micro-loans and technical assistance for Green Cart operators, as well as branding, marketing, and outreach to encourage residents of the Green Cart areas to purchase fresh produce from the carts.”

http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/cdp/cdp_pan_green_carts.shtml

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The Food and Farming Transition: Toward a Post Carbon Food System

This is a GREAT publication from the Post Carbon Institute – very clear and important.  It was coauthored by Frankfort resident and Kentucky State’s very own  Michael Bomford, Ph.D. (whom I and Becca S., Beth W., and Sherry M. had a fun brainstorming lunch with last week – lots of great insights from a nice, intelligent, thoughtful person)

Here’s a summary:

The American food system rests on an unstable foundation of massive fossil fuel inputs. It must be reinvented in the face of declining fuel stocks. The new food system will use less energy, and the energy it uses will come from renewable sources. We can begin the transition to the new system immediately through a process of planned, graduated, rapid change. The unplanned alternative-reconstruction from scratch after collapse-would be chaotic and tragic.

The seeds of the new food system have already been planted. America’s farmers have been reducing their energy use for decades. They are using less fertilizer and pesticide. The number of organic farms, farmers’ markets, and CSA operations is growing rapidly. More people are thinking about where their food comes from.

These are important building blocks, but much remains to be done. Our new food system will require more farmers, smaller and more diversified farms, less processed and packaged food, and less long-distance hauling of food. Governments, communities, businesses, and families each have important parts to play in reinventing a food system that functions with limited renewable energy resources to feed our population for the long term.

read the whole report here: http://www.postcarbon.org/report/41306-the-food-and-farming-transition-toward

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Urban Farming in NYC

Reclaiming asphalt, keeping kids in school, building community , and feeding people fresh food – recession proof! This vid gets you hooked.

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GREAT Urban Farming Video

This is from Atlanta and is an absolutely fantastic overview of urban agriculture. Great stories about involving kids in farming.  Thanks to loyal reader Sherry M for the tip.

The organization is “Truly Living Well Natural Urban Farms.” visit them at:  http://www.trulylivingwell.com/index.html

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Biomass Misunderstanding

The Herald Leader has an interesting article today that would appear to address resilience: “State looks at grasses, grains, wood products to produce fuel.” The article covers the discussion occurring around the idea of converting much of Kentucky’s agricultural and timber land into fuel production. Governor Beshear has appointed a task force “to study the state’s capacity to produce biomass and the potential demand for turning it into ethanol and fuel for electricity plants, and evaluate what would be required to develop such an industry.”

The last word is the problem for resilience: “industry.” Continue reading

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This isn’t your grandmother’s great depression

I recently found an old picture of my grandmother when she was a young woman.  The picture was taken in 1932, in the very depth of the Great Depression.   She is surrounded by friends, all smiling and in nice dresses.  In the background is a nice looking car.  My great-grandparents were by no means wealthy –they were farmers – but the overall appearance of the scene is of happiness, or at least contentment.  I am still marveling at that thought:  how can these people be happy?  Isn’t the world crashing down around them?

And I think of our current predicaments, the wounded economy, environmental concerns, strife everywhere.  Surely if they found ways to manage during those times, we Continue reading

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