Thoughts on Urban Agriculture
Throughout most of history, agriculture was tightly linked to the city. The production and distribution of produce and livestock often drove urban design. After World War II, however, all that changed. With the rise of industrialization came, in many parts of the world, a distinct separation between cities and their food production.
Today, although more than half of the world’s people live in cities, most of their food is produced elsewhere, often through energy intensive, resource draining, and unsustainable industrial agriculture. Despite the high yields of “factory farms,” many cities now grapple with food security and hunger. With worldwide urbanization increasing, along with concerns in many cities about urban heat island effect, social justice, poor nutrition, declining natural resources, and struggling economies, one has to wonder: can urban agriculture reclaim its significance to life in the city? In many places, it already has.
The United Nations Development Programme estimated that 800 million people worldwide were engaged in urban agriculture and related enterprises in 1996, and that number has increased. In Africa, 40 percent of urban dwellers are said to be involved in some form of agriculture, and this figure rises to 50 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. To quote the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “Urban agriculture needs to be recognized as an important and increasingly central phenomenon of urbanization.”
Can urban agriculture restore the lost connection between cities and food? Can it build stronger, healthier, and more sustainable communities in the process? Join us as Leaf Litter explores the topic of urban agriculture.
We’ll begin by chatting with two people involved in urban agriculture at very different scales and from uniquely different perspectives. Novella Carpenter, the best-selling author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, shares tales, insight, and some exciting ideas for urban agriculture. Dr. Mark Gorgolewski is an architect, professor, author, and key figure behind the Carrot City urban agriculture research initiative. He talks with us about how design at all scales can enable the production of food in the city.
For a real-life example of the integration of urban agriculture into a city’s vision, we take a look at the farms, gardens, vineyards, and orchards that are sprouting up in Cleveland, Ohio as part of the Re-Imagining Cleveland initiative.
We’ll also travel to the West Coast of the U.S. to explore the Beacon Food Forest, an edible woodland ecosystem in Seattle that is being heralded as the latest evolution in urban farming.
Reading about urban farms is one thing. Seeing them is where it really gets exciting. To help you do this, we offer a sneak peak at Growing Cities, the first feature-length documentary on urban farming in America. We also share glimpses into one city’s urban farm community, with a photo essay by landscape architect Jennifer Dowdell. Or, if you’d like, you can join us on a video visit to Baltimore’s Real Food Farm.
What do you think about urban agriculture? Share your thoughts on our blog, Rhizome.
If urban farming has celebrities, Novella Carpenter is certainly one of them. She is the best-selling author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, the personality behind the popular Ghost Town Farm blog, and a sought after speaker on the topic of urban agriculture. She is also the real deal. Novella has dived into dumpsters to feed her pigs, butchered and eaten rabbits she raised in a vacant lot, and revived a nearly dead, newborn goat in her apartment. Most recently, she co-authored an urban farming guide, The Essential Urban Farmer.
Novella grew up in rural Idaho and Washington State. She majored in biology and English at the University of Washington in Seattle. While attending Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, she studied under Michael Pollan for two years. Her urban farm began with a few chickens, then some bees, until she had a full-blown farm near downtown Oakland. Both inside and outside of the urban garden, Novella continues to share the bounty of her labor with neighbors, friends, budding farmers, and now, Leaf Litter readers.
Your most recent book, The Essential Urban Farmer, (co-written with Willow Rosenthal, founder of City Slicker Farms) is a how-to manual for people interested in growing and raising their own food in the city. What has been the response to this book?
The response has been great. So many books are geared toward people who have a lot of land; we wanted to create a book about urban farming. We’re encouraging people to rethink the city as a place to grow food, and that is happening.
You state your intention in writing The Essential Urban Farmer right in the introduction: to provide a much needed how-to manual for people interested in growing and raising their own food in the city. What was your intention when you wrote Farm City?
Farm City was more about storytelling. I’d find myself at parties, telling people about things that were going on at the farm and they were always so fascinated. When I was trying to be a reporter, I took a food writing class with Michael Pollan. He said, “Your stories are so great. Why don’t you write those instead of reported stories and interviews?”
That was the genesis of me starting to write the stories for an audience. Many of the essays were published in salons before they became Farm City. The response was so great at the salons (both positive and negative) that an agent approached me with the idea to write a book.
In Farm City, you claim to gravitate towards rougher, abandoned, semi-industrial, imperfect areas. Would you recommend this type of land as the highest urban agriculture priority?
The thing about these areas is that they are the places where you can get away with more urban agriculture because there are so many other problems that the city has to focus on. You can get away with having goats, for example. In nicer neighborhoods, your neighbors tend to get mad if you didn’t mow the lawn.
These neighborhoods also tend to have more people from different countries. A man from Nigeria stopped by my farm a little while ago and said, “I’m from Nigeria and I heard you have my goats in your backyard.”
So I showed him my Nigerian goats. He said, “Oh, it’s just like home, with goats on the back stairs!” (He had lived in a city in Nigeria.) I think immigrant neighbors are more accepting of livestock and agriculture in the city. Ultimately, urban agriculture is more of a third world thing. We’re learning from third world countries how to do it here.
Then of course there’s the issue of food justice. Who gets to eat healthy, organic food? Mostly affluent, white people. So yes, there’s the sense of wanting to use the land to feed people healthy food. Willow’s [Rosenthal, founder of City Slicker Farms] mission was to get healthy food to communities that are considered to have food deserts, where there is no grocery store. How can people eat healthy food if the only alternative is to go to the liquor store and get Doritos for breakfast?
Farm City is peppered with historical tidbits about urban farming. Urban agriculture is not new, yet it seems to have flourished in economically challenging times only to fade away. Today, we’re in the midst of a challenging economy and there is a growing awareness of issues like food deserts, food security, childhood obesity, and the benefits of eating unprocessed food. There also seem to be more farmers markets, farm-to-table restaurants, artisanal food, etc. in the U.S. Is this a perfect storm for a burst of urban agriculture?
It definitely is. Farm City came out in 2009, when the recession had just started. A lot of people thought it was going to end quickly, but here it is 2012 and it’s still dragging on. I have seen more and more interest in urban agriculture as an economic reality—that if you’re very wily, you can grow food for less than you’d pay for it at a grocery store or farmer’s market.
What we don’t have now are victory gardens and war gardens projects, where the government told us to grow our own food. How different would it be if George Bush told people to plant a garden instead of telling them to go shopping? That would be insane. It would never happen. We don’t have a lot of government support for urban agriculture, and that’s a shame.
In San Francisco, a giant victory garden was planted at City Hall [in 1943]. They actually had a reenactment of that in 2007. They planted a victory garden and it was beautiful and people were so excited!
We need more government help if we’re going to get urban agriculture up to speed. Otherwise, it’s just freaks like me who want to grow their own food. In fact, I’ve had problems with the City of Oakland because my property isn’t zoned agricultural. It’s these little things that are going to stop people from growing food.
In Cuba, they have a shortage of food, so they’re encouraging people to grow food in the cities. It has been very successful. In downtown Caracas, Venezuela, they have acres-big farms where they are growing food.
Ultimately, the biggest problem with urban farming is land access because land is so expensive in the city. We really need people who, at the policy level, will make it so we have incentives and support for growing food instead of barriers.
I was planning to ask you what you consider to be the top three challenges to urban farming. It sounds like a lack of government support—from the municipal to the federal level—would be one.
What are some of the others?
Managing people’s fears around agriculture. People think it’s going to stink and there’s going to be a tractor in the backyard. So making people feel comfortable with the idea of having a working farm near them is a big one.
A lot of it is education. People are excited now about urban farming, but we have to educate people so they can do a good job. There’s nothing worse than growing food and then having it not work out, or losing your livestock because you didn’t know how to build a chicken coop properly to protect against predators.
That’s another reason why we wanted to publish The Essential Urban Farmer: so people would know that, hey, there are raccoons, possums, and in some cities, foxes, that can get into your chicken coop and kill your chickens, so here’s how you bury your hardware cloth in the ground. If you have failures with crops or you lose livestock, it’s very de-motivating. We really need education and I think that could come in the form of extension agents. In rural areas, you have people come tell you what you did wrong with your corn. People could do that in the city, too. I’d love to see an urban ag extension agent in every city.
I’d assume that one of the challenges of farming in a formerly industrial area is that you have potentially toxic landscapes.
Yes, that’s another huge issue for urban farming. You’re going to have soil that has lead in it. Or you might have someone who wants to grow food at a former gas station. There has to be education at all levels about what is appropriate.
There’s also the sense that the city is so dirty. Well, rural areas are dirty, too. Go to Fresno sometime! You’re like, “Wow, that’s where all the broccoli is grown? Right next to the highway?” We have this romanticism that our food from rural farms comes from beautiful pasture land, with blue skies and green fields. It’s giant agriculture, with cars whizzing by and massive pesticide use. I’d like to see the soil tests for [those areas] because that soil is probably pretty gnarly as well. In urban areas, you do have to make sure your soil is heavy metal free and toxin free, but as depressing as it is, rural areas are not necessarily much better.
In Farm City, you tell of an experiment in which you vow to eat only items you can obtain from or within 100 yards of your garden. What was the greatest lesson you learned from that experiment?
The greatest lesson I learned from that experience was that it was a very stupid idea. There’s this very American ideal of the cowboy individual who can do everything himself, with pioneer spirit. What we forget is that the pioneers survived because they helped each other. My experiment was playing with the idea of “what can I do by myself?” Ultimately, I found myself in a very lonely place: hoarding beets, not having enough food, and feeling kind of anxious. Many survivalists are into this idea of the bunker, and surviving as the fallout happens. I realized that that for me, having a garden for myself–which I’d have to defend with a gun if it came to it–is not the best survival idea. I think building a community, helping each other, and educating people about how to grow food is much more important. It’s not just all about the individual.
An incident in Farm City in which various people in your community help you wrangle a pig escapee, really illustrated for me how an urban farm enlivens, intrigues, and brings folks together. Tell us about some of the positive impacts your farm had on your community?
I think I’m getting more out of [the farm] than the people around me. Ghost Town Farm is like a fun fact for the neighborhood. People like to bring their kids and look at the ducklings, goats and chickens. It’s sort of like having a petting zoo. But there’s also this sense of people wanting to share their stories and cultures. It’s a conversation starter, a point of reference for people of different cultures and what they grow. We have Buddhist monks and Vietnamese people in our community, and they all have memories of growing food.
The farm becomes a place to share culture. It opens up a dialogue that normally wouldn’t happen. This idea of culture and agriculture is constantly reinforced with the garden.
How do you scale that up?
That’s a good question. I’m just an individual and not a policy wonk so I can never think of the answer of how to scale it up. I do think it would be cool to have, instead of a park, an urban farm with different sections featuring different cultures growing different things. You could have the Vietnamese section, the Yemen section, etc. You could have a whole demonstration farm that shows how people grow food in different parts of the world. It should be a working farm where they harvest and distribute food and have work parties.
I think people have a huge hunger for agriculture, but it’s hard to access it. So if you had a place in every city that was known as the urban farm, that’d be very helpful.
Were there things you learned about the history of urban agriculture that really surprised you?
If you look at the old Aztec cities in Mexico, they were built around farming. Cities were based around farming. It was only later that we got into this dualistic thinking that the farm is there and the city is here. Historically, cities were places where you wanted to have food growing as close as possible to where the people were. Long ago, in Paris for example, they had amazing vegetable gardens, and they were actually exporting vegetables to the outlying areas to feed people. It was only when we started getting refrigerated trucks and trains that we started growing food off in the country and bringing it into the city. Learning about those projects in cities was surprising to me, and made me start to think of cities in a different way.
In Farm City, you quote environmentalist Paul Shepard, who observes that “Garden style is a continuing expression of the changing idea of the universe.” You then ask, “What does our city landscaping say about us?” I realize you wrote that book a couple of years ago. How would you answer that question today?
Things are changing. It’s like the Prius—it’s cool to have a rain garden now! People are really starting to think about resources, and how we’re not using them to the fullest. We’re also seeing fewer and fewer lawns. People aren’t necessarily installing sod as much, and there’s a drive toward planting natives and being water wise. I think we’re getting to the point where our view of the universe involves thinking more sustainably. That has happened in the last five years.
Architectural and landscape architectural firms are doing fun, new projects, like the High Line in New York and a similar project along the Alaska Way Viaduct in Seattle. It’s become sort of hip to re-imagine landscapes not as a lawn and some petunias, but as an ecosystem.
The other day I was driving in Olympia, the capital of Washington, and they have a public permaculture garden there. It’s very open. You’re welcome to come in and wander around. We need these types of gardens with no gates.
People are like, “Aren’t you worried about vandalism?” Not really, because they’re just plants. Humans are drawn toward nature. You see it with little babies and kids. Somehow we lose that when we are adults in the concrete jungle. It’s so soothing to be able to be in a city and wander around and enjoy some nature without having to feel like “is this okay that I’m in here?”
What do you think the role of landscape architects/planners/ecological engineers is/should be in the urban agriculture movement?
To make it more of a fun thing. There is such a sense of being serious. It’s fun to do playful projects. I recently talked with Dan Wood at Princeton, whose firm [WORK Architecture Company] did Farm 1 in New York. The idea to use construction materials to create gardens was a very cool, beautiful, and fun thing. People see that and they’re not intimidated by that. There’s also Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard. John Bela, who installed the victory garden in front of San Francisco’s City Hall, couldn’t do conventional row crops. So he used rice wattles to form circular beds to make the gardens. This element of playing and keeping it low-tech is nice. Everything doesn’t have to be so serious.
There’s a whole movement of vertical farming; like that’s going to save the world and feed everybody in skyscraper buildings. But that’s not really accessible to people. It’s one of those, “Gee whiz, we can go to the moon” kind of things. A lot of people want to see things they can do in their backyards and on their decks. We can probably engineer our way out of problems, but sometimes I think low-tech is the way to go. Have fun and make [urban agriculture] a sensory experience where you can actually smell the flowers, touch the vegetables and see things up close. Think of it in terms of “What would a ten year-old kid like a garden to look like?” because ultimately, that’s how adults would like it to look, too.
People always want to know how much one can grow, so having some kind of schematic that shows how much food can be grown on a particular piece of land would also be helpful.
You say of your urban farm “It had owned me.” Near the end of Farm City, you also say “That an urban farmer existed before Christ made me feel like I was—that we all were—merely repeating the same motions that all humans had gone through, that nothing was truly new.” You say that this insight gave you peace. Can you elaborate on this? What did your farm do for you? What did it teach you?
The farm is a place where you discover what it’s like to be human. A garden provides a laboratory that is teaching you about your culture. After a while of growing carrots, or raising chickens, you start to look at them and you wonder, “Who thought of domesticating these, and how did they do it?” Gardens bring you back to thinking about basics. There’s a Robinson Crusoe aspect to it. You rediscover the way people learned how to live and feed ourselves. We are not hunter gatherers anymore, so we use these domesticated crops and animals to sustain us.
I now have a baby. If she’s fussy, I take her out to the garden and she immediately quiets down. For a baby, there’s nothing like the tactile experience of being in a garden. All the smells and sounds. It’s an amazing experience for people to have, to be connected to their food and see it grow, and be part of that cycle of life and death. You harvest your broccoli plant, and then you yank it out of the ground, and it becomes compost. There’s a nice sense of the cycles of life and death on the farm that is ultimately a healing kind of thing. If you live in a city and the only thing you see is your dog or cat, you don’t see the cycles of intent. If you have a garden and animals that you are eating, you have a sense of “This is my place. This is my fate. I will live this long and then I’ll be done. Then I’ll become worm food.” There’s something reassuring about that. There’s not the sense of higher expectations of immortality.
Professor and Program Director, Graduate Program in Building Science, Department of Architectural Science Ryerson University
Dr. Mark Gorgolewski directs the graduate program in the building science of sustainable design at Ryerson University in Toronto. His research includes sustainable housing, reuse of resources, urban agriculture and the design of cities.
Dr. Gorgolewski has worked for many years as an architect, researcher and environmental consultant to the construction industry in the UK and Canada. He has published many books, articles and papers on issues of sustainable design, including most recently Carrot City: Creating Places for Urban Agriculture. The book came out of the Carrot City research initiative, which examines how design at all scales can enable the production of food in the city. The initiative, which Dr. Gorgolewski launched along with other Ryerson faculty and students, explores the relationship of design and urban food systems as well as the impact that agricultural issues have on the creation of urban spaces and buildings as society addresses the issues of a more sustainable pattern of living.
A former Chair of the Association for Environment Conscious Building in the UK, Dr. Gorgolewski is currently Director of the Canada Green Building Council. We were thrilled to chat with him and learn more about Carrot City.
Can you tell me about the genesis of the Carrot City initiative?
The initiative came from students here at Ryerson University. About five or six years ago, some fourth year undergraduate students were doing thesis projects on issues of food and how it affects urban building design. We formed a group consisting of a couple of professors and experts we knew. (It just so happened that the husband of one of the professors had written a book on food policy issues.) That group supported these students as they did their thesis projects throughout that year.
After that first year, we had more students who were interested, and we decided to host a food and design symposium. We brought together various contacts we had made, some of which came from projects students had identified while doing their research projects. We had about 150 participants here to talk about the issues of food and the city, and how food can affect the design of buildings in the city.
From that symposium came the idea of an exhibition, which we organized at the Design Exchange in Toronto in 2009. We named the exhibit Carrot City. The Carrot City exhibition has evolved and is now traveling the world. It is just about to open in Paris. It was recently in Stuttgart and in Birmingham in the UK. Following the exhibition, we were approached by some publishers. The book expanded on the contents of the exhibition, and provided more details.
What has the reaction been to the exhibit and book?
There certainly seems to be a lot of interest, all around the world. In recent years, the topic of food in the city has been generating more and more interest. There was a lot of concern about food security, and the fact that some people don’t have access to healthy, culturally-appropriate food. There were also increasing concerns about obesity and about the way we grow our food (for health or climate change reasons). All of these issues circle around the food we consume and how we produce it. So we started to think about the role that food could have in the way we design cities.
One review of the book noted that “The physical and cultural connection of food and cities has been a largely bottom up process to which the design world is now responding.” In the introduction to the book, you write “The emerging and often grass roots alternative food movement has barely engaged with the possible contributions the design and planning professions are capable of making.” You also write that “Architects as a group have been slow to bestow the importance of food production spaces in design.” Why has there been this gap? Is it narrowing?
The gap has emerged because following the industrial revolution, food became something that happened outside of the city, so it wasn’t something that really concerned the thinkers about the city. In the early part of the 20th century, some leading planners and thinkers did still consider food to be important in the [design of the] city. But that moved off of the discussion table in the second half of the 20th century. By then, architects and planners were focusing on other aspects, not on food. This was also part of the movement, during the 20th century, of specialization of land use. Land use became very much focused on having specific housing areas, industrial areas, recreation areas, etc. Food production was something that happened in rural areas. It didn’t happen in an urban context very much. Planners and architects were educated to think that way. They didn’t engage in issues of food because they weren’t asked to.
This is gradually changing. It’s not changing as fast as some of us would like it to, but more and more, there are initiatives which are bringing the discussion around food back into the city. Therefore, urban planners and architects are now increasingly being asked to consider food issues.
When we interviewed author Novella Carpenter, she cited lack of government support as a key challenge to urban agriculture. You write in Carrot City that “appropriate municipal support is crucial to the wider adoption and success of urban agriculture.” If urban food production is, as you write, “a viable, sustainable alternative to shipping food from a distance,” and if food-related initiatives have been proven to reduce the heat island effect, lower water treatment costs, and positively impact issues like food security and health, why does policy seem to lag behind?
Part of the reason why it lags behind is what I just talked about. Food was just not seen as something that people in the city needed to think about. It was seen as a rural issue. It was as though bringing food into the city would mean treading on the rural community. This can still be a concern because some rural communities fear that their economic viability will be undermined [by urban agriculture]. Actually, I think the future is not just about bringing food directly into the city, but also about urban and rural communities developing closer links and working together to supply relatively local food in the peri-urban areas directly adjacent to urban areas.
The issue of food cuts across many different areas of policy. Policies tend to be pigeonholed into different offices, [such as] a Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Health, etc. Food, particularly urban food, doesn’t directly fit into any one of those. Therefore there isn’t an obvious champion to really push food issues in an urban context. We need, perhaps, a “Ministry of Food” that would focus on food and food systems. That would include thinking about food as an urban issue, prevention for health problems, etc.
You write that “Government and other agencies are beginning to support small-scale, community based initiatives.” In your travels and in your experience reviewing case studies for the exhibit and book, have there been any standout examples of large scales initiatives of urban agriculture?
As part of the upcoming London Olympics, the government funded a whole series of small projects all around London which encourage food production within the urban context and education around food production in the urban environment. So there is not one large project, but lots of small projects coordinated around one activity-the London Olympics.
Another example is in Vancouver. As part of the development of the Vancouver Olympic Village, the False Creek area did a number of studies to look into the integration of food. They developed various policy initiatives around how food could be integrated into that community. In the end, many ideas were not implementedbecause there were financial issues with getting the Olympic Village built, but some of the ongoing development that is happening in that area is going to include more food-related initiatives. The policy work and guiding strategic work they did there is informing other developments and generally informing the way that the Vancouver City municipality is looking at further development. Sometimes these things start as small initiatives and grow into big ones.
There are now some developments in Europe where the developers are being asked by the municipalities to include food-related opportunities. In Scandinavia, for example, the winning entry to the Low2No competition in Helsinki by Sauerbruch Hutton Architects
integrated a whole range of opportunities for food growing within a large, mixed-used, but mainly residential development because of the desire of the municipality.
The book has some truly amazing examples of urban agriculture. Was there one project that really inspired you?
I wouldn’t want to single out any one project. There are lots of projects, and lots of different aspects to those projects, in the book that I find inspiring. I am drawn to some of the visionary, big picture ideas, but I also like some of the very small scale projects, which are getting things happening.
I’m interested in the idea of “tactical urbanism,” making small scale things happen to really demonstrate potential. From small scale initiatives, people begin to realize potential. Some of the small scale initiatives that happen, even when they are temporary, are quite inspiring.
From an architectural point of view, I like things like Public Farm 1 in New York because it has a very architectural feel to it. It has a very interesting design approach, a creativeway of using materials, and an innovative way of using space to create a sculptural element.
I also like the Leadenhall Street City Farm in London. Although it didn’t happen,
the potential it offers for use of waste spaces in the city has lots of potential.
We have so many spaces in the city that are expected to have development, but there may be five or ten years before anything will happen with them. There is potential for building temporary urban farm installations into some of these sites with minimal cost and infrastructure. This creates real value, and hte installations can move on to a different empty site later when the development happens on that particular site.
In the chapter “Imagining the Productive City,” rehabilitating wasted spaces is one of several approaches to urban agriculture presented. Vertical farming, farm subdivisions, and creating connected networks of productive spaces were also presented. Do you think any one of these approaches is most promising?
I have some hesitation about some of the vertical farm proposals. When we chose the projects to put into the book, we purposely decided to include a range of projects and not filter out those that we weren’t completely convinced of.
We did include some vertical farm ideas, but I find them not entirely convincing. The infrastructure needed to make them happen is
considerable, and I’m not sure that is something that is realistic to build. I also worry about the amount of energy needed to run those farms. I have seen figures which suggest that the amount of energy needed to run vertical farm would dwarf the supply we have at the moment.
I’m more drawn to the
tactical, smaller scale networks of interventions that could happen around different small places in cities. I’m quite drawn to projects that look at existing infrastructure, like Ravine City. Although it’s a fairly big intervention, it’s using and building upon existing green infrastructure in the city of Toronto.
Speaking of scale, is there an ideal scale for urban agriculture? Are there scales that just don’t work?
Do you think there is a potential disconnect between the way the fields of architecture, planning and landscape architecture are practiced today and the very intimate, place-based knowledge it takes to understand the agricultural needs of a place, as well as details like soils, microclimates, etc.?
There are still a lot of people out there who know a lot about growing food in the urban environment or are developing that expertise, so I think it’s a matter of tapping into that expertise and using that. We have to make sure that expertise doesn’t die.
I’m in my early 50s, and my generation is probably the generation that knows the least about growing food. Our parents and older generations probably knew much more and practiced it much more. But I think there is a lot of interest in reestablishing that knowledge and making sure future generations have it.
How integrated is urban agriculture, generally speaking, in the education of tomorrow’s planners and designers?
Not very much. There are a few [institutions] like [Ryerson University] that are interested in urban agriculture and therefore run a few courses in it, but this specific subject is not widely taught.
There is interest among some students through projects, some of which are in our book and others are being publicized in the architectural press and elsewhere. Students who do get inspired by this subject will explore it on their own, sometimes with some support from their schools of architecture. But [urban agriculture] is not well supported at the moment in architecture and planning schools, and needs to be linked to a pedagogy which is more ecologically based.
That is one of the reasons why we published the Carrot City book. We wanted to provide a resource for those students and professors who want to explore this further.
Have you seen many examples of the integration of urban agriculture with water reuse (rainwater harvesting, treated grey water used to irrigate fruit trees, etc.)?
There are some projects which collect rainwater. There are a few in the book that do that. Some make it more overt while with others, it may just be a barrel in the back collecting water off of a shed. The one that is probably most overt is the Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson Community Gardenin New York City, which has blue funnel structures which capture rainwater and store it in a tank. They have an old fashioned pump to move the water out for use
in the garden. It’s something that a lot of projects consider. And it’s not just water. There are opportunities for urban agriculture to be coordinated with other resources available in cities. Waste heat that occurs from buildings, for example, could be used to heat greenhouses which would help with growing plants. Some of the biomass that is collected in the city could be composted and used for soil in urban agriculture. One of our interests is to follow up and look for ways to connect with the free or available resources that occur in the city.
In the introduction to the Carrot City book, you mention a civic initiative in Rotterdam to develop a food strategy which focuses on three requirements for urban agriculture to be effectively integrated into conurbation: 1) economically viable 2) spatially integrated into the city and 3) can be woven into the social fabric. Can you have one of these requirements without the others and still be successful? Which requirement do you think is hardest to achieve?
Individual initiatives can address only certain aspects, but a wider-scale strategy really does need to coordinate economic viability with spatial integration and social aspects.
Each project in the book addresses these three requirements in different ways. In some of the design-driven projects, the emphasis may be more on the spatial integration in the city. Other projects which are trying to provide resources to a particular group or disadvantaged community may be more focused on integration into the social fabric. Realistically, for urban agriculture to be more widely accepted within the urban community, it needs to address all of these in an integrated way.
What potential do you think urban agriculture has to affect social and environmental justice?
The whole issue of food security and the ability for people to have access to readily available, culturally appropriate, nutritious food they can afford is a key aspect of social justice. Urban agriculture is one way people can have access to the fresh, healthy food they want and need to be consuming. I don’t want to force urban agriculture down people’s throats
. and say that everybody has to be growing food, but there are many people who want to have the opportunity to do this type of activity, and there are people who feel that this is the way they can get the food they want to consume. Therefore, I think it’s important that we create opportunities for them.
From an environmental justice point of view, my concerns are about the environmental impacts of our modern way of living, and food is central to that. The way that we provide a lot of our food is at the cost of our environment for many communities. This is true in the Western world and in developing countries. We need to be aware of the environmental damage that our food is causing in very many parts of the world and take responsibility for that.
One of the important questions Carrot City asks about the contributions design professionals can make to strengthen links between urban design and food supply is: “What is the place of food production in the city?” How would you answer that question?
That’s what the book tries to answer, so read the book! I don’t think there’s a simple, one-sentence answer. There are many roles that food can have in a city, but there is an opportunity for food to actually start impacting the types of spaces and places we create in the city. This will happen in a range of different ways, from small-scale interventions in the way we use planters around buildings to the types of systems we develop in our city for providing our infrastructure. It goes right through from thinking about how we deal with our water and our sewage and how that could be integrated into food producing systems, to very small scale efforts of individuals growing food in boxes on balconies. The role of food is across the board and needs to be thought through at the various scales.
Over the last sixty years, the city of Cleveland has seen its population drop by more than 56%. With the city demolishing 1000 empty homes each year, its mounting supply of vacant land–currently topping 10,000 sites–might be viewed as a dismal omen and a management nightmare. But for the people behind a city-wide vacant land reuse initiative called “ReImagining Cleveland” the stockpile is a colossal, extremely valuable asset to leverage in the effort to redefine a former industrial giant as a thriving, green, and resilient city.
In 2008, Neighborhood Progress, a community development funding intermediary, collaborated with the City of Cleveland and Kent State University’s Urban Design Collaborative to convene a 30-member working group to explore strategies to return the city’s vacant properties to productive use at the city-wide scale. The results, a report entitled “Re-Imagining A More Sustainable Cleveland” is now guiding the city’s vacant land use decisions. No longer merely a study, ReImagining Cleveland has become a powerful initiative that has helped transform 56 decaying, vacant parcels into community and market gardens, vineyards, orchards, pocket parks, rain gardens, and other green spaces.
Reimagining Cleveland’s grant-making process to fund the initial 56 pilot projects was guided by a pattern book [Ideas to Action] that was also created by the working group. Grants for the pilot projects were for $10,000, and although some projects required professional support (and additional dollars) to get underway, others moved forward through the sweat equity of neighborhood volunteers.
“The urban agriculture movement is large and growing here inCleveland,” said Terry Schwarz, director of Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. “Even beyond the ReImagining Cleveland program, there are over 200 community garden sites around the city.”
One reason for this surge in urban agriculture may be the level of support it receives from the City of Cleveland and from local organizations and institutions. Though some might turn to cities like Portland and San Francisco when looking for a model in urban agricultural zoning, Cleveland should not be overlooked.
In recent years, the city altered its zoning code to be more accommodating to crop growing, beekeeping and chickkeeping. The code also allows agricultural uses for free standing lots. The region even has its own organization dedicated to establishing Cleveland and Cuyahoga County as a model for food security through regional food system development. The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition, led by Morgan Taggart of Ohio State University Extension, led the charge to get zoning code changes made and make it easier and less expensive to access water.
Given Cleveland’s industrial history, one might wonder about contamination getting in the way of urban agriculture. Although all 56 ReImagining Cleveland pilot sites were formerly residential, and not industrial, lead and arsenic were concerns because of the ages of the homes. A soil scientist on the Reimagining Cleveland team found that the real risk of lead exposure would come from working in the site, rather than from any vegetables, so appropriate protection for workers and volunteers became essential.
Soil quality presented a greater challenge than soil contamination, primarily because of compaction. Houses destroyed before 1986 were actually demolished into their basements. According to Schwarz, EPA researchers found the level of infiltration on a typical vacant lot in Clevelandto be like that of asphalt. Soil on all of the pilot sites is tested, and for most of the food producing sites, raised beds and lasagna gardening techniques are used.
“Cleveland is one of the poorest cities in the country, and we have a high degree of food insecurity,” said Schwarz. “There is a lot of focus on food production as a way of getting healthy calories to people who need them and creating opportunities for income generation for city residents through market gardens.” But the benefits of urban agriculture often multiply and end up positively impacting other community issues.
Schwarz highlights the Chateau Hough vineyard as an example. Located in a neighborhood that has, according to Schwarz, struggled since racial rioting in the 1970s, this inner city winery was the brainchild of local entrepreneur, Mansfield Frazier.
Aiming to rewrite the neighborhood’s narrative, Frazier employed and empowered neighbors, residents of a nearby halfway house, former prisoners, and community service crews to help prepare the soil and armature to support nearly 300 grapevines.
“One of the things that is particularly special about Chateau Hough,” said Schwarz, “is that Mansfield Frazier has established such a degree of credibility, ownership, and stewardship in the neighborhood that he doesn’t even have a fence around the vineyard. Nobody messes with Mansfield and his grapes.” Now in its third year, Chateau Hough expects to produce a useable yield, and a challenged neighborhood will soon have a signature product.
Schwarz is quick to point out that despite the success of the Reimagining Cleveland initiative, not all pilot projects received immediate community approval and support.
For agriculture to truly integrate into the urban landscape in the long term, she cautions, neighborhood acceptance is critical. She advises Leaf Litter readers and anyone involved in designing an urban agriculture project to give careful consideration to the way the site will be perceived by city residents. In the end, she says, details such as edges and entrances, can make a tremendous difference.
“Applying a level of design thinking to food production,” said Schwarz, “would increase the amount of community acceptance across the board.”
Here’s hoping that that the Re-Imagining Cleveland initiative continues grow, yielding stronger, more resilient communities in a city that is truly redefining itself.
By Leaf Litter contributor Kirsten Nilsen
Foraging is the new grocery shopping. At least, that’s the vision of the designers and community activists launching Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest.
Just 2.5 miles from downtown Seattle, in the middle of the Beacon Hill neighborhood, lays a seven-acre plot of city-owned land that is slated to be the nation’s largest urban food forest. When the land is fully developed, it will include garden plots, fruit and nut trees, play fields, a kids’ area, a wetland, a gathering spot, and an area devoted to native plants.
A food forest essentially mimics a forest ecosystem, in which each layer of that ecosystem is replicated using plants that humans actually use and like – for edible, medicinal and functional purposes. The design of the Beacon Food Forest is grounded in the ethics and principles of permaculture, in which designers choose from “an entire palette of systems to create resilient, abundant, and creative human habitats,” explains Jenny Pell of Permaculture Now!
The plans for this urban oasis were born out of a “dream design” generated by gardener and Beacon Hill resident Glenn Herlihy and three other students in 2009 as part of a permaculture design course run by Pell. Through community outreach, the project gained momentum and eventually secured $22,000 in initial funding from Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods.
This allowed the steering committee to hire the design team of Margarett Harrison, Jenny Pell and David Boehnlein – who worked alongside Friends of the Beacon Food Forest to both engage the community in the design process and ensure that feedback from the community was incorporated in the final design.
“Friends of the Food Forest undertook heroic outreach efforts to secure neighborhood support. The team mailed over 6,000 postcards in five different languages, tabled at events and fairs, and posted fliers” writes Robert Mellinger for Crosscut.
The group has now secured $100,000 in seed money to get the initial phase of the project (a 1.75 acre plot) underway – Glenn Herlihy calls it a “micro of the macro design.” They plan to break ground this summer.
As the land belongs to Seattle Public Utilities and the project itself falls under the umbrella of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods’ P-Patch community gardening program, there were a number of city agencies that had to be consulted, and a number of unusual land use restrictions that had to be incorporated into the design. However, once city officials recognized the project’s commitment to community involvement, their support has been enthusiastic. Furthermore, it is a vibrant illustration of the city’s commitment to development of urban agriculture.
Both Herlihy and Pell are quick to emphasize that food forests are not new to us – that many communities have been doing this on a smaller scale for years. But “…creating a system on public land that combines the concepts of urban farms, orchards, and natural forest, and depending on collaborative community effort to keep it going, represents uncharted territory for the now-flourishing urban-farming movement,” writes Claire Thompson for Grist.
Another key to the innovative project is the educational initiatives available to the larger community on local food production, propagation, and harvesting. As Pell comments, “so many Americans are so used to eating unripe fruit, they don’t know what a truly ripe, fresh off the tree plum might look or taste like.” She also notes that a sizable part of the budget is slated simply for signage: ways to let people know that certain crops are ripe, or that others need more time before being plucked off the trees.
Ongoing educational workshops on-site will not only help inform the community but encourage a vested ownership. The workshops will be organized to match the biggest need coming up within the forest itself. Upcoming sessions will cover sheet mulching and seedling propagation. A the forest matures, there will be ongoing educational opportunities covering everything from grafting trees to putting up the harvest.
The Beacon Food Forest is a model of collaborative community management, with members of the Food Forest community working towards not just new food sources, but a growing awareness of the abundance that nature’s forests – when planted with a design that maximizes their innate strengths – are happy to provide.
If you’re thinking of starting your own food forest, you may want to check out Jenny Pell’s Edible Forest Garden Design Intensive, scheduled for September 14-23 in Portland, OR. Registration information can be found at www.manav.org
Ah, the cross-country, American summer road trip. With its potential for soul-searching drama, comedic blunders, adventurous thrills, and plain old fun, it’s no surprise that countless filmmakers choose to craft stories around it.
In 2013, a new road trip movie will debut, but this one will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Growing Cities is the first feature-length documentary film to explore urban farming in a national context.
For filmmakers and childhood friends Dan Susman and Andrew Monbouquette, it’s more than a road trip flick; it’s part of a very serious mission.
As you might expect of two Nebraska natives, growing food was second nature to Dan and Andrew. They learned about agriculture right in their backyards.
But nearby industrialized farms and fast food chains exposed them to the not-so-bucolic, not-so-healthy, and not-so-sustainable side of American food production and consumption.
The disconnection between people and their food production became especially apparent to the filmmakers when they attended colleges on opposite coasts and realized that most of their peers never even had the opportunity to place a seed in soil. So they decided to do something about it.
They packed up their car and their cameras and set out on a mission: to show people that anyone, anywhere can grow healthy food sustainably. The itinerary: 80 urban farms across the U.S.
“Our definition of urban farming accommodates all scales,” said Susman, “everything from an acre rooftop farm in Brooklyn to a window box on someone’s balcony.”
Though he claims it’d be impossible to choose a favorite, he did mention a few standouts.
Susman cited San Francisco’s Hayes Valley Farm as an urban farming initiative that was made possible by the support of local government.
“Hayes Valley Farm worked with the City to turn a huge, vacant parcel of land into a permaculture farm that focuses on teaching kids.”
Although the farm, formerly a freeway overpass, is a temporary initiative that will ultimately move when development occurs, Susman stated that “it has educated a lot of kids, and the City really facilitated that.”
In addition to teaching people about agriculture, urban farms are also bringing a greater awareness of issues like food security, urban ecology, and nutrition community.
“That’s the thing about having an urban farm,” said Susman, “if you’re in the city, you have neighbors. Even if you’re not really trying to educate, people are becoming more aware of these issues.”
The filmmakers also observed how urban farms are facilitating community connection.
“The memories and stories you hear from neighbors who have farm experience in their history (growing up on a grandparent’s farm, for example),” said Susman “start a conversation that otherwise wouldn’t happen.”
A little over a year after embarking on their cross-country journey, with 12,000 miles and 22 cities behind them, all that stands between the Dan and Andrew and the release of Growing Cities is a little more funding and a whole lot of time in the editing room.
In the meantime, to see the trailer and learn more about the film, check out the Growing Cities web site.
By Jennifer Dowdell, Ecological Landscape Designer
Having grown up St. Mary’s County, Maryland, I’ve always felt a great affection for the farm landscapes that dominated my childhood. I loved watching the summer thunderstorms roll across the fields, walking the rows of corn, or smelling the fragrance of drying tobacco on my way to school. While I have dabbled in backyard gardening since moving to more urban locales it was only during the creation of this photo essay that I really began to see the many facets of the urban farmscape. It is a landscape that exhibits a perfect blend of what I cherish in urban life with the slower elements of rural life. The farmers I met have a deep connection to the seasons and the land, which they often need to coax into productivity with nothing less than brute force. There is also a palpable sense of community and hometown pride, hope literally sprouting from long abandoned lands across the city. From the various murals that illustrate the intersection of urban life and farming, to the high tunnels and row crops in Clifton Park, to the backyard chicken coops and vacant lot veggies, this essay only begins to scratch the surface of the many faces and forces behind the Baltimore urban farming movement!
Thanks to the following for their participation in this project!
Real Food Farm
Tyler C. Brown, Baltimore, MD
Baltimore Free Farm
Nick and Kelly Lindow, Baltimore, MD
32nd Street (Waverly) Farmers Market
Saratoga Farmers Market
Farm Alliance of Baltimore City
Gardeners Gourmet, 3201 Uniontown Road, Westminster, MD 21158
Various artists, murals, Baltimore, MD
CGIAR, a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food secure future.
City Farmer, Canada’s Office of Urban Agriculture
City Harvest online resource that demonstrates benefits associated with urban agriculture
ETC-Urban Agriculture, an advisory group and resource centre in the field of urban agriculture and food security
FuturePolicy.org’s policy guidance for Promoting Urban Agriculture
The Growing Power Conference will take place September 7-9 inMilwaukee,WI
JacSmit.com, portal of material by or related to the late Jac Smit, founder of The Urban Agriculture Network and long-time advocate for urban agriculture worldwide
The RUAF Foundation (an international network of seven regional resource centres and one global resource centre on Urban Agriculture and Food Security)
The 2012 Urban Agriculture Summit will take place August 15-18 inToronto,Canada
Urban Harvest works to promote the value of urban and periurban food production through research and projects in African and South America.
Carpenter, Novella. (2009). Farm City: the education of an urban farmer. New York,New York: Penguin Group.
Carpenter, Novella and WillowRosenthal (2011) The Essential Urban Farmer. New York,New York: Penguin Group.
Cockrall-King, Jennifer (2012) Food and the City
Duany, Andres and Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (2011) Garden Cities: Theory & Practice of Agrarian Urbanism.London,England. The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment.
Gorgolewski, Mark, June Komisar and Joe Nasr (2011) Carrot City: Creating Places for Urban Agriculture.New York,NY. The Monacelli Press, a division of Random House.
Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn. Expanded Second Edition, 2010: A Project by Fritz Haeg with contributions by Will Allen, Diana Balmori, Rosalind Creasy, Michael Pollan, Eric Sanderson, Lesley Stern and the owners/gardeners of the eight Edible Estates gardens. Published by Metropolis Books and Distributed by Distributed Art Publishers in North America and Idea Books in Europe.
Hodgson, Kimberley, Marcia Caton Campbell, Martin Bailkey (2011) Urban Agriculture: Growing Healthy, Sustainable Places American Planning Association.
Smit, Jac, Joe Smith & Annu Ratta. (2001) Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs and Sustainable Cities
Steel, Carolyn. (2009). Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives
Ghost Town Farm, a blog by Novella Carpenter
Murphy, Catherine. “Urban Gardens Increase Food Security In Times of Crisis: Habana, Cuba.”
Pinderhughes, Raquel, Catherine Murphy, and Mario Gonzalez. “Urban Agriculture in Havana,Cuba.” August 2000.
Viljoenk, André. (2005) CPULS Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes: Designing Urban Agriculture for Sustainable Cities, Architectural Press
World Urbanization Prospects: The 2011 Revision, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
FoodDesert: An area where residents lack access to affordable fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat milk, legumes and other foods that constitute a healthy diet. (Excerpt from Orion Magazine’s Lexicon of Sustainability, Douglas Gayeton)
Food Availability: Sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis. (World Health Organization)
Food Security: The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.”
Food Sovereignty: The availability of community members to control food access independent of food sources. (Excerpt from Orion Magazine’s Lexicon of Sustainability, Douglas Gayeton)
High tunnels: Unheated greenhouses that can help market gardeners extend their growing season so that they can improve the profitability of their farms; also known as hoop houses. (source: hightunnels.org)
Permaculture: An ecological design system, philosophy, and set of ethics and principles used to create perennial, self-sustaining landscapes and settlements that build ecological knowledge and skills in communities. (A collection of definitions by some of the “elders of permaculture” is presented on permaculture.net)
Urban Farm Reaps Harvest of Water Quality Improvements
CliftonPark, located in northeast Baltimore, is not your typical public city park. And that’s not just because it features clay tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course. Since 2009, the park has also been home to Real Food Farm, Baltimore’s answer to the city’s need to expand beyond its networks of community gardens and house a fully operational farm. When the farm needed help developing a drainage and stormwater management plan to comply with the Maryland Department of the Environment’s latest stormwater regulations, they turned to Biohabitats. Eager to help the farm further its mission while enhancing water quality, we developed a plan that not only fits with the site’s long-term master plan and daily operation and maintenance requirements, but adds value and interest. Our designs included a bioswale, a rainwater harvesting system that uses a retrofitted bicycle to generate a human-powered irrigation pump, and a landscaping plan that includes native, edible crops. The plan will likely be implemented in 2013, and we can’t wait to see this kind of high yield agriculture come to life!
A Fitting Wastewater Solution for Renowned Water Research Center
The mission of the Stroud Water Research Center in Avondale, Pennsylvania is bold and clear: “To advance our global knowledge and stewardship of fresh water systems through research and education.” Because of its location along the East Branch of White Clay Creek, classified by the State of Pennsylvania as an “Exceptional Value” stream and watershed, the Center is also recognized as a facility that is dedicated to long-term, experimental research on an ecosystem that is an outstanding representative of its type. When the Center began designing its new outreach building, they sought a wastewater treatment system that would replace old septic fields and align with the Center’s mission.
As a key member of the team for this LEED Platinum project, Biohabitats designed a natural wastewater management system to process flows from the Center’s overall campus and replace outdated septic fields. Components include a primary treatment tank, constructed wetlands, a trickling filter, and a sand filter. The new system not only helps protect groundwater and nearby streams, but integrates directly into the landscape and provides a relevant and dramatic backdrop to the Center’s research. We were happy to join a large crowd of people in celebrating the opening of the new Moorhead Environmental Complex earlier this month.
First Living Shoreline Restoration Along Passaic River
The Nereid Boat Club is a non-profit dedicated to bringing people back in touch with thePassaicRiver. First organized in 1866, the club has inspired generations to head to the river, exercise outdoors, and learn about a local resource through its many rowing programs. But along with a long history comes the need for an occasional renovation.
When the club needed to replace a dilapidated bulkhead and improve stormwater management, they turned to Biohabitats. We replaced the wooden bulkhead with a living shoreline, and designed a bioswale to capture and treat runoff from surrounding streets. Although the bulkhead once offered some degree of shoreline protection, it provided little aesthetic value and virtually no habitat. Stormwater had scoured away sediment from behind the bulkheads, actually worsening beach erosion. As a result, stormwater flowed directly into the Passaic River. The living shoreline uses native plants, grasses, trees and shrubs to provide stabilization while also adding beauty and habitat. Rather than weaken over time, these ecosystems get stronger, offering ongoing protection as well as habitat, water quality improvement and beauty. We are proud to have been involved in the first living shoreline restoration project to be constructed along the lower Passaic River, and we were delighted to attend the ribbon cutting last month. We look forward to seeing the Nereid Boat Club continue for another 146 years!
Biohabitats Texas Projects Receive Awards
The restoration of Flewellen Creek in Fort Bend County, Texas, transformed a degraded stream into the centerpiece of a 3,200-acre, mixed-use community development. The project recently received a Merit Award from the Texas Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a Silver Award in Engineering Excellence from the Texas Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies. As a member of the project team, which included SWA Group and Brown & Gay Engineers, we couldn’t be prouder!
The 2,300-acre Galveston Island State Park is home to a variety of natural habitats, including beach and dunes, coastal strand prairie, tidal marsh and seagrass beds. Developing a 50-year plan to protect these habitats and provide recreation in the face of climate change was no simple task. But we were up to it, along with our project team, led by Studio Outside. The project also received an Honor Award for Planning and Analysis from the Texas Chapter of the ASLA.
Baltimore’s Healthy Harbor In Headlines
As we mentioned in the last issue of Leaf Litter, we have been working with the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore to further their Healthy Harbor Initiative, an effort to make Baltimore’s Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020. Two Healthy Harbor water quality improvement/education pilot projects made lots of headlines this spring.
To celebrate Earth Day, we worked alongside volunteers from the Living Classrooms Foundation’s Crossroads Middle School, T. Rowe Price, and others to plant and launch a flotilla of more than 50 new floating wetlands in the Inner Harbor and educate passersby about water quality.
The additional 2000 square feet of wetlands was considered a tenfold scale up to the six floating wetlands that were installed at the site in 2010.
The wetlands, which use discarded plastic bottles removed from the harbor for flotation, were constructed over the past year by volunteers from several companies and organizations in and around Baltimore. The large flotilla is now thriving in front of Baltimore’s World Trade Center, drawing the attention of residents, tourists, and of course wildlife!
For over six months Biohabitats has been operating and collecting data on an Algal Turf Scrubber® (ATS™) which has been quietly hard at work in a gravel lot in the Fells Point area of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, cleaning polluted water along a 300-foot floway powered by a small pump, gravity and sunlight.
The ATS™, which was installed at the site by Biohabitats and the University of Maryland, harnesses the natural abilities of algae, bacteria, and phytoplankton to filter and remove nutrients and other pollutants from water while injecting high levels of oxygen into it.
Students from the neighboring Living Classrooms Crossroads Middle School, who had helped us test and monitor the system as part of their educational program, were so excited about this ecologically engineered technology they decided to build their own on their school grounds.
This spring, after testing showed the ATS™ to be highly effective at producing algal biomass, we decided it was time to celebrate with an official ribbon cutting.
Crossroads students deftly described their ATS and then headed to the site of the larger system, where they helped us cut the ribbon and share the news about the power of algae!
Atlantic Crossing Important Step in Bridging Expertise to Marine Restoration
Unfortunately, the world’s oceans are under assault. Many marine fisheries are on the verge of collapse, coral reefs may be the first large-scale ecosystem in human history to go extinct, and changes to sea water chemistry from industrialization and climate change are profoundly affecting marine aquatic life. Oceans are also being targeted for off-shore energy, mining of precious metals and minerals, and as conduits for pipe, power and communication lines.
Biohabitats’ mission has always been to “Restore the Earth and Inspire Ecological Stewardship.” Given that 70% of Earth’s surface is ocean, and recognizing that conservation and restoration will play an ever increasing role in the development of our oceans, we are taking steps to bridge our experience and expertise in coastal restoration to marine restoration.
In May, Biohabitats president Keith Bowers visited with Gilles Lecaillon of Ecocean SAS and James Aronson, head of the Restoration Ecology Group in the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in Montpellier, France. Ecocean specializes in developing and implementing innovative new technologies for the sustainable use and management of the marine environment. In essence, Ecocean has developed technical expertise and field application of post-larval capture and culture PCC of marine fish for restocking depleted marine fisheries. Biohabitats is currently exploring collaboration with Ecocean to pioneer the application of PCC in North America.
Keith will also attend a two-day workshop inNorth Carolinato examine connectivity for large apex marine consumers. According to Dr. Jim Estes, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, “These animals, which once existed nearly everywhere, have been exterminated or depleted across much of the earth. On land this has occurred mainly because of predator control and habitat destruction. In the sea, these animals were and continue to be exploited for food and other products of human value. Once thought to be of little or no importance to biodiversity beyond their mere existence, large apex consumers are now beginning to be seen as key players in the functional integrity of ecosystems.”
If you are eager to learn more about urban agriculture and network with urban farmers, there are two . Two conferences are coming The 2012 Urban Agriculture Summit will take place August 15-18 in Toronto, Canada The Growing Power Conference will take place September 7-9 in Milwaukee, WI
Also this week, fluvial geomorphologist Vince Sortman will be at the AWRA’s Riparian Ecosystems Conference in Denver to deliver three exciting presentations. Vince will share “Riparian Restoration Strategies for Cottonwood Forests in Colorado’s Front Range,” “Riparian Vegetation Establishment Associated with Stream Restoration Projects in Semi-Arid Southwest Colorado,” and “Using Abandoned Gravel Mining Pits for Riparian Restoration in Northern Colorado.”
Heading to New Orleansnext week for the State of the Coast conference? If so, you won’t want to miss senior ecologist Ed Morgereth’s talk about the impacts of climate change and sea level rise on coastal habitat restoration and management.
Water resources engineer Ted Brown will present on the topic of integrated watershed restoration at the Water Environment Federation’s 2012 Stormwater Symposium July 18-20 in Baltimore,MD.
This year’s annual gathering of the Ecological Society of America will take place in Portland, ORAugust 5-10. Senior ecologist Joe Berg’s presentation on restoring ecosystem services through Regenerative Design fits perfectly with the conference theme–Life on Earth: Preserving, Utilizing and Sustaining our Ecosystems.
Ecologist Suzanne Hoehne will present “Integrating Stormwater Management into the Natural Landscape Through an Innovative Approach” to participants at the Kentucky Stormwater Association’s annual conference. This year’s conference will take place in Florence, KY August 8-10.
Congratulations to water resources engineer, Vince DeCapio, who is now licensed as a professional engineer in the state of New York. Vince, who works out of Biohabitats’ Hudson River Bioregion office, has been applying his civil and environmental engineering expertise to projects along the East Coast for more than six years, but this achievement is a milestone to celebrate. Becoming a licensed Professional Engineer in New York is a multi-year process, and we’re proud of Vince for seeing it through!