New Stories From 'Urban Agriculture Notes'
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10 x 10 project and Lawn to Farm envisioned by Urban Design Lab

teachgardenThe 10 x 10 project, comprising modular food production units distributed to schools, community centers, and Boys and Girls Clubs, would provide children with a hands-on, direct food production experience, as well as appreciation of fresh foods.

From of a report by Urban Design Labs (MIT and Columbia University researchers) called Curbing Childhood Obesity: Searching for Comprehensive Solutions.

MIT researchers think America’s obesity epidemic can be reversed via ‘foodsheds,’ in which healthier, more affordable food is produced and consumed regionally.
Excerpt From: Good food nation
Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office

In a report finished this October after meetings with food-industry leaders, the MIT and Columbia researchers propose a solution: America should increase its regional food consumption. Each metropolitan area, the researchers say, should obtain most of its nutrition from its own “foodshed,” a term akin to “watershed” meaning the area that naturally supplies its kitchens.

Moreover, in a novel suggestion, the MIT and Columbia team says these local efforts should form a larger “Integrated Regional Foodshed” system, intended to lower the price and caloric content of food by lowering distances food must travel, from the farm to the dinner table.

Welcome to the food terminal

Only 1 to 2 percent of all food consumed in the United States today is locally produced. But the MIT and Columbia team, which includes urban planners and architects, believes widespread adoption of some modest projects could change that, by increasing regional food production and distribution.

To help production, the group advocates widespread adoption of small-scale innovations such as “lawn to farm” conversions in urban and suburban areas, and the “10 x 10 project,” an effort to develop vegetable plots in schools and community centers. Lawns require more equipment, labor and fuel than industrial farming nationwide, yet produce no goods. But many vegetables, including lettuce, cucumbers and peppers, can be grown efficiently in small plots. “A lot of those projects could be started immediately,” says Michael Conard, assistant director of Columbia’s Urban Design Lab, who notes that during World War Two, small “victory gardens” produced more than 40 percent of America’s fruits and vegetables.

To better distribute local food, some cities, including Oakland, Calif., Philadelphia, and Newark, N.J., give grants and tax credits to help small markets sell fresh produce. But the architects and designers in the MIT/Columbia group suggest entrepreneurs or government should invest in a new concept: “food terminals,” retail developments combining grocery stores with greenhouses, farmers’ markets, restaurants, and even education centers as magnets for city residents who otherwise lack access to fresh produce.

lawnfarmLawn to Farm envisions an expansion of the existing trend of converting underused suburban spaces, such as lawns, into food-producing landscapes.

See the complete article, Good food nation here.

See the report Curbing Childhood Obesity: Searching for Comprehensive Solutions here.

Forthcoming: Urban Agriculture: Confirming Viable Scenarios for Production

Recent volatility in global food and fuel costs has increased public awareness of the vulnerability of our existing food supply and of the detrimental effects of the industrialized food system on ecological sustainability. This system has also been implicated in the epidemic increases in levels of obesity and chronic disease in America due to the overconsumption of cheap but unhealthy and calorie-dense foods. These trends have contributed to growing public interest in establishing food production in urban and suburban areas.

Developing agricultural capacity within or close to urban areas like New York City has the potential to reduce food transportation costs and environmental impacts, provide economic development opportunities, and reduce disparities in healthful food access that have led to epidemic rates of obesity and diabetes among low-income populations. Despite these potential advantages, there are challenges to establishing the viability of urban production as compared to more conventional agricultural practices, including scalability, site availability, energy efficiency, and labor costs.

The purpose of the project is to determine the baseline feasibility and the steps necessary for an in-depth analysis of various urban agriculture techniques. The study aims to establish the basic viability of urban food production techniques as compared to rural food production, using specific case study scenarios to determine whether urban food production can be practiced in an economical and resource efficient manner. The feasibility study will focus specifically on New York City to determine potential production sites and establish which methods of alternative agriculture production would be most appropriate, and will result in an in-depth analysis of the energy, economic, environmental, educational, and health benefits of the various forms of production within the city.

Project Funder:
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority

Project Partners:
Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at the Earth Institute at Columbia University
The Education Center for Sustainable Engineering, Columbia University
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

See project web page here.

1 comment

1 CitizenWhy { 11.25.09 at 11:39 am }

This is great! Thanks for making a real contribution to a better society for us all.