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Category — Environment

The real value of urban farming. (Hint: It’s not always the food.)

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citry(Artisticco/Shutterstock)

The environmental benefits of urban farming get even more complicated when we consider indoor “vertical farms,” which are often touted as a sustainable option that use less soil and water. Although designs differ, some of these set-ups can use an enormous amount of energy, especially if they require artificial lighting.

By Brad Plumer
VOX
May 16, 2016

Excerpt:

“It’s hard to make sweeping generalizations here,” Santo told me. When designed right, urban farms can make some modest but valuable improvements to the sustainability of our food system. But when designed poorly, they can end up being even worse for the environment — say, if they’re using fertilizer inefficiently and polluting nearby waters with nitrogen run-off.

In our conversation, Santo mentioned one feature of urban farms that often gets shortchanged in dry policy discussions: “They can reconnect people with how to grow food.”

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May 22, 2016   No Comments

Shorebird finds protection in Moncton-area community garden – New Brunswick, Canada

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kildThe white-bellied killdeer, described as “very vocal” is a shorebird you can find without going to the beach. (Alain Clavette)

“I think a mother killdeer could not have chosen a better place for a nest,” said Clavette.

By Paul Hantiuk
CBC News
May 07, 2016

Excerpts:

Community gardeners near the Moncton Area Control Centre were expecting to dig in for another planting season but instead found a killdeer had set up a nest right in the middle of their plot.

Charles Daigle, a photographer who works for NAV Canada in Riverview, found the bird when he went to till the garden. He has since done his best to make sure it would be protected.

“We’re going to be delayed a bit of course. I’m in charge of the garden but I talked to the people who are in charge of the building and basically we all made the decision unanimously to give the bird some space and let it do its thing.”

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May 14, 2016   No Comments

A meta-analysis of urban and peri-urban agriculture and forestry in mediating climate change

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Africa is undergoing an unprecedented urban transition both in pace and scale.

By Shuaib Lwasa, Frank Mugagga1, Bolanle Wahab,
David Simon, John P Connors and Corrie Griffith
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
2015, 13:68–73

Abstract:

This paper systematically reviews literature on urban and peri-urban agriculture and forestry (UPAF) in mediating climate change. The study includes both peer-reviewed and grey literature (274 literature sources), and synthesizes evidence and agreement on both UPAF’s potential and limitations for mitigating and adapting to climate change. Eight East and West African cities were included in the review: Accra, Addis Ababa, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Douala, Kampala, Ibadan and Nairobi. The review focuses on urban livelihoods, ecosystem services and urban policy responses as pathways to mediating climate change.

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May 3, 2016   Comments Off on A meta-analysis of urban and peri-urban agriculture and forestry in mediating climate change

Confronting the Dark Side of Urban Agriculture

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francFrancois Manchebo.

All urban agricultures are not sustainable, and some may even produce deleterious effects on the city inhabitants as well as on the city itself.

By François Mancebo, PhD,
Director of the IRCS and IATEUR, is professor of urban planning and sustainability at Rheims university. He lives in Paris.
The Nature of Cities
April 8, 2016

Excerpt:

Get back to the ground level: conventional farming within cities is potentially a much graver concern, be it located in a skyscraper or just in the ground. The big issue here is the dissemination of pesticides and fertilizers as well as of the wastes and the by-products of industrial urban agriculture, especially in vine-growing or grain-growing regions—two agricultural productions with high added-value—where vines and fields are frequently incorporated in the city. The inhabitants of such cities are exposed to critical levels of pesticides on a daily basis without them even knowing. Well, they are beginning to know, and it appears that they are not happy at all.

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April 9, 2016   Comments Off on Confronting the Dark Side of Urban Agriculture

Japan is Combatting a Decline in Farming

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Chickens wander freely among the rice paddies and raised beds of City Farm Odaiba. Joshua Hunt.Click on image for larger file.

The earthquake, tsunami, and resulting nuclear disaster that rocked Japan’s Tohoku region in March of 2011 dealt a series of sharp blows to the 70,000 farmers living in Fukushima prefecture

By Joshua Hunt
Modern Farmer
March 23, 2016

Excerpt:

City Farm Odaiba, which sits atop a high-rise overlooking Tokyo Bay, on the manmade island of Odaiba, represents one of many initiatives aimed at reversing the farm-sector decline. Established in 2012 by real-estate behemoth Mitsui Fudosan as a kind of refuge for elderly farmers who had fled Tohoku after the tsunami, the community farm—with rice paddies, soybean fields, staked tomatoes, raised beds, and a flock of resident chickens—quickly became something more than a place for the displaced people to dirty their trowels.

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March 30, 2016   Comments Off on Japan is Combatting a Decline in Farming

Perspective: City farming needs monitoring

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andyAndrew A. Meharg.

In general, fruit and vegetables produced in city environments contain more undesirable substances than rural produce.

Andrew A. Meharg
Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science
March 16, 2016
Andrew A. Meharg is a plant and soil scientist at Queen’s University Belfast, UK.

Excerpt:

It may be possible to build new cities that avoid the current contamination issues. But in existing cities, where urban farming is an afterthought, some lateral thinking is required to give urban agriculture a future. Growing non-food crops such as textile fibre plants, biomass crops and timber would make use of urban and suburban waste land, green the city, recycle waste water and biosolids, and produce crops that currently take up rural land that is ideal for food production.

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March 23, 2016   Comments Off on Perspective: City farming needs monitoring

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Unveils Food Computers

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TED Talk: What if we could grow delicious, nutrient-dense food, indoors anywhere in the world? Caleb Harper, director of the Open Agriculture Initiative at the MIT Media Lab, wants to change the food system by connecting growers with technology.

Build a PFC, Climate Recipes, User Interface, Open Source, School Programs, The Future of Food

The Open Agriculture Initiative (OpenAG) is on a mission to create more farmers for the future of food production. We are developing the open source hardware and software platforms for sensor-controlled hydroponic and aeroponic agriculture systems.

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March 16, 2016   Comments Off on Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Unveils Food Computers

Groundfridge – the ultimate root cellar

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gorf

The company claims the storage capacity is comparable to that of 20 standard refrigerators, meaning it can hold up to 500 kilograms of food.

Designed by Floris Schoonderbeek
Award winner 2015
(Must see. Mike)

Excerpts:

Before fridges and electricity existed, digging a hole in the ground was just one of the many ways people went about preserving their perishables. Despite taking its cues from this old method, the Ground Fridge still feels like a fresh idea.

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March 7, 2016   Comments Off on Groundfridge – the ultimate root cellar

Tanzanian shoppers snap up urban grown vegetables despite polluted water warnings

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Women selling vegetables at local market in Tanzania. Credit V. Afari-sefa AVRDC.

Food safety authorities recently warned that Dar es Salaam residents who eat vegetables grown in the urban gardens may be exposed to health risks caused by the waste matter and industrial spills contaminating the farms’ water supply.

By Kizito Makoye
Reuters Africa
Feb 10, 2016

Excerpt:

Shoppers buying fresh vegetables from the maze of stalls at Dar es Salaam’s Kariakoo market have no idea of the risks they are taking, but food safety officials are alarmed by the chemicals and effluent in the water used on the city’s urban farms.

Doreen Nkya always buys some spinach or amaranth on her way home because she considers them an important part of her family’s diet. “I like vegetables because they are healthy. We don’t often go without them at our dinner table,” she said.

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February 14, 2016   Comments Off on Tanzanian shoppers snap up urban grown vegetables despite polluted water warnings

Air farming: The lucrative business of selling fresh air to those in polluted cities

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In heavily-polluted cities like Beijing and Shanghai, people are paying upwards of $160 for a single jar of air

By Paige Cockburn
ABC Australia
Feb 8, 2016

Excerpt:

Leo De Watts from Britain has jumped on the bandwagon; selling jars of air collected from locations like Yorkshire, Somerset and Wales.

The air from each region is described in elaborate detail that may be surprising for those who do not consider themselves “air connoisseurs”.

Welsh air for example has a “morning dew feel to it” with “vibrant and flavoursome undertones” whilst air originating from Somerset has “unblemished qualities”.

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February 9, 2016   Comments Off on Air farming: The lucrative business of selling fresh air to those in polluted cities

Will climate change move agriculture indoors? And will that be a good thing?

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indr

Agrilyst is the intelligence platform for indoor farms.

By Heather Smith
Grist
3 Feb 2016

Excerpt:

Kopf went to Lightfoot, and told him that she was leaving to start a greenhouse software company — or, as she put it, “Hey. I’m going to do this. Buy it.” She found a programmer and cofounder, a Google engineer named Jason Camp, through a family friend. Agrilyst launched in spring of 2015. By autumn of 2015, the duo had beat out 1,000 other companies and were standing onstage as one of 25 finalists at the TechCrunch Disrupt startup competition in San Francisco. Much to their surprise, they won.

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February 8, 2016   Comments Off on Will climate change move agriculture indoors? And will that be a good thing?

Is it safe to eat apples picked off city trees?

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frt
Wellesley College student Ciaran Gallagher checks the lead content in an apple tree in Cambridge.

Urban canners and college researchers are testing city-grown fruit to see if it is safe

By Bella English
Boston Globe
Nov 23, 2015

Excerpt:

Last month, the Wellesley researchers announced some unexpected results of their early tests: Not only are they safe, but fruits off city trees — or sidewalks — may be more nutritious than those on store shelves.

“We’re excited about these initial results, and the biggest surprise is the micronutrients,” says Brabander. “I think there’s a growing realization that urban environments can support a wide range of agricultural activities, from food projects to community gardens to foraging.” He and his students presented their methodology and preliminary results to the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Baltimore.

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February 8, 2016   Comments Off on Is it safe to eat apples picked off city trees?

Risk of lead poisoning from urban gardening is low, new study finds

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Kids get creative with kale in an urban garden in Tacoma, Washington.Kristen McIvor

“It is highly unlikely that urban agriculture will increase incidences of elevated blood Pb for children in urban areas. This is due to the high likelihood that agriculture will improve soils in urban areas, resulting in reduced bioavailability of soil Pb and reduced fugitive dust.”

By Michelle Ma
University of Washington
Feb 2, 2016
(Must see. Mike)

Excerpt:

Using compost is the single best thing you can do to protect your family from any danger associated with lead in urban soils. Good compost will also guarantee that you will have plenty of vegetables to harvest.

That’s the main finding of a paper appearing this month in the Journal of Environmental Quality. The University of Washington-led study looked at potential risks associated with growing vegetables in urban gardens and determined that the benefits of locally produced vegetables in cities outweigh any risks from gardening in contaminated soils.

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February 3, 2016   Comments Off on Risk of lead poisoning from urban gardening is low, new study finds

Rodent control is essential for urban agriculture farmers

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arts

Control of rodents is essential for food safety and financial success on urban farms.

By Frank Gublo Michigan State University Extension
and Hal Hudson
MSU Extension
December 30, 2015

Excerpt:

It is essential for beginning farmers, home gardeners and experienced farmers to prevent rodent infestations on the farm. Rodents affect the farm in several ways. First and foremost, they are disease carriers. Rodents can cause, but not limited to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, Leptospirosis, Salmonellosis and Rat Bite Fever. Additionally they contribute to the spread of other diseases caused by the parasites that infect rodents. Rodents also cause physical damage to structures. Rat’s teeth never stop growing and to keep them from getting to long, a rat must chew to grind them off. The chewing can cause damage to wood, plastics and concrete used in the urban farming operation. Finally, rodents cause financial loss due to crop damage, and damage to facilities.

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January 3, 2016   Comments Off on Rodent control is essential for urban agriculture farmers

Highline College program — with new $80K grant—brings urban agriculture classes and resources to area residents

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highl
Andy Satkowski waters the edible garden at Highline College earlier this year. The garden gives students like Satkowski, who is enrolled in the college’s new Urban Agriculture certificate program, hands-on practice growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables.

Des Moines, Washington. Highline will recruit participants from the area’s immigrant and refugee communities.

Des Moines News
12/29/2015

Excerpt:

The college’s 80-acre campus provides plenty of space for demonstrating and practicing urban agriculture, agroforestry and edible landscaping. Through these efforts, Highline will promote deeper understanding of and support for community-wide food security.

The total cost of Highline’s two-year project is $194,000. The college is funding the balance of the project, which it expects to become self-sustaining through tuition revenue.

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January 3, 2016   Comments Off on Highline College program — with new $80K grant—brings urban agriculture classes and resources to area residents