New Stories From 'Urban Agriculture Notes'
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Category — Environment

Is it really safe to eat food grown in urban gardens?

Devan King/The Nature Conservancy

On the bright side, the scientists all seemed to agree on one thing: As long as I use compost and wash my vegetables, I can totally start an urban garden.

By Ilana Strauss
May 14, 2018


I wanted to start a vegetable garden in my backyard. But my yard is in Brooklyn, a land of street garbage, truck exhaust, and stray cats. So I decided to figure it out: Was it really safe to grow food there? I had no idea that the rabbit hole I burrowed in urban gardens would lead to dead cows in Georgia, a global contamination meeting in Sweden, and the strange price we pay to make sure kids don’t catch on fire.

I started by calling Murray McBride, a professor at Cornell University who researches contamination, to find out if city gardens are really safe. According to McBride, I should be worried about one main thing:

“We found lead to be the biggest problem,” he told me. “There can be high concentrations of lead even in the garden beds.”

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May 21, 2018   No Comments

Canada: Coyote pups surprise visitors at Fort York community garden

A coyote pup, thought to be seven or eight weeks old, stands in the grass at Fort York. (Grant Linton/CBC)

Local gardeners say coyotes have helped control rodent population

By Nick Boisvert
CBC News
May 10, 2018


Gardeners in the area say the animals’ parents were a welcome addition to the area when they showed up last spring, cutting down on the local groundhog and rabbit populations, which were damaging the garden.

“Last year we had no problem at all,” said Joe McReynolds, who’s been gardening at the site for the past five years. “The coyotes had cleared out most of the animals that were eating our plants.”

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May 17, 2018   No Comments

A Food Forest Grows in Atlanta

Lakewood-Browns Mill neighbors get ready for a guided hike during the Food Forest Festival. (City of Atlanta courtesy photo)

This project was conceived as part of a larger strategy to address food deserts, or low-income areas that lack fresh whole foods due to the absence of grocery stores.

Posted by Nausheen Iqbal
Cooperative Forestry, USDA Forest Service in Forestry
May 04, 2018


This community forest utilizes agroforestry–agriculture that combines trees and shrubs with agricultural uses to create more healthy and productive land. The site already has a pecan orchard, black walnut trees, muscadine grapes, and fruit-producing blackberry brambles on site. This spring, the community will honor the local heritage by adding pawpaw trees that are native to the area.

Members of the Atlanta Public Schools Farm-to-School program are eager to incorporate this asset as an educational site. Students from two area schools within walking distance of the food forest have already shared their vision for what they would like to see grown there, with blackberries and grapes being the favorites.

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May 11, 2018   Comments Off on A Food Forest Grows in Atlanta

A Crack in the Pavement: Growing Dreams

A Crack in the Pavement: Growing Dreams, Gwynne Basen & Jane Churchill, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

A Crack in the Pavement is a two-part video set that shows children, teachers and parents how they can work together to ‘green’ their school grounds and make positive changes in their communities.

Gwynne Basen & Jane Churchill
2000 | 19 min

This short documentary shows initiatives kids take to transform bare pavement into dream schoolyards. Some grow trees for shade, and vegetables for a food bank. Others build a greenhouse or a rooftop garden, while others yet construct a courtyard pond as an outdoor classroom and refuge for wildlife.

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May 4, 2018   Comments Off on A Crack in the Pavement: Growing Dreams

Urban versus conventional agriculture, taxonomy of resource profiles: a review

Bedding out. The Graphic, 1870.Click image to see larger file.

If cities can evolve to shoulder some of the burdens of their food provision, while concomitantly providing ancillary environmental, social, and economic benefits to the city with UA, then this strategy is worth pursuing.

By Benjamin Goldstein, Michael Hauschild, John Fernández, Morten Birkved
Agron. Sustain. Dev. (2016) 36: 9


Urban agriculture appears to be a means to combat the environmental pressure of increasing urbanization and food demand. However, there is hitherto limited knowledge of the efficiency and scaling up of practices of urban farming. Here, we review the claims on urban agriculture’s comparative performance relative to conventional food production.

Our main findings are as follows: (1) benefits, such as reduced embodied greenhouse gases, urban heat island reduction, and storm water mitigation, have strong support in current literature. (2) Other benefits such as food waste minimization and ecological footprint reduction require further exploration. (3) Urban agriculture benefits to both food supply chains and urban ecosystems vary considerably with system type.

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April 7, 2018   Comments Off on Urban versus conventional agriculture, taxonomy of resource profiles: a review

Planting the Seeds of a Food Forest in Philadelphia

At an urban farm in Philadelphia. (Credit: Tony Fischer via Flickr)

With its myriad public gardens and 40,000-plus vacant lots, many of which have been transformed into community farms, Philadelphia is already a hub for community gardening.

By Jen Kinney
Next City
March 20, 2018


And unlike at many community gardens, a food forest has an open door policy. “Anyone can come at any time of day and take whatever they want,” says Michael Muehlbauer, the agricultural engineer and orchardist behind the Fair Amount Food Forest proposal. Whatever doesn’t get eaten by the community is harvested and donated.

It’s a model that Muehlbauer saw in action as a volunteer at the Beacon Hill Food Forest in Seattle, where he lived before moving to Philadelphia three years ago. Though he says people are always concerned about over-harvesting when they hear about the food forest concept, in practice he just didn’t see it happen.

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March 29, 2018   Comments Off on Planting the Seeds of a Food Forest in Philadelphia

Turning cities into sponges: how Chinese ancient wisdom is taking on climate change

The first strategy – “based on thousands of years of Chinese wisdom” – is to “contain water at the origin, when the rain falls from the sky on the ground. We have to keep the water”.

Landscape architect Kongjian Yu is making ‘friends with water’ to mitigate extreme weather events in modern metropolises

By Brigid Delaney
The Guardian
21 Mar 2018


How does a city cope with extreme weather? These days, urban planning that doesn’t factor in some sort of catastrophic weather event is like trying to build something in a fictional utopia. For Kongjian Yu, one of the world’s leading landscape architects, the answer to coping with extreme weather events actually lies in the past.

Yu is the founder and dean of the school of landscape architecture at Peking University, founding director of architectural firm Turenscape, and famous for being the man who reintroduced ancient Chinese water systems to modern design. In the process he has transformed some of China’s most industrialised cities into standard bearers of green architecture.

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March 28, 2018   Comments Off on Turning cities into sponges: how Chinese ancient wisdom is taking on climate change

Foraging is Alive and Well in Baltimore. Can it Help Fight Hunger Too?

New research on the availability of nutrient-dense wild edibles addresses food security.

By Jodi Helmer
Civil Eats


Foraging is a hot trend, with home cooks, chefs, and craft brewers alike harvesting wild, local ingredients ranging from mushrooms and berries to dandelion greens and nettles. Now, a new peer-reviewed study is beginning to explore whether urban foraging can help reduce food insecurity.

The study, from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the U.S. Forest Service, surveyed 105 self-identified foragers in Baltimore to understand the motivations of people who seek out parks, forests, residential neighborhoods, and corporate campuses for wild edibles including berries, mushrooms, rose hips, and dandelions.

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February 28, 2018   Comments Off on Foraging is Alive and Well in Baltimore. Can it Help Fight Hunger Too?

In Mexico, monarchs versus avocado farming

A dying butterfly at the monarch butterfly reserve in Piedra Herrada, Mexico. Without trees to provide thermal cover and roosting sites, the butterflies can freeze to death. Associated Press/Rebecca Blackwell

Avocados are much more lucrative than almost any other legal crop Mexican farmers can grow, and many landholders appear to be turning to avocados, legally or illegally.

By Mark Stevenson
Associated Press
Feb 21, 2018


Mexican environmental inspectors said Wednesday that they found 7.4 acres of illegal avocado plantations in the Monarch butterfly wintering grounds west of Mexico City.

It’s apparently the first time that a wave of avocado planting has directly affected the heart of the Monarch area, a protected nature reserve.

Monarch butterflies migrate from the U.S. and Canada to pine and fir forests that thrive at about the same altitude as prime avocado-growing land.

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February 26, 2018   Comments Off on In Mexico, monarchs versus avocado farming

With its large urban farm, Frogtown wants to be St. Paul’s greenest neighborhood

Yer Vang stands in August 2017 in front of an arbor at Frogtown Green’s “Lily Pad” garden, located at Dale Street and Lafond Avenue. (Photo by Hillel Natanson, courtesy of Patricia Ohmans)

The group now manages a 40-bed community garden called Our Village, an Asian-American “Lily Pad” garden, and two butterfly and bee-friendly pollinator gardens.

By Callie Schmidt
Pioneer Press
February 19, 2018


Yer Vang, 55, has lived in Frogtown for 35 years since coming to Minnesota from a Thailand refugee camp. She works with a group of elderly neighbors and helps them in the Lily Pad garden, planting everything from green beans to Asian squash.

“In the store organic food is too expensive. … So we do gardening ourselves,” Vang said.

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February 26, 2018   Comments Off on With its large urban farm, Frogtown wants to be St. Paul’s greenest neighborhood

Wales: Malnourished Hedgehog Finds Home In Community Garden

She weighed only 330grams.

Prickly Pembroke prima donna Harriet the hedgehog delights youngsters

By Bruce Sinclair
Western Telegraph
Jan 27, 2018


In November she was tiny when found in Roch.

She weighed only 330grams and was unlikely to find enough food to fatten up sufficiently for her winter hibernation.

Fortunately, she was taken to Pembrokeshire hogspital for hedgehogs.

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February 2, 2018   Comments Off on Wales: Malnourished Hedgehog Finds Home In Community Garden

The latest millennial trend: Ditching the city to go live on a farm

John and Halee Wepking CBS NEWS

The Department of Agriculture has found that for only the second time in the last century, the number of farmers under 35 years of age is increasing.

By Dean Reynolds
CBS News
January 23, 2018

RIDGEWAY, Wisc. — John and Halee Wepking have come a long way from their lives in New York City. They draw their excitement now from the 60 acres of land they work in western Wisconsin. The livestock, the grain and the beauty of the place are elements that fuel a youthful trend on the farm these days.

The Wepkings live and work on Paul Bickford’s 700-acre spread, blending entrepreneurship with environmental awareness in a deal to one day take over the Bickford Farm.

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January 28, 2018   Comments Off on The latest millennial trend: Ditching the city to go live on a farm

A Global Geospatial Ecosystem Services Estimate of Urban Agriculture

Potential yield (tonnes) from UA, by country, based on the MCD12Q1 urban mask.

“For the first time, we have a data-driven approach that quantifies the ecosystem benefits from urban agriculture. Our estimates of ecosystem benefits show the potential for millions of tons of food production, thousands of tons of nitrogen sequestration, billions of kilowatt hours of energy savings, and billions of cubic meters of avoided storm runoff.”

By Nicholas Clinton, Michelle Stuhlmacher, Albie Miles,
Nazli Uludere Aragon, Melissa Wagner, Matei Georgescu,
Chris Herwig, Peng Gong
Earth’s Future
10 January 2018
(Must see. Mike)


Though urban agriculture (UA), defined here as growing of crops in cities, is increasing in popularity and importance globally, little is known about the aggregate benefits of such natural capital in built-up areas. Here, we introduce a quantitative framework to assess global aggregate ecosystem services from existing vegetation in cities and an intensive UA adoption scenario based on data-driven estimates of urban morphology and vacant land. We analyzed global population, urban, meteorological, terrain, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) datasets in Google Earth Engine to derive global scale estimates, aggregated by country, of services provided by UA.

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January 11, 2018   Comments Off on A Global Geospatial Ecosystem Services Estimate of Urban Agriculture

Germany: Roof Water-Farm in Berlin

The German research project Roof Water-Farm (2013-2017) explores ways of combining building-integrated wastewater treatment with urban food production

From their website:

Roof Water-Farm demonstrates paths towards innovative city water management and urban food production. Potentials and risks of redesigning across sectors of infrastructure are explored and communicated.

The research association investigates opportunities for building-integrated water treatment systems to irrigate and fertilize roof-top greenhouses. Technologies for water treatment and aquaponics (plant and fish cultivation) will be examined at a demonstration and test site in Berlin-Kreuzberg. The research focuses on a hygienically safe usage of rainwater, greywater and blackwater as both a strategy for city water management and a potential for urban food production.

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November 14, 2017   Comments Off on Germany: Roof Water-Farm in Berlin

Denmark: ‘Noma’, The Most Famous Restaurant in The World, Will Open Its Mystery ‘Urban Farm’ Location in January!

A Very Short Film About the Past, Present and Future of Noma from Rene Redzepi on Vimeo.

Founder Rene Redzepi says: “The new restaurant will be nestled in our own urban farm…. We will grow a significant amount of our produce. … A new place were we can build a farm right in the city.”

By Jeremy Repanich
Robb Report
September 15, 2017
(Must see. Mike)


Restaurant delay due to ancient stone wall discovered during construction.

Bloomberg’s chief food critic, Richard Vines, was the first to tip people off to the delay, tweeting that the much-anticipated reopening of one of the world’s top restaurants wouldn’t happen until mid-January.

But this delay isn’t happening because of problems with personnel, new menu development, or construction workers going on strike; it was a much more peculiar reason. Noma has now released a statement to explain what exactly happened:

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September 16, 2017   Comments Off on Denmark: ‘Noma’, The Most Famous Restaurant in The World, Will Open Its Mystery ‘Urban Farm’ Location in January!