New Stories From 'Urban Agriculture Notes'
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Environment

Enhancing gardens as habitats for flower-visiting aerial insects (pollinators): should we plant native or exotic species?


This experiment has shown that flowering garden plant assemblages can provide a resource for pollinators regardless of the plants’ origin and that the greater the resource available the more pollinators will visit.

By Andrew Salisbury, James Armitage1, Helen Bostock1, Joe Perry, Mark Tatchell and Ken Thompson
Journal of Applied Ecology
Aug 11, 2015



1. Domestic gardens typically consist of a mixture of native and non-native plants which support biodiversity and provide valuable ecosystem services, particularly in urban environments. Many gardeners wish to encourage biodiversity by choosing appropriate plant taxa. The value of native and non-native plants in supporting animal biodiversity is, however, largely unknown.

2. The relative value of native and non-native garden plants to invertebrates was investigated in a replicated field experiment. Plots (deliberately akin to garden borders) were planted with one of three treatments, representing assemblages of plants based on origin (native, near-native and exotic). Invertebrates and resource measurements were recorded over four years. This paper reports the abundance of flower-visiting aerial insects (‘pollinators’) associated with the three plant assemblages.

[

August 18, 2015   No Comments

Raw Human Waste As Fertiliser For Urban Agriculture In Zimbabwe Linked To Typhoid And Cholera


In terms of the new draft law, no person would be allowed to use or allow the use of human excreta as fertiliser, while people would also be barred from irrigating vegetables and plants with raw waste water.

By Andrew Kunambura
All Africa
Aug 6, 2015


THE Harare City Council (HCC) is set for renewed tension with residents after it approved the amendment of a by-law that seeks to halt the rampant use of raw human waste as fertiliser.

The new by-law sailed through a full council meeting last Thursday and now awaits ministerial approval.

At law, all council by-laws have to be approved by the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.

[

August 17, 2015   No Comments

A Walk on the Wild (Edibles) Side in Berkeley

Mark Bittman samples plants growing along the sidewalks of Oakland, Calif., with Philip Stark and Tom Carlson from the University of California, Berkeley.
Not only can wild edibles be sold at markets and to restaurants, they’re essential in maintaining soil health

By Mark Bittman
New York Times
Jul. 9, 2015
(Must see. Mike)


With Stark and Carlson, everything was different. We parked our car at a corner in West Oakland and within seconds these gents were pointing out sow thistle, mallow, dock, sourgrass, and nearly everything else you see here. Most of it was good enough to eat on the spot; some of it would’ve benefited from cooking. A portion … well, I’d ignore.

[

July 10, 2015   Comments Off on A Walk on the Wild (Edibles) Side in Berkeley

Feature documentary looking at the latest science about the health benefits of children re-connecting with nature

“I think that city farms could play a massive part in future health!”

By Toni Harman,
Producer / Director, A Probiotic Life

As well as the general point about the need for our children to reconnect with nature, the film explores the latest science that suggests young children could really benefit from being more exposed to more farm microbes.

We recently returned from filming on an Amish farm in Indiana where the children have remarkably low rates of asthma and allergies – the scientists hypothesise that a diet of locally sourced organic food plus the children being exposed to the microbes from farm animals from a very young age – these could be conferring considerable health benefits for the Amish children.

[

July 1, 2015   Comments Off on Feature documentary looking at the latest science about the health benefits of children re-connecting with nature

Oslo creates world’s first ‘highway’ to protect endangered bees


Norway’s capital is creating a route filled with flowers and ‘green roofs’ to protect endangered pollinators essential to food production

Agence France-Presse
via The Guardian
25 June 2015


From flower-emblazoned cemeteries to rooftop gardens and balconies, Norway’s capital Oslo is creating a “bee highway” to protect endangered pollinators essential to food production.

“We are constantly reshaping our environment to meet our needs, forgetting that other species also live in it,” Agnes Lyche Melvaer, head of the Bybi, an environmental group supporting urban bees, which is leading the project.

“To correct that we need to return places to them to live and feed,” she explained, sitting on a bench in a lush city centre square bursting with early Nordic summer growth.

[

June 27, 2015   Comments Off on Oslo creates world’s first ‘highway’ to protect endangered bees

FAO Report: Climate Change And Food Systems


Agriculture is highly dependent on local weather conditions and, therefore, is expected to be highly sensitive to changes in climate in the years to come.

FAO Press Release
June 18, 2015

8 June 2015, Rome – Global warming will have profound consequences on where and how food is produced, and also lead to a reduction in the nutritional properties of some crops, all of which has policy implications for the fight against hunger and poverty and for the global food trade, experts say in a new book.

“Climate Change and Food Systems” collects the findings of a group of scientists and economists who have taken stock of climate change impacts on food and agriculture at global and regional levels over the past two decades.

“The growing threat of climate change to the global food supply, and the challenges it poses for food security and nutrition, requires urgent concerted policy responses … ,” wrote FAO Deputy Director-General Natural Resources, Maria Helena Semedo, in her foreword to the volume.

[

June 18, 2015   Comments Off on FAO Report: Climate Change And Food Systems

Butterfly farm takes flight in Louisville, Kentucky


She sells the butterflies for education and events, including weddings. Releasing butterflies at special events is better for the environment than releasing balloons, which litter and can harm wildlife, she said.

By James bruggers
Courier Journal
June 5, 2015


Blair Leano-Helvey is bringing a new twist to Louisville’s growing urban agriculture scene. She’s started a butterfly farm.

“It’s just like any other farm,” she said. “It’s just that we have very small livestock.”

And colorful, too.

[

June 14, 2015   Comments Off on Butterfly farm takes flight in Louisville, Kentucky

From Riots To Vineyard — A Story of Urban Revival in Cleveland, Ohio

Amid the urban blight of a poor rust belt city, an unlikely vineyard emerges as a symbol that farming can take root anywhere.

“If you don’t monetize these projects, they are going to fail.”

By: Christina Herrick
Growing Produce
March 25, 2015


Although the vineyard is only three-fourths of an acre, Frazier did his homework on what to plant, where, and how. Frazier was a complete novice, so he immersed himself in learning.

He’s consulted with Greg Johns, manager of Ohio State University’s Ashtabula Agricultural Research Station, and David Popp of Bacchus Vineyard & Winery Services LLC, who serves as his viticulturist.

There are 14 rows, 21 vines per row, half Frontenac and half Traminette, chosen specifically for their cold-hardiness.

[

April 5, 2015   Comments Off on From Riots To Vineyard — A Story of Urban Revival in Cleveland, Ohio

Havana, Cuba – Lettuces of Lead


The lack of an effective system of trash sorting and processing works against us, because much of the waste used for compost in the urban organic gardens has had previous contact with materials like cans, paints, and batteries, thrown indiscriminately into landfills all over the country.

By Rosa Lopez
1 March 2015


Nationwide, about 40,000 people work in urban agriculture projects on some 83,000 acres (130 square miles) that are divided into 145,000 parcels, 385,000 patios*, 6,400 intensive gardens and 4,000 urban organic gardens. These last under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture, although with some autonomy for crop management.

With these lands planted in populated areas, it has been the goal to reduce food insecurity, offer greater access to fresh produce and to expand green spaces in urban zones.

[

March 11, 2015   Comments Off on Havana, Cuba – Lettuces of Lead

City Bees Are Actually More Diverse Than Country Bees

beeredA honeybee visits a flower in Bath, England (Nick Upton).

Other pollinators don’t like urban areas as much as rural, but bees live in similar numbers across different landscapes

By Marissa Fessenden
February 12, 2015


Katherine Baldock, of the University of Bristol, surveyed pollinator abundance across 36 different sites that spanned farmland, nature reserves and urban areas. Her team counted honey bees, bumble bees and other flying pollinators. The group found that each area had about the same amount of total pollinators. Even though urban areas might not seem like the ideal place for flower-loving bees, those landscapes held more diverse bee species, though the other pollinators were less diverse and numerous. Baldock and her colleagues published their findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

[

February 24, 2015   Comments Off on City Bees Are Actually More Diverse Than Country Bees

The Living Landscape


Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden

By Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy
Timber Press

A home garden is often seen as separate from the natural world surrounding it. In truth, it is actually just one part of a larger landscape made up of many living layers. And the replacement of the rich layers of native flora with turf grass greatly diminishes a garden’s biological diversity and ecological function.

[

February 18, 2015   Comments Off on The Living Landscape

Green Education promotes urban agriculture in Long Beach, California

Stella Ursua stands by a community farm on Spring Street. Ursua helped organize the Long Beach Green Prize. Long Beach, CA. Photo by Steve McCrank.

Stella Ursua works for a greener Long Beach

By Andrew Edwards

For Stella Ursua, an acre or so’s worth of carrots, kale, strawberries, tomatoes and other produce growing in the middle of the city is but an example of her vision for a greener city.

The crops grow at a place called Lincoln Spring Farms, near the crossing of Spring Street and Atlantic Avenue within site of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. The catchphrase for such a place is “urban farming,” and Ursua herself doesn’t run the farm, she said. It’s an example of the kinds of activity her organization, Green Education Inc., seeks to promote.

[

January 10, 2015   Comments Off on Green Education promotes urban agriculture in Long Beach, California

Washington DC urban farm site is an ecological disaster

BrightFarms Inc. CEO Paul Lightfoot standing near the banks of the Oxon Run in Washington, on land that his company is leasing from the District of Columbia government to build a greenhouse and urban farm. Lightfoot is considering abandoning the project because of extensive contamination on the city-controlled land, which has been used for years for illegal dumping and an unlicensed landfill. Some of the waste has made it into the waterway, a tributary of the Potomac River. AP Photo/Ben Nuckols.

BrightFarms Inc. is considering abandoning the project because of extensive contamination on the city-controlled land

By Ben Nuckols
Associated Press
December 23, 2014


WASHINGTON (AP) – In May 2013, the mayor of the nation’s capital announced that the city would partner with a produce supplier to build what the company called “the most productive urban farm in the world.”

But no one bothered to inspect the site. If they had, they would have found an unlicensed landfill that’s 18 feet deep; 10-foot-high piles of debris including roofing material and insulation; and rusting petroleum containers on the banks of a creek.

[

December 26, 2014   Comments Off on Washington DC urban farm site is an ecological disaster

Are your urban veggies really toxic?


The New York State Department of Health, along with those same soil-researchers at Cornell, put together a list of 10 best practices for healthy gardening in and around contaminated urban soils.

By Liz Core
21 Nov 2014


Vigil told me that the farms have soil tested every year for lead levels, and the results have always come out safe. So when the press started railing against the toxic dangers of his veggies, Vigil was put off (OK, he was royally ticked). He wrote an open letter about what’s really going on and how urban farmers are handling soil toxins. Here’s a taste:

In the past two years we have partnered with the Department of Sanitation to distribute over 5,000 bags of NYC Compost to East New York gardens, and applied over 10 cubic yards of new compost to our farm.

[

December 11, 2014   Comments Off on Are your urban veggies really toxic?

Research Paper: Concentrations of lead, cadmium and barium in urban garden-grown vegetables


The impact of soil variables

By Murray B. McBridea, Hannah A. Shaylera, Henry M. Spliethoffb, Rebecca G. Mitchellb, Lydia G. Marquez- Bravob, Gretchen S. Ferenzc, Jonathan M. Russell-Anellia, Linda Caseyc, and Sharon Bachmand
Published in Environmental Pollution – August 2014

Paired vegetable/soil samples from New York City and Buffalo, NY, gardens were analyzed for lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd) and barium (Ba). Vegetable aluminum (Al) was measured to assess soil adherence. Soil and vegetable metal concentrations did not correlate; vegetable concentrations varied by crop type. Pb was below health-based guidance values (EU standards) in virtually all fruits.

[

December 11, 2014   Comments Off on Research Paper: Concentrations of lead, cadmium and barium in urban garden-grown vegetables