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Category — History

First Garden Manual in the Western World

Written in Latin between 1304 and 1309 by Petrus de Crescentiis, a wealthy lawyer from Bologna in Italy, Ruralia Commoda was the only publication of its kind during Henry VIII’s reign.

Royal Collection Trust
The Queen’s Gallery
Buckingham Palace


According to the manual, the size of the garden and the perfection of the trees and plants within it were an expression of a king’s status, wealth and mastery over his environment. A royal garden should occupy a plot of 20 acres or more, and the planting of fragrant herbs was recommended because they ‘not only delight by their odor, but … refresh the sight.’ The gardener should ‘between these plants … form turf in the fashion of a seat, flowering and pleasant.’ The royal garden should include walks and bowers, ‘where the king and queen can meet with the barons and lords when it is not the rainy season’ and should be surrounded by suitably high walls.

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September 27, 2015   No Comments

A restored historic site and urban farming training and education center in Boston

An architect’s rendering shows the proposed renovation of the Fowler-Clark farm. Image Courtesy Historic Boston Incorporated.

Historic Boston Inc. will restore 18-19th century Fowler-Clark farm, home and barn

By Jule Pattison-Gordon
Bay State Banner


“We’ll be the key for urban agriculture in Boston,” said Spence. UFI’s larger goals include vacant land acquisition, then leasing to those who wish to start urban farms. The organization also conducts research and development of new farming ideas.

“There’s a lot to be learned here by a lot of different people. Hopefully it will be a real inspiration to the people who are already growing tomatoes in their front yards, but also to people who are thinking about it or who would like to,” said Kathy Kottaridis, executive director of HBI. “It should draw people throughout the region who really want to learn techniques for urban farming and harvesting methods and use of planting beds.”

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September 23, 2015   No Comments

£10,000 Grant to Archive Thousands of Photos, Slides And Film Footage Of Hackney City Farm History

The site before the farm was built.

More than 600 volunteers had come together in the decade before the farm’s creation to find a suitable site for the urban farm

By Emma Bartholomew
Hackney Gazette
11 September 2015


“We are in contact with the volunteer who led that movement, and the original farm manager, we have recordings of them, we want that to be at the archives so future generations can see how community action created the farm in the 80s.

“I think that kind of thing was much more usual and possible in the 80s because there were people who were able to and who did give their time because they felt that was important.

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September 20, 2015   Comments Off on £10,000 Grant to Archive Thousands of Photos, Slides And Film Footage Of Hackney City Farm History

Kentish Town City Farm in London began in 1972

A documentary made for the heritage project by the young filmaker, Joe Dickie.

By the late 60’s some people were taking over vacant properties and doing the repairs themselves. The squatting movement was born, and with it, the roots of Kentish Town City Farm.

In 1972, a local organization called Inter-Action rented a house, a cottage and part of the disused timber yard known as Gloster Parquet – now the site of Kentish Town City Farm. They found, tucked behind the terrace houses, the remains of a complex of buildings surrounded by yards of overgrown weeds that backed onto the railway. The buildings included stables, a workshop, a store house and steel framed hangars. Local businessmen donated building materials and equipment worth over £5000. A team of volunteers, youth workers, farm workers and Inter-Action’s architects and builders converted the stables and buildings into a farm, riding school and gardens.

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July 30, 2015   Comments Off on Kentish Town City Farm in London began in 1972

Food and the City – Histories of Culture and Cultivation


Thirteen Essays On Urban Agriculture

Edited by Dorothée Imbert
Harvard University Press
July 2015
(Must see. Mike)

Food and the City explores the physical, social, and political relations between the production of food and urban settlements. Its thirteen essays discuss the multiple scales and ideologies of productive landscapes—from market gardens in sixteenth-century Paris to polder planning near mid-twentieth century Amsterdam to opportunistic agriculture in today’s Global South—and underscore the symbiotic connection between productive landscape and urban form across times and geographies. The physical proximity of fruit and vegetable production to urban consumers in pre-revolutionary Paris, or the distribution of fish in Imperial Edo, was an essential factor in shaping both city and surroundings.

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July 20, 2015   Comments Off on Food and the City – Histories of Culture and Cultivation

Urban Agriculture Is Part Of Our History

vaclot1898 Charities Review – Vacant-Lot Cultivation

Many of the challenges – including securing land – remain the same, more than a century after this report was written by philanthropic leaders.

By Rose Hayden-Smith
UC Food Observer
July 2, 2015


In 2013, Bill Loomis wrote an amazing piece about Pingree for the Detroit News. He wrote:

“Most of the unfortunate would be glad to raise their own food,” Pingree argued. “They are willing to work, and we ought to give them a chance to do it.”

Pingree’s idea of “ethical relief” was met with strong resistance from many who believed that the unemployed – many of them immigrants – were “too lazy” to work. Skeptics, of course, were wrong: 3,000 families applied for the 975 allotments available the first year of the program (1894). The program grew during the next two seasons (1,546 families participated in 1895, 1,701 families gardened in 1896).

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July 13, 2015   Comments Off on Urban Agriculture Is Part Of Our History

Sana, Yemen: Historic urban gardens in Unesco world heritage site damaged by war


Devastation in Yemen: historic district of Sana’a before and after – in pictures

By Arnel Hecimovic
The Guardian
12 June 2015

A Saudi-led air strike killed at least six civilians and destroyed historic houses in the old quarter of Sana’a, two days ahead of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva. The air raid was the first in the Unesco world heritage site in Yemen’s rebel-held capital since the coalition started its air campaign in March against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

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June 13, 2015   Comments Off on Sana, Yemen: Historic urban gardens in Unesco world heritage site damaged by war

1909: ‘The Vegetable Garden’

hotbed Temporary hotbeds in a city backyard. For larger image click on picture.

“Did we cultivate more assiduously our backyard gardens, those of us whose daily grind chains us fast to a bell or whistle or even an office clock, there would be fewer nervous breakdowns.”

By Ida D. Bennett
Doubleday, Page and Co.


There are certain plant-poisons – herbicides – on the market which it is claimed will kill out scrub oak, burdock, Canada thistle, and like persistent perennial growths … It is considerations like this which make the growing of one’s own kitchen vegetables so desirable,

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April 27, 2015   Comments Off on 1909: ‘The Vegetable Garden’

In pinched Soviet times ‘dacha gardens’ grew some 90 percent of Russia’s vegetables

German Shingel fills a tub for watering the garden under the watchful eye of his father, Yevgeniy. To outwit Russia’s short growing season, many dacha owners set flats of seedlings on their urban windowsills in March. Photograph by Jonas Bendiksen.

One out of three Russians owns a dacha. In the Moscow region, where there are some one million dachas. Boris’s dacha, like most in Valday, is a garden plot with a cabin. Such plots, originally six sotkas (.15 acre), date back to Soviet-era land distribution programs that allowed Russians to endure postwar food shortages made worse by the disaster of centrally planned agriculture.

By Cathy Newman
Photograph by Jonas Bendiksen
National Geographic
July 2012
(Must see. Mike)


The soil is sacred, almost mystical to Russians, a legacy of pagan beliefs and peasant tradition. “The religion of the soil,” philosopher Nikolay Berdyayev called it. A dacha provides the opportunity to dig in that soil and be close to nature. “By the end of the day I am tired and stressed,” a Valday woman tells me. “I go to the garden, touch the ground, and bad things go away.”

In July the soil yields cucumbers and feathery dill, also squash, peas, and green onions. July is for berries: black, red, and white currants; blueberries; blackberries; raspberries; gooseberries; and delicately perfumed wild strawberries, which, even more than the resinous astringency of pine, is the smell of summer. August brings mushrooms (a light rain is known as a “mushroom rain”): the prized beliy, or white mushroom, and boletes that grow near birch trees and can be dried. Also potatoes—always potatoes. A Valday garden is unthinkable without them, although they cost less to buy than grow.

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March 29, 2015   Comments Off on In pinched Soviet times ‘dacha gardens’ grew some 90 percent of Russia’s vegetables

First farm gardens in New York City appeared in 1902 in De Witt Clinton Park

Parsons commandeered 3/4 of an acre of De Witt Clinton Park for 360 plots that functioned as miniature gardens. [DeWitt Clinton Park] [glass negative]: children’s garden plots, looking toward the east side of the park.
Click on image for larger photo.
Click here for massive original photo.

Parsons opened the first farm garden on the west side of Manhattan, near tenements that dominated the neighborhood at the time – 360 plots.

Excerpt from:
New York City Parks
Farm Gardens

Although the era of social reform in the early 20th century was still driven by government and charitable organizations, in many ways Farm Gardens were early manifestations of a community gardening aesthetic. The first farm gardens in New York City appeared in 1902 in De Witt Clinton Park, shepherded by a “Mrs. Henry G. Parsons,” who despite the seeming formality was in fact a groundbreaking female who went on to become one of the first senior–level park administrators.

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February 14, 2015   Comments Off on First farm gardens in New York City appeared in 1902 in De Witt Clinton Park

1942: How Boys and Girls Can Help Win the War

Cartoon from 1942 Parent Magazine issue, “How Boys and Girls Can Win The War”. Click on image for larger file.

Fun Facts About Victory Gardens

Excerpt from National WW2 Museum website:

During World War II, Victory Gardens were planted by families in the United States (the Home Front) to help prevent a food shortage.

In 1941, a five-foot Christmas tree could be purchased for 75 cents.

Planting Victory Gardens helped make sure that there was enough food for our soldiers fighting around the world. Because canned vegetables were rationed, Victory Gardens also helped people stretch their ration coupons (the amount of certain foods they were allowed to buy at the store).

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February 2, 2015   Comments Off on 1942: How Boys and Girls Can Help Win the War

1953 – Gardener Mopsy – ‘Be a vegetarian and be beautiful’

mop1Click on image for larger files size.

By Gladys Parker

From Wiki:

Mopsy was a comic strip created by Gladys Parker in 1939. It had a long run over three decades. Parker modeled the character of Mopsy after herself. In 1946, she recalled, “I got the idea for Mopsy when the cartoonist Rube Goldberg said my hair looked like a mop. That was several years ago, and she has been my main interest ever since.”

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January 24, 2015   Comments Off on 1953 – Gardener Mopsy – ‘Be a vegetarian and be beautiful’

The History of Urban Agriculture in Somerville, Massachusetts


The City of Somerville was founded in 1842

Jan 15, 2015


If you think local food is new in Somerville, think again! Our friends at the Somerville Garden Club put together this cool brochure on Somerville’s agrarian history with a timeline of key events starting in the 1600’s.Many of the family and street/place names that you see around town today and were once farms and there was both a pickle company and a vinegar company!

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January 23, 2015   Comments Off on The History of Urban Agriculture in Somerville, Massachusetts

In 19th-century New York, urban livestock were perceived as a threat

“Today, proponents argue that urban agriculture and local food sources promote ‘sustainable cities,’” writes historian Catherine McNeur in her new book, Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City. “In the nineteenth century, many Americans would have believed the opposite.”

When Gentrification Meant Driving the Hogs Out of Manhattan

By Sarah Goodyear
Dec 16, 2014


In order for Manhattan to become the center of a nation’s wealth and high culture, as McNeur illustrates, the dirty work of agriculture and food production had to be pushed out and made invisible—along with the lower-class people who made their living from animals and their by-products. The result, she writes, was a volatile and unsettled period in which rancor and division among citizens was heightened by the question over who had the right to use the city’s rapidly vanishing common spaces.

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December 17, 2014   Comments Off on In 19th-century New York, urban livestock were perceived as a threat

Actress Gene Tierney grew turnips and spinach – Victory Gardener


Movie Stars – 1943

By Jessie Henderson
Fun on The Farm
Photoplay Magazine 1943

Turnips and spinach, of all unlikely things, are what Gene Tierney raises, with the help of a part-time gardener, on her Victory acre. Gene acquired her taste for turnips in “Tobacco Road” and now she devours them raw or cooked and says they taste a bit like apples. She goes for fresh spinach salad quite as eagerly. From her twelve hens, sturdy Plymouth Rocks, Gene gets enough eggs for her kitchen and her friends ‘and’ a weekly angel-food cake that goes to the Hollywood canteen.

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December 6, 2014   Comments Off on Actress Gene Tierney grew turnips and spinach – Victory Gardener