New Stories From 'Urban Agriculture Notes'
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Category — History

Run the Jewels’ Michael Render on How Urban Farming Can Help the Black Community

Michael Render (aka Killer Mike, right) speaks with Decton Hylton, head of the Athens Land Trust’s community agriculture program, at the West Broad Market Garden. Photo Credit: Jessica Silverman

“When I was growing up as a kid, people had gardens right in their backyard. People had chickens right in their backyard, and I lived in Atlanta, I lived in the West End neighborhood in Atlanta. Dr. King’s parents lived there.

By Blake Aued
Feb 14, 2018


It was a blockbuster afternoon for the West Broad Market Garden. With a film crew and his Run the Jewels partner El-P in tow, rapper and activist Michael Render—better known as Killer Mike, though he asked not to be identified by his stage name because his mother doesn’t like it—spent more than an hour touring the Athens Land Trust’s community garden in the largely black West Broad neighborhood on Wednesday, Feb. 7, the day before Run the Jewels played a sold-out show at the Georgia Theatre. They also met with students in the land trust’s Young Urban Farmers program and walked down the street to garden matriarch Ethel “Ms. Ethel” Collins’ house for dinner.

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February 20, 2018   No Comments

Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat

Chapter 5. Back-to-the-Landers and Organic Farming

By Jonathan Kauffman
Harper Collins
Jan. 2018

An enlightening narrative history—an entertaining fusion of Tom Wolfe and Michael Pollan—that traces the colorful origins of once unconventional foods and the diverse fringe movements, charismatic gurus, and counterculture elements that brought them to the mainstream and created a distinctly American cuisine.

Food writer Jonathan Kauffman journeys back more than half a century—to the 1960s and 1970s—to tell the story of how a coterie of unusual men and women embraced an alternative lifestyle that would ultimately change how modern Americans eat. Impeccably researched, Hippie Food chronicles how the longhairs, revolutionaries, and back-to-the-landers rejected the square establishment of President Richard Nixon’s America and turned to a more idealistic and wholesome communal way of life and food.

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February 8, 2018   No Comments

Growing a Sustainable City?: The Question of Urban Agriculture

Their comprehensive research includes interviews with urban farmers, gardeners, and city officials, and reveals that the transition to “sustainability” is marked by a series of tensions along race, class, and generational lines.

By Christina D. Rosan and Hamil Pearsall
University of Toronto Press
208 pages. © 2017

Urban agriculture offers promising solutions to many different urban problems, such as blighted vacant lots, food insecurity, storm water runoff, and unemployment. These objectives connect to many cities’ broader goal of “sustainability,” but tensions among stakeholders have started to emerge in cities as urban agriculture is incorporated into the policymaking framework.

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February 5, 2018   Comments Off on Growing a Sustainable City?: The Question of Urban Agriculture

1990 Flashback: Compost Bins Featured at the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden

City Farmer’s Lorenzo Mele shows our bins to the media

CBC’s “Down to Earth”
Part 1 and 2, 1990
At the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden

In those early days, we brought ‘home compost bins’ from Europe and invited inventors to create bins that were rodent-resistant. One of the bins was built by Lorenzo Mele, eventually named the ‘Lorenzo Bin’, which was based on a design that City Farmer created for the cover of a brochure we’d produced for the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) now ‘Metro Vancouver’. The design came after a year’s research, talking with experts about how to ‘build out’ rodents from compost pile.

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February 1, 2018   Comments Off on 1990 Flashback: Compost Bins Featured at the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden

Flashback to 1987: City Farmer on CBC’s ‘Country Canada’

Three gardens in Vancouver in 1987.

Vancouver’s Demonstration Food Garden, Lord Roberts School Garden and Strathcona Community Garden

By Michael Levenston
CBC’s ‘Country Canada’
May 1987

In 1987, City Farmer had staff working at three different sites, our Demonstration Food Garden in Kitsilano, the Strathcona Community Garden in the East End of Vancouver, and the Lord Roberts School Garden in the West End. City Farmer staff, Sheila and Wendy, can be seen working with pick-axes on a berm at Strathcona, and Antoinette is interviewed while teaching at Lord Roberts.

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January 21, 2018   Comments Off on Flashback to 1987: City Farmer on CBC’s ‘Country Canada’

Flashback to 1990: City Farmer Promotes Home Composting

The Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden in 1990

The styles have changed but the message is the same

By Michael Levenston
TV reporting at Vancouver’s Compost Demonstration Garden
2150 Maple Street, Vancouver, BC

Most of the bins we feature today are different from the ones we experimented with three decades ago, but our work remains the same, getting urban residents to recycle some of their yard and kitchen scraps and turning it into soil by home composting.

Vancouver Engineering, Solid Waste, has supported us in this effort. John Evans, Paul Henderson, Chris Underwood are three of the leaders at the City of Vancouver who have driven our work. Backyard bins are still sold at a subsidized rate of $25 per bin, worm composting is still taught in schools and at adult wormshops, and research on the latest bins and techniques is ongoing.

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January 16, 2018   Comments Off on Flashback to 1990: City Farmer Promotes Home Composting

1936 – El Monte homestead project

Click image to see larger file.

This garden supplied him, his wife and child with all their vegetables all winter.

Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection
Photo date: March 6, 1936.

C. Dudley Adams, who works by day as an insurance salesman, is shown working in some of his spare time in his prize vegetable garden on the federal government’s small farm homestead project at El Monte. This garden supplied him, his wife and child with all their vegetables all winter.

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January 13, 2018   Comments Off on 1936 – El Monte homestead project

City Farmer Flashback 2001: York House Kindergarten Kids Learn About Worms

City Farmer’s Moberley Luger teaches children about worm composting at the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden.

Flashback by Michael Levenston
Suzette Myers reporting at that time
TV News 2001

These youngsters marched into our garden in their school uniforms (à la Madeline children’s book) and delighted us with their sweet engagement with worms. Moberley Luger, then a young instructor, now a university professor of English, gave the students their first experience at composting.

For over twenty five years, City Farmer has lead such classes both at our demonstration garden and in Vancouver schools. Young visitors see how compost from a worm bin feeds the soil as was they walk about after the class, tasting, touching and smelling the plants we grow.

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January 3, 2018   Comments Off on City Farmer Flashback 2001: York House Kindergarten Kids Learn About Worms

The True Story Behind “Mary Had a Little Lamb”

There was indeed an actual Mary and she did actually have a lamb.

By Andrew Amelinckx
Modern Farmer
December 19, 2017


Sometime later, it’s uncertain exactly when, Mary was heading to school with her brother when the lamb began following them. The siblings apparently weren’t trying very hard to prevent the lamb from tagging along, even hauling it over a large stone fence they had to cross to get to Redstone School, the one-room schoolhouse they attended. Once there, Mary secreted her pet under her desk and covered her with a blanket.

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December 24, 2017   Comments Off on The True Story Behind “Mary Had a Little Lamb”

Oakland Museum Digs Into Urban Farming

A new exhibition, Take Root, opens this weekend

By Caleb Pershan
Eater San Francisco
Dec 14, 2017


The East Bay has long been fertile ground for farmers and gardeners, with chefs like Jeremiah Tower and Paul Bertolli of Chez Panisse and then Stars and Oliveto and Michael Wild of Bay Wolf cultivating local food systems and putting local produce at the center of the plate. In 2006, Oakland’s City Council even announced a goal that the city grow one-third of its own food.

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December 16, 2017   Comments Off on Oakland Museum Digs Into Urban Farming

1943: Vice-President Henry Wallace’s Victory Garden

Rare film outtakes. Various scenes Wallace working around corn and tomatoes. Link to film here.

Henry A. Wallace was editor of Wallaces’ Farmer and Iowa Homestead until he was selected as Secretary of Agriculture by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933.

33rd Vice President of the United States under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, In office January 20, 1941 – January 20, 1945

Excerpts from The Wallace Centers of Iowa, sustainable food & civility initiatives and Henry A. Wallace – An Authentic American Dreamer

At the turn of the 20th century, corn shows were at the height of popularity, and judging criteria stressed physical uniformity of ear and kernel type. In 1903, Henry A. participated in a corn judging short course, and when he questioned the value of the “beauty contest” in predicting the yield, the instructor encouraged him to plant each of the 40 ears on an ear-to-row basis the next season and compare yields.

Wallace grew his first experimental plot while still a high school student and found that the ear which had placed first in the show yielded among the poorest. He chose some of the best-yielding seed and sold 10 bushels for $10 per bushel. This was the start of his life-long involvement with the improvement of corn through genetic selection.

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December 13, 2017   Comments Off on 1943: Vice-President Henry Wallace’s Victory Garden

A growing number of young Americans are leaving desk jobs to farm

Liz Whitehurst picks greens at Owl’s Nest Farm in Upper Marlboro, Md., on Nov. 9. Whitehurst is the owner and operator of the farm, which sells its produce at a D.C.-area farmers market, to restaurants and through CSA shares. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

For only the second time in the last century, the number of farmers under 35 years old is increasing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Census of Agriculture. Sixty-nine percent of the surveyed young farmers had college degrees — significantly higher than the general population.

By Caitlin Dewey
Washington Post
November 23, 2017

Liz Whitehurst dabbled in several careers before she ended up here, crating fistfuls of fresh-cut arugula in the early-November chill.

The hours were better at her nonprofit jobs. So were the benefits. But two years ago, the 32-year-old Whitehurst — who graduated from a liberal arts college and grew up in the Chicago suburbs — abandoned Washington for this three-acre farm in Upper Marlboro, Md.

She joined a growing movement of highly educated, ex-urban, first-time farmers who are capitalizing on booming consumer demand for local and sustainable foods and who, experts say, could have a broad impact on the food system.

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November 24, 2017   Comments Off on A growing number of young Americans are leaving desk jobs to farm

1974, San Francisco’s ‘The Farm’ – Part of The History of Urban Agriculture

Work party at The Farm, c. 1975. Also must see: The Farm (documentary) 47 minutes
by Mike Kavanaugh, MaryEllen Churchill, and Kathy Katz

In SF, art still thrives and celebrates its history at The Farm

By Laura Wenus
Mission Local
November 9, 2017
(Must see. Mike)


Joan Holden, director of the San Francisco Mime Troupe at the time, remembered The Farm in its early days in a documentary collecting memories of The Farm.

“It was this little spot of nature, this little eruption of nature in the middle of the concrete jungle, proving that life could still exist there,” she said at the time.

It drew the attention of some of the Mission’s now best-known artists, including René Yañez, and Dogpaw Carrillo among others.

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November 15, 2017   Comments Off on 1974, San Francisco’s ‘The Farm’ – Part of The History of Urban Agriculture

Slave garden at Smithfield, Virginia cultivates deeper understanding of early colonial times

An interpretive slave garden has been added to the grounds at Historic Smithfield, expanding the plantation’s story of 18th century life on the Virginia frontier. Photo courtesy of Historic Smithfield Plantation.

Some of the plants originally introduced by slaves brought to the Colonies include yams, okra, melons, sorghum and cow peas, as well as other lesser known plants such as lablab beans, spiny cucumbers and dagga.

By April Danner
The Roanoke Times
Nov 5, 2017


As the harvest season winds down, visitors to Historic Smithfield Plantation can add to their tour of the property a new feature on the expansive grounds: an interpretive slave garden, which recreates an important facet of life for the enslaved people of colonial Virginia, who planted small gardens to enhance their diet, provide medicinals and maintain spiritual traditions.

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November 12, 2017   Comments Off on Slave garden at Smithfield, Virginia cultivates deeper understanding of early colonial times

Ancient grain reveals the development of the earliest cities

A new study shows that the Mesopotamian farmers during a food crisis did not try to farm their land more intensively, but converted more land to arable land. (Photo: Shutterstock)

How were the first cities established and how did they develop? The analysis of 8,000 years old grain from ancient Mesopotamia has some answers.

By Rasmus Kragh Jakobsen
Science Nordic
Oct 3, 2017


At this time, people lived in villages of perhaps 100 to 200 people, and then suddenly, some 6,000 years ago, over a period of a few centuries, these villages grew to cities of more than 10,000 inhabitants.

The development of arable farming, which provided food for all these people, is a key piece of the puzzle to understand how these cities grew so quickly.

In recent years, archaeologists have obtained a new peep-hole that allows them to see back in time. Amazingly enough, packets of information have survived 8,000 years in the form of grain from burned down houses.

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October 10, 2017   Comments Off on Ancient grain reveals the development of the earliest cities