culture · environment · health · Nature

‘Food forest’ in middle of Seattle will feature an urban view

Woman shopping for vegetable starts at Seattle...
Soon Seattle-ites will be able to harvest their own veggies from a large community "forest." Image via Wikipedia

Sorry it has been so long since my last post. I don’t have long, but I had to stop and share in more detail this great story about an urban food forest being proposed for a Seattle neighborhood:

A plot of grass sits in the middle of Seattle, feet from a busy road and on a hill that overlooks the city’s skyline. But it’s no ordinary patch of green. Residents hope it will become one of the country’s largest “food forests.”

The Beacon Hill park, which will start at 2 acres and grow to 7, will offer city dwellers a chance to pick apples, plums and other crops right from the branch.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the people of Seattle to be able to connect to the environment,” said Maureen Erbe, who walked her two dogs next to the plot on a recent overcast day.

Would she pluck some fruit from the forest?

“Heck yes, I love a good blueberry. You’re not from Seattle if you don’t like a good blueberry,” she said.

For health-conscious and locally grown-food-loving Seattle, the park is a new step into urban agriculture. Cities from Portland to Syracuse, N.Y., already have their own versions. In Syracuse, for example, vacant lots were turned into vegetable gardens to be tended by local teens.

Seattle is an awesome place to have an urban garden. People already replace the little strips of grass between the sidewalk and the street with gardens, and in the summer Seattle is practically overrun with feral blackberry bushes and other fruit.

This is also a great way to improve your environment and make it just a little bit healthier and happier.

This idea has been getting a lot of attention in the media (see related links below), and I hope it will inspire other cities to do the same. Even in cities where it doesn’t rain allll the time, it is more than possible to create spaces for people to garden or for crops to grow feral and let nature take its course.

anthropology · behavior · community · culture · education · health

Different reactions to urban farm economics

Downtown Bellingham as observed from Sehome Hi...
Bellingham, WA, which prides itself on buying, selling, and producing locally. Image via Wikipedia

The question of how to connect us back to our food is commonly asked these days, from local communities to big companies like IDEO and their Open IDEO challenges. One way to do this is through urban farms, or bringing the farm and local food production to the people. But the logistics of doing this can take on very different looks and feels.

I came across three stories in the past couple of days that all showcase a different reaction to the concept of economizing on local food growing and selling. The different styles seem to be very pro, con, or “social wellness” focused:

For example, in Bellingham, WA, local farms are offering kids classes on local farming practices, and make more money locally through education than actually selling their produce:

Common Threads’ goal is to connect children to food, their community and the environment through what she called seed-to-table education.

At Farm Camp, that included plenty of hands-on stuff for the 3- to 10-year-old children, who split into groups and take turns caring for the turkeys and chickens – do they have enough food and clean water? – as well as the garden.

“Growing stuff takes work and attention,” Plaut said, which is what the camp’s workers and volunteers emphasize to the children.

more via Bellingham program teaches children where their food comes from – Top Stories – bellinghamherald.com.

In Seattle, WA, the approach is definitely more entrepreneurial focused with backyard egg sellers and bee keeping:

CORKY LUSTER is hard-pressed to explain why his beekeeping idea turned into a full-time business and then some.

“People are interested in pollination and food . . . and honey bees have become the poster child for environmental concerns,” he muses.

Luster had a German roommate in college who introduced him to the idea of keeping a few chickens and beehives in the backyard. So when Luster heard about bees dying off and colony collapse disorder a few years ago, he decided to do his bit and set up a few beehives in his garden. Friends were fascinated with the bees — but not so much with all the work involved. The Ballard Bee Company was born, and two years later Luster doesn’t have time to remodel houses anymore.

more at Keeper brings bees to Seattle gardens.

In Missoula, MT, regulations make it a little bit tougher to sell wares:

Owners of small food enterprises continue to face hurdles doing business in Missoula even as the local food movement grows. At the state level, an effort is beginning to methodically review food safety laws and regulations. Leaders in Missoula say it’s time for some scrutiny on the local front, too, and one food vendor is already on the move.

Kim Olson, the “Empanada Lady,” is working to change at least one rule she said is arbitrary and hurts food vendors. Olson said the Health Department is obligated to enforce state laws, but the rules favor big franchises and leave homegrown shops adrift.

Which approach makes for a better experience of community food selling overall? With the E. Coli outbreak in Germany recently I understand the need for good food regulations, but what if they accidentally favor one kind of business model over another? I’m also curious if a more education focused approach works better than throwing local food sellers into the deep end with all the other commercial ventures? Thoughts? Experiences?
community · culture · education · environment · health · Nature

Urban farming in NYC

Just read about this cool example of urban farming: Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in good ol’ New York City.

From the site:

On the shoreline of the East River and with a sweeping view of the Manhattan skyline, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is a 6,000 square foot green roof organic vegetable farm located atop a warehouse rooftop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.During New York City’s growing season, the farmers at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm supply a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, an onsite farm market, and bicycle fresh produce to area restaurants.

In partnership with food education organization Growing Chefs, the rooftop farm hosts a range of farm-based educational and volunteer programs.

 

Eagle Street Rooftop Farm offers educational programming in partnership with Growing Chefs: Food Education from Field to Fork.

 

 

They also offer talks, events (today was their annual pie eating contest!), and other ways to engage with urban farming. If you live anywhere near there, go check it out; it is amazing to see a true working farm in action, and to see it done in an urban environment is really exciting. Although, you might want to wait until the weather isn’t, you know, freezing!, to go visit:

The Farm is a bit windy & chilly this time of year, so we’re waiting ’til spring for visits.  To register for a workshop, contact us Education@RooftopFarms.org.

What a great way to learn about where your food comes from, and it’s healthier and fresher since it doesn’t have to travel as far or receive so many pesticides or preservatives for transport. And apparently these urban farms are now popping up all over the United States; check out some of the links below to read about other city’s urban farms. Eat up!