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In cities and suburbs all over North America, urban lots and small
backyards are being transformed into productive mini-farms. Urban
agriculture is fast becoming the biggest trend in market gardening this
decade and for good reason. The benefits of urban farming are numerous,
ranging from greater food security to nutrition education to community
building. The challenges are plentiful, too, and in this issue of the
JSS Advantage, we'll tell you about resources to help with the
development of an urban farm.
The Food Project in Boston is one
of the earliest and most successful urban farming ventures in the U.S.
(One of The Food Project's urban gardens is featured on the cover on
the 2011 Johnny's catalog.) The organization's mission is "to create a
thoughtful and productive community of youth and adults from diverse
backgrounds who work together to build a sustainable food system." To
that end, The Food Project employs teenagers in multiple gardens in and
around Boston to grow food for a CSA, farmers markets, and food
pantries. It also provides assistance to city residents who want to
grow their own food.
One of the biggest issues for urban farmers
and gardeners is the presence of lead in urban soils. Researchers at
Wellesley College tested 141 backyard gardens in two Boston
neighborhoods and found that 81% of them had lead levels considered
dangerous by the EPA. In collaboration with Wellesley, The Food Project
experimented with different ways to remediate the lead contamination.
The organization has found that amending with compost and building
raised beds are the most cost-effective and efficient remediation
The Food Project has many free resources available on its website, including an Urban Agriculture Manual
that details how the project creates healthy soil, intersects with the
community, works with young people, and plans urban food lots.
Power is another long-established urban farming project, and it gained
well-deserved recognition in 2008 when its founder, Will Allen, was
named a John D. and Katherine T. McArthur Foundation fellow and awarded
a "genius grant" for his work. In addition to the programs it operates
in Milwaukee and Chicago, Growing Power offers national outreach
through its Commercial Urban Agriculture Training
that face urban farmers include zoning codes, business licenses,
nuisance and noise laws, water access, and neighbors. Writing in
Growing for Market, Katherine Kelly, director of the Kansas City Center
for Urban Agriculture, advised growers on what to expect when creating a new farm from an urban lot
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from JSS Advantage February 2011