“There are 70,000 acres of vacant lots in the Chicago area,” Allen said, “All I need to set it up is a handful of worms.”
How do cities feed themselves? Food is a necessity for every living thing. Until rather recently, food was grown and produced locally and brought to markets in urban areas. People are the only animals that transport food overseas in air conditioned holds and across miles in air conditioned trucks to be stored in grocery stores until purchased. While this system produces a great variety of processed and packaged foods and expands seasonal availability, it may surprise you to find out that it has become, for most people, the largest part of their energy and water consumption. In London, food transport accounts for 46% of the typical Londoners carbon footprint. Cities around the world are reconsidering how to regain local food production. Creation of farmers markets help to provide a place and forum for small, local farmers. Now cities are looking at vacant land and rooftops for possible places to grow food. The movement to grow food in cities is called urban agriculture.
More to come!
Activity 1 – Vacant Lot Farms
Vacant lots are abundant in many cities. Research spin farming and see how simple it is to begin summer crops. Take a look at Spin Farming Models and be amazed at the potential income of farming vacant lots. Take a nearby neighborhood and map all of the open lots. Calculate how many square feet of food vacant areas could add in one growing season. Some cities rent the open lots for as little as 1$ to encourage people to farm. Review the Spin Photo Albums to see the sequence of preparing the soil, planning the plantings, seeding, thinning, weeding, watering and harvesting!
Activity 2 – Community Gardens
Community gardens are public and nonprofit groups of people who come together to manage plots of land. Some community gardens offer education instruction in how to best grow different crops. Others act as a shared service to the homeless for sustenance. Boston has over 180 community gardens, some handed down and managed by families for generation after generation. Many cities have Victory gardens or plots of land set aside to produce food and built during the period between WW I and WWII. Research community parks in your state and visit one or two to understand the community that gathers around the care and tending of plants. Map locations of different community gardens in your city and your state.
Activity 3 – University Farms
Agriculture is a central subject of many higher education institutions, and colleges and universities are in cities. Many urban farms associated with colleges whose student and community programs study better and more efficient ways of producing food. These fields and gardens offer courses and sometimes garden plots and goods to the public and integrate community learning with student-run organic farms, entrepreneurial farm start-ups, to agribusiness training centers, university farms provide a source of education and opportunity for communities to shift from grocery store to local fresh food consumption. Urban Agriculture offers many career paths including horticulture, crop farming, livestock (pigs, cattle, goats, microlivestock), marketing and research. What college and university farms and programs are in your city? Look at their offerings to the public. Make a chart to share what community classes, garden plots, and produce are for sale.
Activity 4 – Land for Food
Food needs spaces to grow. Grown outdoors, most homes and school grounds have room for small vegetable gardens and fruit and nut orchards. Neighborhoods often have underutilized parks perfect for a community garden. Make a diagram of different layouts of raised beds for urban gardens and then place them on an aerial map of your community. How many square feet of food fit in each bed? How many square feet of food production have you added to your community? Where could you plant fruit orchards? Where could you plant nut growing trees?
Activity 5 – Urban Farms: Beds, Hoop Houses, Rooftop, Fields, Vertical Towers
This is your chance to expand your understanding of different ways to grow food in your city. From outdoor farm fields, year-round growing greenhouses, towers of vertical farming, infill lot neighborhood farming, and flat rooftop farming, cities have multiple ways to increase agricultural production. Diagram the different growing types. Using Google Scribble Maps, transform your city into an urban area that feeds its people by locating space where year-round greenhouses and vertical farms produce and distribute locally grown food. Total the new square footage of food production you propose to add to your city.
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