Breaking Through Concrete team

The Breaking Through Concrete team is taking a 21st century road trip to document the American urban farm movement, visiting 14 diverse projects that are, in distinct ways, transforming our built environments and creating jobs, training opportunities, local economies, and healthy food in our nation's biggest cities. The team is proud to have WhyHunger as a major sponsor of the tour. Who we are: David Hanson (text)-- David is a freelance journalist living in Seattle. He was the founding travel editor for Cottage Living Magazine and current Editor-at-Large for Coastal Living. Michael Hanson (photography) -- Michael shoots for The New York Times, Outside, Patagonia, Coastal Living, Budget Travel, NPR, Sunset, among others. He recently won American Photo Magazine's first prize in portraiture for his series on Ethiopia's Omo Valley tribes. Charlie Hoxie (videography) -- A documentary filmmaker and freelance multimedia journalist living in New York City, Charlie has worked on projects for PBS and the Biography Channel, as well as feature documentaries with Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney. He is currently an MA candidate in the News & Documentary program at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Center for Journalism. Edwin Marty (farming) -- Edwin is founder and executive director of Jones Valley Urban Farm, a non-profit, education and working production farm located in downtown Birmingham, AL, that has grown from a single vacant lot into a city-wide farm with 28 acres in production.

NOLA contenders

New Orleans steps up its local-food game

New Orleans has the sense of a wild laboratory, with free-wheeling discussions about food security and plenty of action. It's partly because of Katrina's ruin, but it's also just part of the culture, reports David Hanson for Feeding the City.

Asphalt-y tours

Urban farms around America are breaking through concrete and hitting sustainable paydirt [SLIDESHOW]

From mid-May through July, Grist readers followed along as the Breaking through Concrete guys hit the highway to visit a couple dozen urban farms across America. Here, they sum up their trip and share some of Michael Hanson's most indelible images from it for Grist's special series, Feeding the City.

So much better than a golf course

Prairie Crossing in Illinois: The ‘urban’ farm of the future?

Matt and Peg Sheaffer run Sandhill Organics in Prairie Crossing.(Michael Hanson) For the final stop on the Breaking Through Concrete tour, we’re gettin’ all peri-urban on y’all. It takes almost an hour to drive from downtown Chicago north on I-94 to the town of Grayslake, Ill., home of the Prairie Crossing residential development — “A Conservation Community” — and its core farm, Sandhill Organics. Though billboards, office “parks,” and standard Interstate culture dot the highway, the tall, mixed prairie grasses native to these Great Lake Plains become increasingly expansive.

Tough rows to hoe

Chicagoans get new roots and second chances from Growing Home farm

January 2011 update: Many of the photos have been removed from this series so they can be published in a Breaking Through Concrete book, forthcoming this year from UC Press. The real estate market dealt Melvin Price a double whammy. The 45-year-old builder and carpenter had been making a living in Chicago for years before he bought a house in the New City neighborhood of Chicago. It had had a fire, so he got it for $4,000, put in about $15,000 worth of repairs, and hoped to sell or rent it. An appraiser quoted the new value at $145,000. He …

Know vacancies

Farming in Detroit: Schools of chard knocks

Avram Rodgers, 6, says he and I are secret agents. He takes my hand and pulls me to the rabbit pens in the back of a fenced-in, grassy area at the Catherine Ferguson Academy farm in Detroit. A handful of ducks waddle in a little pool in the center of the enclosure. Goats chew grass in their separate pen 30 feet away, and a group of young women students build a small greenhouse 50 feet away. Avram points out an eviscerated rabbit in the thick grass and informs me that we must find its killer. The young bunny likely escaped …


Philly’s Greensgrow farm: An unconventional hybrid that works

Mary Seton Corboy sweating in her bee suit on the living roof of the Greensgrow farm’s storage trailer.(Photos ©Michael Hanson) It’s sunny and 94 degrees, and the pavement’s steaming after a thunderstorm rolled sideways through north Philly. Mary Seton Corboy wears a full-body, white bee suit. She stands atop a small trailer’s grassy roof on a vacant city lot. Smoke puffs from the antique-looking box in her hand, and the bees calm down. “We put these up here originally just for security,” she says. “Figured no one would bother the equipment with a bunch of bees around.”

Slip me a roofie

Brooklyn’s Eagle Street is poster child for urban farming

January 2011 update: Many of the photos have been removed from this series so they can be published in a Breaking Through Concrete book, forthcoming this year from UC Press. Karen Turner, 25, wants to farm 100 acres in Texas. Her family has lived on 10 acres in San Antonio since she was a child. She plans to start there with chickens, fruit trees, and vegetables, and eventually have a dairy farm. Karen Turner, a farm apprentice, wants to return to Texas to farm full-time.But today she’s in Brooklyn, NY, and she just carried a five-gallon bucket of used coffee …


DC’s Common Good City Farm: ‘Museum farm’ or real deal?

Neighbors used to avoid this area in the LeDroit Park neighborhood of Washington, DC, the site of an abandoned school, before Common Good City Farm grew there.(Photos ©Michael Hanson) “You got any more arugula?” A middle-aged man has just walked up to the street side of the chain-link fence. He peers through the gaps in the rusted metal and looks into the Common Good City Farm, where Murray Schmechel, 76, and Troy Coleman, 47, are laying irrigation tubing down rows of winter squash and hot peppers. “I don’t have any right now, but come on in and work for a …

Black belt agriculture

Keeping up with Jones Valley Urban Farm

January 2011 update: Many of the photos have been removed from this series so they can be published in a Breaking Through Concrete book, forthcoming this year from UC Press. In fall 2001, Edwin Marty and Page Allison drove across the country, back home, to start a farm. That might be when the Breaking Through Concrete idea began. Edwin and Page had been living on the West Coast, farming in Baja, Mexico, and instructing youth at Washington’s Pacific Crest Outward Bound School. The young 30-somethings belonged on the West Coast, surfing and teaching among the burgeoning, youthful tribe of educated, …

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