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MEGA slow mania

A return to the land, and fresh food, in the backyards of the Delta

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. We drive south down Route 61 (aka The Blues Highway) in Mississippi, finding Dorothy and Owen Gradey-Scarbrough after church and Sunday Supper. Dorothy and Owen stay beside Country Road 32, a half-mile and one left turn out of downtown Shelby. They live in a simple one-story ranch house with similar homes on either side. Yellow-green coco grass covers the front yards, with the greater landscape a mono-color green of soybean …

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Plains speaking

Kansas City pioneers new models for urban farms

Woman in flowing gown on farm(Michael Hanson photos)

Seven women in ankle-length floral dresses bend at the waist in rows of kale, arugula, and kohlrabi. Their hands effortlessly scoop and pick and cut the stems and pull the weeds. The low sun is already hot coming through the hazy white sky that makes the Kansas City downtown in the distance look like a mirage. Low-slung brick buildings of the Juniper Gardens public housing project line one side of this seven-acre farm. It's hard to know which is more out of place, more of a mirage: the city, the farm, the dried-out yards of the apartments, or the farmer women from Burundi, Somalia, Burma, Bhutan, or Sudan.

The Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas City started the city's Farm Business Development Program in 2006. The area sees many refugees from Africa and Asia, and some of the women receive classes and support at the Catholic Charities center.

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DUG it

Denver busts urban farming’s yuppie stereotype

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. When we were still in Seattle, preparing for this project, a few friends asked if this was a tour of 'yuppie urban farm projects.' Isn't that who participates in the urban farm? they generalized. I will now suggest that they take a few laps on their fixed-gear bikes through Denver. This year, the nonprofit Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) will support the construction of its 100th community garden. We only had …

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Grease lightening

Leaving biodiesel Shangri-La for a farm amidst suburbia

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. By David Hanson A grease bus breaking down in Berkeley is like having a Mac glitch at Steve Jobs' house during the Apple Chirstmas party. Within a few hours of Lewis refusing to start, the small world of urban farmers and veggie diesel mechanics swung wide open. Kurt Williams, mechanic from Oakland, resuscitates Lewis.Craig Reece arrived first on the scene, via cell phone. Craig runs PlantDrive.com,* a vegetable grease store …

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Weed it and reap

Homeless learn to farm in Santa Cruz

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 day began in the parking lot of a real estate office off Hwy 17 south of San Jose. We parked Lewis Lewis there after the long drive from Medford, OR. Sleeping at a gentle downslope angle, we hoped not to hear the window tap and see the bright white light of a California Highway Patrol officer's mag light telling us we can't overnight park here. But there were no …

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Fry power

Breaking Through Concrete: Day 1 — Seattle to Talent, Ore.

The Breaking Through Concrete bus on the way to Oregon.(Michael Hanson photos)   Breaking Through Concrete team(Michael Hanson)The Breaking Through Concrete team -- David Hanson, Michael Hanson, Charles Hoxie, and Edwin Marty -- is taking a 21st century road trip to document the American urban farm movement. Driving across the country and back in a biodiesel-fueled, Internet-enabled short bus they've nicknamed Lewis Lewis, they'll visit 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. Along the way, David will post stories for …

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