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.

Pho sure

Vietnamese gardeners in New Orleans offer much food for thought

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. East New Orleans is lush and crumbling. Sometimes it feels like the built environment — the convenience stores, sugar factories, distant oil refineries, houses, brick apartments, parking-lot pavement — is no different than the vegetation: all bloom and decay, the life cycle spinning in time lapse. Between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne, a lagoon inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, and about 10 miles east, Chef Menteur Highway runs for …

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 …

Plains speaking

Kansas City pioneers new models for urban farms

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …