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Urban Agriculture


New Agtivist: Adam Berman, faith-based urban farmer

Adam Berman at his Berkeley farm.

Urban Adamah, a one-acre urban farm on a vacant lot in a gritty stretch of Berkeley, has transformed an area better known for liquor stores and light industry into a thriving community gathering space and food hub.

Adam Berman founded the farm in the summer of 2010 with just such lofty goals. Urban Adamah (for the Hebrew word for "earth") offers a fellowship program for young adults, dubbed The Jewish Sustainability Corps, that integrates organic farming, social justice outreach, leadership training, environmental education, and progressive Jewish spiritual practice. There's yoga, meditation, and singing too.

Berman, who directed a Jewish retreat center where he founded a similar fellowship in Connecticut before relocating to Berkeley, got a lucky break when landowner Wareham Development agreed to host the farm rent-free for two years. Hence, the portable feel to the project: The farm has dozens of raised, movable produce pallets, greenhouses, a cob oven, chicken coops on wheels, and large tents that serve as classrooms. Everything on the property could be transported with relative ease, if a new location proves necessary. Raised beds filled with fresh, organic soil also solves the problem of contaminated soil on the property, a former printing press site.


Bike-a-Bee does beekeeping by bike

Jana Kinsman's startup Bike-a-Bee will be a distributed network of beehives in the Chicago area -- Kinsman will hook up local urban farms and gardens with bees, which will help pollinate the plants while also producing honey. (Greenspaces that host a beehive get a share of the honey profits.) Meanwhile, Kinsman will care for the bees by riding from hive to hive on her bike. Urban gardens, beekeeping, biking ... who says Chicago isn't basically Portland?


Lexicon of Sustainability: Food sovereignty

Editor’s note: This is the second in a weekly installment of images from Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard-Gayeton’s Lexicon of Sustainability. We’ll be running one image every Friday this winter, so stay tuned. If you have your own sustainability terms, you can add them yourself to the Lexicon of Sustainability.

Click for a larger version.


Urban farming essentials: Authors of a new, definitive guide tell all

After Novella Carpenter’s critically acclaimed memoir Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer came out, she and friend Willow Rosenthal, the founder of West Oakland gardening nonprofit City Slicker Farms, started talking about compiling a manual on urban gardening. “We always got these random emails like, ‘My chickens aren’t laying anymore!’” says Carpenter. So she and Rosenthal joked that they should write a book so they could reply: “Buy the book!” Three years later, they can. Their new book, The Essential Urban Farmer, is a 500-page nuts-and-bolts guide to farming in the city -- complete with sample garden designs, …

Read more: Food, Urban Agriculture


How to start urban composting in your building

Dirt is great stuff: You can grow things in it, which means that in the future when the only thing left is climate change, zombies, and Terminators designed to look like Kardashians, it will be a kind of wealth. So you should probably be hoarding it like a Ron Paul fanboy hoards gold. The cool thing is that, unlike gold, you can produce your own dirt -- even if you live in a city.


Guerilla Grafters make ornamental plants bear fruit

Duck and cover, it's a drive-by fruiting! Guerilla Grafters stick fruit-bearing limbs onto San Francisco's ornamental trees, making city streets into food-producing mini-orchards. (Grafting has been standard practice with fruit trees since basically forever, so there's nothing Frankenfoody about this.) It's not technically legal -- the city discourages planting fruit trees, because of worries that fruit will attract vermin. So Guerilla Grafters makes sure that each grafted tree has a steward who looks after it.


Oh, SNAP! Grow gardens with food stamps

A few years ago, back when she still had a job in the natural-foods industry, "my kids only got the best in terms of food," said Corbyn Hightower, a mother of three who now lives outside Sacramento. Then, she said, "we lost everything, and we really started having to compromise." Hightower signed up for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. When she looked through the information pamphlet she received, she found out that SNAP benefits can be used to buy seeds and plants, not just food. So she went to Whole Foods, bought some seeds, and …


New Agtivist: Edith Floyd is making a Detroit urban farm, empty lot by empty lot

Photo: Patrick CrouchEdith Floyd is the real deal. With little in the way of funding or organizational infrastructure, she runs Growing Joy Community Garden on the northeast side of Detroit. Not many folks bother to venture out to her neighborhood, but Edith has been inspiring me for years. I caught up with her on a cold, rainy November afternoon. While we talked in the dining room, her husband Henry watched their grandkids. Q. You haven't always been an urban farmer. What did you do before this? A. I worked at Detroit Public Schools. I started out with the Head Start …


Talking vertical farms: An interview with Dickson Despommier

Your classic vertical farm rendering. Rendering: Blake KurasekIf you haven't seen the slickly rendered architectural models of farms growing in skyscapers, you probably live under a rock. When I first I saw one -- this was a few years back, they've been making their way around the internet for years -- I got a little tingly. Had the clean, green future of food really arrived? Since then, I've come to wonder about how realistic these models are, how likely it is that we'll ever really move farming out of rural areas and into skyscrapers, and whether it'd really be any …


Baltimore’s can-do approach to food justice

Beehives from Five Seed Farm and Apiary, one of the farms expected to begin production on Baltimore city land in 2012. Photo: Courtesy of Five Seed Farm and ApiaryCities all over the country are addressing the lack of access to fresh and healthy food on the part of their residents, but few are in as much of a bind as Baltimore. Like Detroit, and other cities known for their class and race disparity, Baltimore has been losing population and gaining vacant land at a fast pace in recent decades. The result is vast swaths of neighborhoods located far from grocery …