Urban Agriculture

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.

Food

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 …

Urban Agriculture

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 …

Urban Agriculture

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 …

Urban Agriculture

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 …

Public school’s rooftop greenhouse teaches kids about food

At New York's P.S. 333, the Manhattan School for Children, science class takes place on the roof. A rooftop greenhouse, built in partnership with Science Barge creators New York Sun Works, houses a year-round farm where kids can learn about plant life cycles, green technology, and sustainable farming practices. This farm is seriously rad, in a way that the younger kids at the school might not even grasp. The greenhouse is chockablock with innovative solutions: rainwater catchment, wind energy, aquaponics, worm composting, solar panels, and a weather station that lets students monitor conditions in the greenhouse. By the time they …

Urban Agriculture

Peebottle Farms: Talking to plants

A friend sent Nina an urgent text message that said: “Alert! Today is a good day for planting garlic!” KK Haspel talks to the plants on her farm. She also grows astoundingly delicious vegetables and bonkers-gorgeous flowers. The connection between these facts is not something I can confirm, but I’m happy to believe there is one. Before she gave me a crash course in her brand of biodynamic farming (on the telephone) from Southold, Long Island, the other day, all I knew was that biodynamic made organic look like amateur hour and had something to do with Rudolph Steiner and …

The trouble with urban farming: What if your turkeys are cute?

Kiera Butler is not a farmer. She and her friends have been raising their Thanksgiving turkeys in a backyard for six months, but they're not accustomed to killing animals for food, and they've gotten kind of attached to the little guys. Here's Kiera's story, originally Storified by Mother Jones, about the weirdness of knowing that you've given your turkeys a much happier life than other animals raised for food, but still struggling with the fact that they've been raised as food and you're going to eat them. View the story “Six Months of Turkeys” on Storify

Urban Agriculture

Peebottle Farms: What to feed your chickens to get the best eggs?

“I have a theory, and I don’t think you’re gonna like it.” Justin was seated across from me at a communal table in a “Secret Restaurant.” We had met not half an hour before, but were now deep in discussion about what chickens should eat to produce the best-tasting eggs — an obsession of mine recently. “I think they’re carnivores,” my new friend finally revealed, with a devilish twinkle in his eyes. I was pretty positive he was wrong. I’ve been a backyard egg farmer for just a few months now, and my eggs are good, but I’m going for …

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