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Urban Agriculture

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Peebottle Farms: Back to the land in Brooklyn

Plowing the urban land, you find the darndest things.Photo: Nina LalliI brag a lot about the various smells and chores generated by farm life in Bed-Stuy. But it surprises even me to hear myself go on about which hen is laying the biggest eggs or how the squash is taking over the garden. How did I go from being a single lady in a third-floor walk-up to running a farm with a guy I had known for less than a year? Considering my inclination toward rescuing filthy, abandoned street animals and my love of food, it's really a wonder it …

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New trend: Going produce shopping in abandoned gardens

Most cities these days are chock-full of foreclosed properties. Some foreclosed properties are chock-full of fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and other sources of fresh produce. That adds up to a lot of tasty plant matter going to waste -- unless people take it upon themselves to harvest food from abandoned houses, either for their own use or to distribute to shelters. That's not legal, but as a New York Times piece makes clear, that doesn't mean it's not a good idea. Voluntary foraging, where homeowners who have more produce than they can use open their gardens to people who want …

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How safe is your soil?

Cross-posted from East Bay Express. When Laura Blakeney moved into her house in West Oakland, Calif. last year, she was thrilled to have a backyard. Her young daughter loved playing in the dirt. And all that space seemed perfect for a vegetable and herb garden. What she didn't see was the danger lurking in her soil. To help get the garden started, a neighbor suggested Blakeney contact City Slicker Farms, a West Oakland nonprofit that advocates for urban agriculture and installs backyard gardens in homes throughout the Bay Area. After Blakeney called to request a garden, City Slicker visited her …

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How cities could save bees

Bee populations are struggling everywhere, but ironically they may be better off in cities than in the countryside. Why? Because rural areas have larger swathes of flowering plants when they're in season, but cities have them year-round in the form of urban parks and gardens. Prof Jane Memmott, an ecologist, believes bees in the city have a more diverse diet of pollen and nectar from all the different green spaces around homes and offices, that gardeners keep blooming all year round. By contrast bees in the countryside can be surrounded by one type of crop that is only in flower …

Read more: Food, Urban Agriculture

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How to get into urban beekeeping

This video on rooftop beekeeping in Brooklyn features Tim O'Neal, who blogs at Borough Bees and sometimes teaches Beekeeping 101. If you've been curious about putting together an urban apiary, this will give you an overview of what it's like and why it's good for the world. (Also, handy advice: "[Bees] are somewhat less chatty than a dog or a cat." The more you know!)

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Manchester turns a disused building into a vertical farm

We know that some people don't think much of the idea of urban farming, in part because it takes up space that could otherwise be used to house people more densely. But what if an urban farm was a) vertical and b) using an otherwise abandoned space? That's the plan for Alpha Farm, to be built in the Wythenshawe area of Manchester, England. It's going to be constructed in a "fairly generic disused office building," according to the team behind the project, and grow vegetables using aeroponics (which involves spraying roots with nutrient-rich mist), hydroponics (you know how that one …

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Floating hydroponic farm makes food with zero waste

Here's an urban farm we'll still be able to use when rising sea levels flood all our cities! Science Barge is a floating organic farm set aboard a barge in the Hudson river. The Science Barge crops are grown hydroponically, delivering nutrients through irrigation water -- so there's no soil, which means no waste runoff. Even the water is collected from rain barrels or from the river itself, and it can be used over and over again, so the water usage is sharply lower than on a conventional farm. Suppose you don't have a boat? Well, the recirculating hydroponic system …

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Urban gardens: The harvest is not just food, it's community

Harlem's Carver Community Garden.Photo: Sarah GoodyearI emerged from the subway at 125th St. and Lexington Ave. into the most oppressive kind of urban summer scene. Heat billowed off the asphalt and concrete. Exhaust fumes stung my eyes and throat. Car engines roared. Horns blared. The sun beat down on the thronged sidewalk. It felt like I was being pressed into the pavement. Three blocks and a few minutes later, I was listening to the wind rustle in the leaves of tall trees and watching butterflies sport among squash blossoms in a carefully tended bed of vegetables. A breeze ruffled a …

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Michigan’s gangsta gardener gets off [VIDEO]

Good news for the outlaw urban farmers everywhere: Charges have been dropped against Julie Bass, the Michigan woman facing jail time for growing a garden in her front yard. According to her blog, the case was quietly dimissed by a mysterious judge she'd never heard of. Good news, kind of, except that Bass still has to appear in court for supposedly not licensing her dogs, and the threat of gardener persecution (and prosecution) lives on elsewhere. Demand justice on Facebook, and then watch this local news report for comic relief: City planner Kevin Rulkowski's douchey quote about Webster's definition of …

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Jail time for gardening: Now officially a trend

Hey, remember the woman threatened with 93 days in jail for growing a garden in her front yard? She could have a cellmate! Dirk Becker of Lantzville, British Columbia turned his scraped-dry gravel pit of a property into a thriving organic farm, so of course he's facing six months of jail time. Why? Well, the thing is, this farm was full of DIRT. You can't have dirt in a yard! It's unsanitary.  The Beckers were cited under Lantzville's "unsightly premises" bylaw, for having piles of dirt and manure on the property. As the Beckers wryly point out, the letter came …