Category Archives: Groovy Green

Urban farming, the new way to handle unemployment?

Depending on which figures you choose to use, unemployment in America is approaching 20%, a figure that is quite remarkable.  Fully 1/5 of the people in America who could be working are not currently working.  I think urban farming could be this generation’s way to handle unemployment, sort of like a 2011 version of the CCC.

Urban Farm in Chicago

When you are willing to trade your labor for less space and less machinery you can create an amazing income from a small land base.  SPIN farming is a method developed by a farming couple in Canada when they realized that they could make more money by growing intensively on less land if they grew the right crops at the right times.

They have a farm income calculator on their site that suggests that a farmer with 1/2 an acre can generate $24,000 in gross sales on the low end up to $72,000 on the high end.  I think this is doable as well, but it does require a bit more marketing and growing of high value crops.  We use a CSA model for our urban farm and I don’t think that will get us to those dollar figures because a CSA model is similar to a bulk food model vs. a model where you would grow exclusively high value crops like exotic green, radishes or beets for restaurants.

While the situation in Detroit is well known, the situation in other cities regarding vacant land is less well known.  The Brookings Institute has placed the vacant land in Detroit at around 1/3 of the city area, of 40 sq miles.  I saw a

Urban Farm in Cuba

different article that put the vacant space in the average city at around 14%.  It’s higher in the south (around 19%) and lower in the Northeast (around 9%), but 14% of the space still works out to a pretty good chunk of area.  According to this article about Pittsburgh the size of the 10 largest cities in America is 340 sq miles, with Pittsburgh coming in at 56 sq miles.

Using those figures we can put the vacant land size at 5.6 sq miles in Pittsburgh or 34 sq miles for the average city in the Top 10 of America.  (Stay with me on the math here people)  So if you take the top 10 of our largest cities they would represent 21,760 acres of vacant space per city (640 acres per sq miles * 34 sq miles).  That would work out to 210,760 acres across those 10 cities.

Now, let’s attack Pittsburgh.  This article about Pittsburgh puts this city as the  56th largest city in America.  (this ranking is based on population size not land area)  I’m going to assume that the next 50 largest cities are all Pittsburgh’s size.  (I know this is crazy but I have to make some assumptions to make this work)  56*10% =5.6 sq miles per city * 50 cities = 280 sq miles.

640 acres per miles * 280 sq miles = 179,200 acres.

So, between these two figures we have 389,960 acres of land.  (Let’s make it 390,000 to make things easy)  If you use the figures that SPIN farming provides that means we could potentially create 780,000 new jobs by encouraging urban farming on this vacant land.

The most recent figure I have seen on unemployment puts the total number at 13.7 million people.  (I think is what the government calls unemployed which is not the number of people who are looking for job and quit, those who are no longer getting benefits and aren’t counted, and other factors).  By turning the vacant land in these top 60 cities into urban  farms we could lower the amount of unemployed in America by just under 6%, and would put the total number under 13 million.

A quick Google search puts the number of cities in America at around 25,000.  I have discussed the top 60 size wise here.  If we can assume for a minute that each one of those cities could support 1.5 sq miles of vacant then each city in America could, in theory, support 3 urban farms.  25,000*3 would be another 75,000 potential positions.

Now, I guess this wouldn’t completely take care of our unemployment problem given that it would “only” create around 860,000 new jobs.  It’s interesting though that an initiative like this would make urban farming the 2nd largest employer in America after only the behemoth Wal-Mart.  It’s interesting to think of all the job creation initiatives that are in place to help corporations create jobs and this one initiative could create the same amount of jobs as two new McDonald’s corporations.

Rooftop farming

That is a lot of jobs.  And this just vacant land.  It doesn’t include potential farmland in sprawling suburban campus’ or on rooftops in the city.  I’m going to toss out that an initiative that included those elements would easily produce just as many jobs.  Now you are looking at 1.8million jobs which would, by itself, lower unemployment by 13%, assuming that each farmer doesn’t ever hire any workers or that ancillary industries aren’t created off of this initiative.

Interesting though isn’t it?

Picture 1 courtesy of Cut and Fill

Picture 2 courtesy of  

Picture 3 courtesy of Treehugger 

This post cross posted at Groovy Green.


A couple plugs

Beo has an interesting post up about how some people can afford all the crazy luxury items they’ve been buying.  It makes sense to me, and finally answers that question for me.

I’m going to plug a story of mine at GG too.   I want people to move over and vote in a poll I linked to.   While you’re voting, vote for the new GG layout and let us know what you think.  There’s a poll in the right hand side bar.

Tuesday roundup

I like doing this roundup thing so you can expect to see it more often. A lot of my topics don’t merit a post on their own, but in something like this they are OK.

The busy task of collecting leaves for the garden has already started. While I won’t be competing to collect leaves like last year, I will be collecting as many as I can. The garden ended up being quite successful this summer. Between it and the market our basement is packed with things to eat this winter. I’m still putting together a lessons learned about this past summer.

The conference was great. I’ll have some thoughts up soon about it when I collect them all. Right now I’m floating all over the place trying to figure out what my plan should be in the future. The conference was held in Yellow Spring, OH, which is a great little town. They had some great restaurants and everyone there was really into the environment and being concious of their impact on the earth. Great environment to be in, and tons of great stimulation and conversation.

A few things I am going to work on over the next few months are window insulators, insulation for our walls and sill plates as well as working to seal up all the air leaks in our house. This winter I also have plans to build a trellis outside to help shade our front south facing windows and who knows what else.

I have some cider hardening on our table and it’s starting to look all cloudy and kind of funky. I’m not sure if it’s any good anymore. If you’re reading this Wendy I wouldn’t mind having some input, or anyone else. 10-30-07-014.jpg

When in Yellow Springs I met some online people for the first time. I met Steve, Aaron, E4 and Sharon, among others. Aaron brought gifts. He brought up a luffa for us to have and also this mix cd cleverly title “The world peaked in oil production and all I got was this damn cd”.

We had a new shower installed recently. It’s a ReBath system. I highly recommend it. It’s very nice. Our previous shower was tile and had that standard problem where water got behind it and then the walls started to crack and buckle.

That’s all for now.


How you doin’?

Where’s Fatty?

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I’ve been busy

I’ve been a busy boy putting stuff up over at Groovy Green.  Make sure you check it out over there.

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Detroit trip

I was out of hat at the end of the week of June 7th because I had a quick trip to Detroit that Weds night.  And then, as they say, hilarity ensued and it proceeded to mess up what little excess time I had the rest of the week.

I went to Detroit to observe the end of the Challenge X competition.  (You can see that write up soon on Groovy Green)  But this post is about my personal thoughts on the trip.

I was a little scared because I hadn’t heard a lot of good things about Detroit, and I was staying downtown.  But it was actually pretty darn nice.  I stayed at the Renaissance Center and it was close to a lot of interesting things downtown.  Detroit has a nice little rocking downtown area, although all the locals complained about it how lame it was.  I guess they should come hang out in Iowa for a while.

I ate dinner Weds night at Sweetwater Tavern.  It was fantastic.  If you ever get a chance to eat there do it.  Especially have the chicken wings.  The service left quite a bit to be desired, but when the food is this good I can put up with bad service…And I have no idea what the hummer is that they are world famous for, according to the article.  I didn’t see any mention of it on the menu…

Thursday was mostly taken up with Challenge X events but I did get to ride the Monorail around the city a little.  It goes in a circle from the Renaissance Center so it’s not really a mass transit thing.  But maybe they’ll get it expanded someday.  According to the locals the only mass transit they have is a bus service, which is not really much for a city that size.

I did notice a lot of vacant, decaying buildings in the city and along the highways to and from the airport.  I guess that’s a result of the slow death of the city from the heydays of American car making.  I’ve never seen a more evident example of urban sprawl than Detroit actually.  There is so much developable land close to the heart of the city, but it would require a teardown, so developers stack things up on virgin land around the outside of the city.  It’s too bad really.  By the time people are ready to compress the city I’m not sure we’ll have the capacity to tear these bygone remnants down.

The flight home was murderous.  I hate to even talk about it.  But with the nasty weather that came through the Midwest that Thursday night I had a hard time getting home.  I know better than to take the last flight into a city, especially CR, since it is so small.  But I wanted to stay as long as I could in Detroit, so I did it.  So I was to fly from Detroit to Minneapolis and then to CR.  Only they had Minneapolis mostly shut down because of tornados and such.  So I ended up spending most the night in Detroit.  (Wish I had known so I could have stayed longer at the nice dinner we were having.)  We finally left for Minneapolis at 11:20 (originally 8:20 departure), which was the time I was to be home in CR originally.  We got to Minneapolis around 12:20 (we’re on Central now) or so.  Northwest did hook me up with a hotel and a shuttle to the hotel.  Except the hotel is on the other side of Minneapolis from the airport.  So a 30 minute van ride ensued (with 9 other stranded riders cram in the van).  We finally got to the hotel at about 2.  Of course I was so exhausted I couldn’t sleep so I fell asleep about 3 and I was up at 4:45 to shower and catch a 5:30 shuttle to the airport for my 7:00 flight.

Why don’t airports just have locker rooms like a gym?  I would have been happy to stay on a mat at the airport for the little extra sleep and then just shower there.  They could have saved a fortune on me by doing that.  The only reason I went to the hotel was to get the shower.

I couldn’t see much of Minneapolis, but it looked nice, even I was just along the highway. 

Gina–if you read this I waved as I went by on the highway, although I have no idea where you live there.

Northwest did give me a $5 voucher to cover breakfast the next morning, which is nice, but then I had to eat the food at the airport.  Ugg.  And then I forgot to redeem my voucher for a complimentary item for my trouble.  Whatever that item is.  Guess I’ll never know.

Then after I got back I went home to change clothes, came to work, worked most of the day, even though it was employee appreciation day, and then participated in events in the afternoon.  Signed papers for a refinance, came back to work for dinner, drank a few beers, ate some food and then skipped out to go see Wild Hogs.  (Funny movie)  

I didn’t have any trouble falling asleep when we got home. 

I guess that wasn’t all about Detroit but it made for an interesting end of the week.

I’ve been a busy boy

Lately I’ve had quite a bit of stuff published up at Groovy Green.  Here are a few links.

Book review

Interesting stories.

Local recipe week 2

Eco Friendly hangers. 

Way awesome challenge going on.