Category Archives: Urban Farming

Ted conference presentation about Urban Farming in LA

Check out this video of a unique service in LA that farms backyards for people who want the fresh food but don’t want to do the work.  I’ve also heard of SPIN farming people doing this same thing in some other places.


This seems like a rather short term project, not unlike paying for landscaping maintenance.  It can last while people can afford to pay for it but when money or if money gets tight they’ll have to cut this back and then actually do the work themselves so they can still have the food.  Good interim step though between now and then.

Farmscape website

Via City Farmer






Urban Farming videos

Another video about being a Greenhorn.  Very inspiring video.  Coe College will be showing this full movie at 3PM on Nov 5th at a film festival.  I’ll be speaking at a panel following the movie about being a greenhorn.

From: Cold Antler Farm

I guess I’m a hipster?  Funny, I don’t feel like a hipster.  Check here.





Urban Agriculture update

If you are on Facebook with me you’ll have already seen these, but I wanted to share them anyway.  One of the big initiatives I’ve been working on over the past year or so is a plan with the city to turn some of our vacant abandoned home sites into an urban farm.  It’s finally coming to fruition.  Almost.  🙂

The ordinance modification necessary to allow Urban Agriculture passed it’s first reading.  Our development proposal also passed so we can now begin talking with city staff to work out an agreement to gain access to some land to we can start farming.

I’m going to post more information as it becomes available.  I’d like to post a link to our Urban Ag ordinance so other places can look at it as an example as well as our development plan which I think is top notch (and the city staff members have told us that as well).  If or when I can find them I’ll post them up here so ya’ll can see them.

KCRG TV story featuring an interview with me

Gazette Online story discussing these developments.

Slideshow with pictures from the farm

I’ve created a slideshow on the urban farm book page if you would like to see some pictures of the farm we created through this summer.  It was a ton of hard work form dedicated Americorp VISTA members as well as local volunteers and youth on mission trips.  So far it has been a great success.

Now that the summer is slowing I think I’ll be up for more writing.  Watch out, I’ve got some stuff saved up!

Farm update-Week 3

I’m a little tardy this week sending out your weekly e-mail.  I’m sorry about that. Things are still a little light coming out of the farm space.  This week I expect you’ll have some lettuce, radishes and potatoes.  The potatoes will be very fresh and will surprise you if you haven’t had a garden fresh potato before.  My favorite fresh potato recipe is below.  If you are conscious of your heart you might want to take a pass.  But if you like butter read on:

Gently boil the potatoes until they are cooked but still firm.  Place them into a large bowl with a good helping of butter and salt.  Add some dried parsley (fresh would be OK too) and swirl the potatoes around until they are completely coated.  Serve while still warm.

With farm fresh produce simple preparation is the key so you can enjoy the fresh taste.

Starting tomorrow we will be having a lot of youth involved at the farm space helping us weed, plant and tend plants, as well as do some building.  We are planning to add some nice outdoor spaces to the farm location.  Perhaps later this summer we can have a get together there and enjoy it!  In early July we will also have kids from the Matthew 25 summer meals program begin work, as well as summer daycare kids from St James United Methodist Church.  This is all part of the mission that you support with your involvement.  Not only do you get produce but you help us train the next generation of farmers and gardeners, as well as teaching them how they can provide for their own families.

My constant worry right now is the amount of produce that we’re producing.  Right now we are quite low (lower than I expected even) but I’m confident that later this summer we’ll make up for it.  My counting this week shows better than 15 cucumber plants.  (If you know cukes you know how much even one can produce)  We have in excess of 40 summer squash plants, over 20 pepper plants and rows and rows of green beans, not to mention the 70 or so broccoli plants that are in the ground and the 200+ onions.  I know the produce is coming, but it’s all later season items.  We’ll keep on top of them and keep all the spaces full and planted and I can make a promise to you that we will keep cranking out the produce until October comes.

We have some garden and food related events planned in July.  On July 9th the Tool Library is hosting a worm composting class so you can learn how to compost at home using worms, and you can even see our worm composter in action!  On July 30th the ISU extension office will host a preservation 101 class at Groundswell.  This class will cover basics and focus more on freezing items than canning.  Stay tuned for more information about them and let us know if you have any questions.  We would be happy to answer them.


Comment on Urban Farm post

Groovy Green elicited a comment on my Urban Farm post that I thought I would share here as I found it interesting.  The comment below was from Joseph:

It’s a nice idea. I would love to see some real, actual effort put into how this could work, because there are a lot of unanswered questions, like: How are unemployed people who can’t even pay their bills, like me, supposed to purchase land? Unless you’re assuming a city government that can’t even pay its backlogged bills is supposed to purchase the land, and in that case, where would that money come from — taxpayers, most likely? Or is this only city-owned, vacant land? Who will clear all of the zoning laws, and pay for all of the permits and property taxes? How will we know what to grow? And if we somehow knew what to grow, how are unemployed people who have no farming background supposed to know what to do? And who is going to find, market to and sell to these mysterious customers, such as restaurants or produce wholesalers? Are municipalities supposed to purchase and convert the acreage, and then hire the unemployed to farm it? And if so, what’s that going to pay beyond minimum wage? And most of all, why would you suggest farming as a possible solution, given that farming is one of the riskiest endeavors in the world — highly dependent on weather/nature and environmental events? It’s good to have your head in the clouds, as long as you have two feet on the ground. Right now, you’re floating.

My response is below:

Hi Joseph-

Thanks for the comment!  There are certainly unanswered questions, but not any that I think are insurmountable.  The reason I think this is possible is because I’m doing it.  Right now.  This summer, in a city, on a small plot of about 1/2 an acre.  Is it hard?  Hell yes it is!  But it’s challenging and fun like any other endeavor.  And I didn’t know anything about farming but I asked around, found some mentors, read some books and started doing it.

Re: farming being a tough business.  You are right.  I think a lot of the problems are mitigated though by practicing it on a small scale.  Weather and nature become easier to overcome when you have an acre to manage instead of 100.  Its easier to water something that size, keep weeds at bay, etc when it’s smaller.

How do you get the land?  Be creative.  I’m borrowing land from a church and a local organization that has abandoned the building after a devastating flood ruined it.  What do I offer them?  I take care of the property so it’s kept up and I teach the kids who go to the church’s daycare about farming/gardening and share some food with them so they can taste fresh food.   The key is to not find ways you CAN’T do it but find ways that you CAN.

For example, in my city we are working on acquiring more land to expand our farm.  How did we do that?  We analyzed the situation to figure out how to solve multiple problems for people around us.  Our city has plenty of devastated properties so we have offered to take over the care of them so they won’t be eye sores (lots where houses have been torn down), put them back on the tax rolls for the city (because we will own them we will pay taxes on them again vs. the city owning them), create a job creation engine in the local economy (small farms require labor) and do it with no more support from the local government than them giving us the land to use, which it can’t be built on because it’s in a flood plain anyway.  It’s a win for us, a win for the city and a win for the neighbors on these properties.  Heck, it’s even a win for our customers because we are in the city, thus easier for them to get to and also a win because we are offering half priced shares for low income people who need the help.

What other options might someone have?

If there is a vacant lot around you find the owner.  Offer to take care of it for them in exchange for free use.  If they don’t like that offer to rent it for a small fee.  If they want to0 much move on.  Maybe you can find a local corporate office that has a huge swath of land.  You could offer to farm part of it in exchange for taking care of it for them for free (ie, mowing it for them)  Thus you would trade your time for their land.  They save the cost of upkeep on the whole thing and you get part of it to grow food on.  Not to mention the ready group of customers you have at your doorstep as they leave the office on Fridays and you have a tent set up to sell them produce.  I treat a lot of this like a normal business transaction.  If you can make it a win-win for all parties you’ll usually get the job done.

Some of this is covered in a book I wrote about how to start an Urban Farm.
You should check it out.  The big key is your attitude and your desire to do something.  All the things you mention can be overcome and, in fact have been by many people already operating urban farms.  You just have to want to do it and then move forward not letting people throw up roadblocks.

Do any of you readers have any thoughts you would like to add?  Add them here or bounce over to the GG site and comment on the article there.

This is why we have an urban farm



Watch this video.  This is why we operate an urban farm.  We’re not there yet, but we will be soon.

Courtesy of Civil Eats