Tag 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

I thought it would be interesting to post my weekly CSA e-mails each week.   The farm is on week 2 so you missed week #1, but no big deal.

I’ve been accused lately of becoming a “real” farmer.  Apparently I’m complaining about the weather and I’m not happy if it’s too hot or too cold.  Looking back at my e-mails, that appears to be true.  I guess I’m a bit like Goldilocks in that regard.  I like the weather just right!

On to this week’s produce.  I’m confident that we’ll have lettuce, radishes and more herbs for you this week.  Make sure not to get any lettuce at the store (or any of our fine farmer’s markets) because you’ll probably get a few heads, and they are larger than last week.  On top of that we should have cilantro, oregano and chives again.  It appears that we will also have garlic scapes and lovage.  We’ll have a write up in the newsletter about lovage, but it’s a bushy herb that gives your food a celery like flavor and best of all, it doesn’t require any attention after you plant it.  It grows year after year after year!  (News story about lovage from Mother Earth News)
There is an outside chance that there will be some small onions and beets ready.  While we wait patiently for our crops to come in I try to remember how difficult it must have been 100 years ago to make it through this period.  You’ve made it through a rough cold winter and planted your seeds.  Now you have to wait while they grow while you eat whatever you still have from the previous year.  If my little house on the prairie reading is to be believed, at this time of the year you are only eating flour and what your father hunts or traps.  In Native American culture they called this the starving time because your stores have run low but nothing is growing yet..  In many ways it can be the most difficult time of the year as the world all around you turns green, yet there may not necessarily be anything to eat.  At least in this time of plenty we can go to the store or live off food we stored from the previous summer’s bounty, not something that they could do in the past.  Right now is the time I think to the late summer when all the tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cucumbers and squash we’ve planted will pay off.  In a world like ours, where everything is available to us instantly, Mother Nature still does her thing at her own pace.  Those of us who have a hard time with it, just need to accept that (myself included), though I’ll complain about it plenty along the way.
We’ll see you on Wednesday.  We’ll be set up in the tool library again.

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