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Entries in urban farming (13)


Thrift Shop song parody, by young urban gardeners in Paterson, NJ

I apologize in advance. I have a constant loop of "I grew these tomatoes. They taste incredible. Look how the salsa flows. From my garden down the road." in my head, and soon, you will too.

Take a look at this great video of what some teens grew this summer in the City Green summer program to promote healthy eating in urban areas. And great job on the chorus, you crazy kids.


High School Senior blogs as she learns and writes about food, urban ag, and permaculture

I got a lovely note from a reader today. It was from a high school senior in Cleveland whose interests mirror my own: journalism, food and urban agriculture. She sent me a note about my book and how it is inspiring it was to her. That makes me feel pretty good, I must say.

That said, I find her current project totally interesting. Chloé has just begun a three-week senior project which will have her writing about her experiences at Rid-All Green Partnership, an urban farm in Cleveland. Check out her blog here, and follow along. I will be reading. Thanks Chloé for spreading the word about Rid-All.




Meet Your Urban Farmer: Curtis Stone, Green City Acres, Kelowna

Curtis Stone, owner / urban farmer at his Green City Acres, is a very successful urban farmer in Kelowna, British Columbia. He's defied the critics ("you can't farm in cities and make money!) and is now in his third year of urban farming on borrowed residential front and back yards in downtown Kelowna.

I met him in his very first year of SPIN farming in downtown Kelowna (the interview is in the "Vancouver" chapter of the book). Since then, he's become an in-demand speaker with his SPIN farming seminars, and even as a TED talk speaker.

Here's a brand new video featuring Curtis. It's part of the excellent "Meet Your Urban Farmer" -- a short film series that introduces us to 18 urban farmers in and around the metro Vancouver area by Fire and Light Media Group.

Meet your Urban Farmer - Green City Acres (extended version) from Fire and Light Media Group on Vimeo.


Urban Ag Dispatch from London: Farming a Building in Hackney

(My friend Craille lives in Hackney, a neighbourhood in London. She's an accomplished and smart writer working on a big, cool writing project on geographic promiscuity and the pathological need to travel, The Modern Nomad. On her way to her office, she passes by an urban farm/ing shop and has sent me photos from time to time. This past weekend, she attended a workshop on urban agriculture this past weekend and is guest blogging for me about it. I LOVE having foreign correspondents on!)

By Craille Maguire Gillies

photo: Craille Maguire Gillies

On a recent sweltering Sunday in London, one of few in the UK this year, I visited KXFS, or King’s Cross Filling Station, on the edge of Regent’s Canal. KXFS is a one-time petrol station that has been converted to a restaurant (Shrimpy’s) and a pizza bar.

The weekend I visited, a stage, seating and a large screen had been set up to host a small festival devoted to all things science. I was there to hear a talk about urban agriculture by artist Andrew Merritt, one third of the London’s creative studio Something & Son. They’ve worked with the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Council, and the London Architecture Festival. They’re also the folks behind FARM:shop, a retail store and urban farm housing in a former women’s refuge in East London. Through the windows you can see hydroponic greens and basil and when I’ve wandered by I’ve always been curious about what goes on inside. A bearded, T-shirt-clad Merritt came to super/collider’s festival at KXFS to fill us in.

Image from tagline adopted by FARM:shop, which opened in 2011, is “growing as much as we can in a shop in Hackney, London.” Specifically, they renovated a four-storey building, including the basement. “We wanted to farm the whole building,” Merritt told us. That means chickens on the roof where London’s foxes can’t catch them, a wall of hydroponic basil, tanks with 40 tilapia, a freshwater fish (great because they reproduce in tight spaces and are highly immune to disease), and mushrooms. A ground-floor café and co-working desk space bring in extra cash.

The goal has been to not only experiment with how much space you need to create a sustainable urban farm (Merritt estimates 2,000-square-metre), but also to involve the community in the venture and raise consciousness around food in the city. Though they try to be as efficient as possible, the true goal, says Merritt, is “to show the realities of where your food is coming from.” Something & Son describes itself as an eco-social design studio, and many of its projects, such as a new affordable bathouse/spa in the suburb of Barking, are as much social projects as art projects.

There’s another goal at FARM:shop. It opened thanks to an arts grant (which can be a great way to fund social and eco projects, says Merritt); now it employs two people. That means that Something & Son is thinking not only about the best way to, say, kill aphids (parasitic wasps seem to do the trick), but also to make community projects like FARM:shop or the Barking Bathhouse sustainable businesses. “We need to balance the commercial side [of urban agriculture], which New York City does really well with the local growing side, which London does really well,” Merritt said as smoke from the pizza oven curled upward.

The roof over the former filling station protected us from a brief bout of thunder and lighting. A barge floated down Regent’s Canal as Merritt spoke, and we were surrounded by concrete and cranes and buildings. Slowly, as funding comes along, Something & Son is rolling out satellite projects around the city and it plans to bring FARM:shops to in-between spaces throughout the UK. Looking up at the brick buildings on the other side of the canal, just sitting empty, it was easy to imagine how, when it comes to urban ag in London, the sky’s the limit.

Andrew Merritt talks urban ag at the Super/Collider festival Aug 17-19, 2012Photo: Craille Maguire Gillies Andrew Merritt, FARM:shop talks urban farming at the Super/Collider festival London, Aug 17-19, 2012. Photo: Craille Maguire Gillies


Urban Agriculture Summit in Toronto, Canada Aug 15-18, 2012

I'm very pleased to be a speaker at the up-coming Urban Agriculture Summit in Toronto. This is a major urbanag confererence in a city that has been at the forefront of fostering and using urban agriculture to build and rebuild healthy communities for a couple of decades.


There will be 75+ presentations from urban ag experts from Canada, the US and beyond. Will Allen, founder of Growing Power Inc. and author of The Good Food Revolution, is one of the major keynotes at this conference. Plus workshops and hands-on field trips galore pre- and post-summit.

I will be presenting my slideshow and talk on the history of urban farming in Paris in the mid-1800s and London (UK) today in 2012 in the session on Thursday morning, from 10:30 to noon.

Best Practices from Chicago Paris, London and New York
 A Tale of Two Edible Cities: 19th-century Paris and London 2012
Presenter: Jennifer Cockrall-King, Author of Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution (Prometheus Books, 2012), Independent food writer
Healthy Food Chicago
Presenter: Bradley Roback, Coordinator of Economic Development, City of Chicago
Innovative Urban Agriculture Policy: Lessons from New York City
Presenter: Nevin Cohen, Assistant Professor, The New School
Moderator: Andrea Winkler, Registered Professional Planner, Urban Strategies Inc

Here is the Urban Agriculture Summit's site with detailed program information as well as registration costs and forms.

Drop me a line if you will be there.