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Urban Farmers - Turning Wasteland to Farmland

Posted May 13 2008 12:32pm

Urban Farmers -- Turning Wasteland to FarmlandI often write about the Slow Food movement and eating simple, organic, locally grown foods. But trust me, even with our farmers’ markets, I know sometimes the organic food lifestyle is a hard sell in urban communities and for low-moderate income households. Well this story so touched me, that I had to share.

The New York Times recently featured a piece showcasing urban farmers and the movement it has become. One of the families showcased had grown up in rural Jamaica and already had farming in their blood, and were affected as many poorer areas are that struggle to find fresh produce in their areas.

What really struck me in reading this piece were the many obstacles the farmers had to overcome in order to farm in the city on land that, well, isn’t particularly farmable. City composting programs were utilized and courses on farming were taken, soil was tested and raised composting beds where built. And then what’s super beautiful is that some of the farmers also sell their produce at a farm cooperative market to local restaurants and the community.

The urban agro-businessmen and women are a varied bunch here in New York City: there are the high school students from the Red Hook section of Brooklyn; La Familia Verde in the South Bronx and the tough streets of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant area has the Bed-Stuy Farm. These urban farms are also not just in New York, but rising in other blighted urban areas where weaker real estate markets and parcels of neglected land have given neighborhoods a sense of purpose while providing much needed, fresher and healthier foods. LaDonna Desmond is leading this charge in Chicago.

Personally, this story touched me greatly. I’m involved in a charity, Concrete Safaris, that has recently won a contract to build the first composting beds in a New York City Housing Project built and run by (with adult supervision) KIDS! Engaging children early on the benefits of fresh, local foods and connecting them more intimately to the Earth and their food source is crucial and necessary.

Maybe these are our next urban farmers.

Written by: Michelle Barge

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