Archive for the ‘urban homestead’ Category

the techie perspective on urban farming

August 27, 2008

It seems to be on everyone’s radar — I’m talkin’ ’bout urban farming. It’s not just for citybillies. Even techies want their veggies homegrown, off the CO2-spewing agricultural grid, so to speak. Here’s the cool tech perspective from Wired:

Innovations from NASA and garage tinkerers have made food-growing radically more efficient and compact than the victory gardens of yore. “Aeroponics” planters grow vegetables using mist, slashing water requirements; hackers are building home-suitable “aquaponics” rigs that use fish to create a cradle-to-grave ecosystem, generating its own fertilizer (and delicious tilapia, too). Experts have found that cultivating a mere half-acre of urban land with such techniques can yield more than $50,000 worth of crops annually.

Read the full article here.

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the urban homestead, revisited

August 25, 2008

[Image: Just Food]

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about urban homesteading. While catching up on my back issues of Treehugger emails, I came across this post about the very same subject. In Oakland, California, they’ve got a place to educate wannabe ‘steaders aptly named the Institute for Urban Homesteading.

In their words:

The Institute of Urban Homesteading is a response to current interest in food security, localization and self-determination, We are riding the wave of a massive global movement to change our relationship to food and resources.

Well, sign me up! Oh wait, I live in NYC and don’t have a patch of dirt to dig in. Just a minor problem.

[Institute for Urban Homesteading via Treehugger]

Related posts:
Urban Homesteading: Part 1
Urban Homesteading: Part 2
Urban Homesteading: Part 3

urban homesteading: part 3

August 17, 2008

The third part in a series of urban farmers. Read part 1 and part 2.

A bunch of people, London, England
While not as hardcore as the urban homesteads featured in parts 1 and 2, city farming is taking root (excuse the bad pun) in places like London with regular folks playing the role of farmer. Thanks to Food Up Front, the smallest of plots — gardens, balconies, windowsills — are being converted into growing grounds for edibles.

What this non-profit group is proving is that anyone, just about anywhere, can grow their own food. Food Up Front provides novice urban farmers with tools, education, and a network of other growers with whom to trade produce. According to their site, new members receive:

  • Starter Kit: a container, locally produced, peat-free compost, and some organic salad and herb seeds (2 types from a choice of 4)
  • Basic Planting and Harvesting Guide
  • Advice and support from a Food Up Front Street Rep: a volunteer who is local to your area.
  • Details of Food Up Front gatherings and workshops, enabling you to meet other members and develop your food growing knowledge
  • The opportunity to share and grow food with your neighbours and people in your surrounding area
  • Access to the Food Up Front members online forum at Project Dirt

The urban farming movement not only helps people provide for themselves, it encourages community interaction. One of the smart things about Food Up Front is that they favor planting food in the front garden (it’s right there in their name) as opposed to behind the house in a backyard. The reasons for this are many:

  • More often than not front gardens are dead space
  • It is a modern day trend to pave over front gardens, or lay slate or stones down. This reduction in vegetation can lead to heat island effect, making urban areas warmer at night
  • It helps to encourage people to get to know their neighbours – there’s more chance of sharing a conversation with someone in the front garden compared to the back garden
  • In some cases the front garden could be better suited to food growing due to its position
  • It also allows a neighbour or friend to water your plants while you are on holiday, without the need for a key

Read more about Food Up Front.

Watch a video about the urban food growing network.

[Image source: Food Up Front]

urban homesteading: part 2

August 13, 2008

The second part in a series of city farmers. Read part 1.

The Dervaes Family, Pasadena, California
Jules Dervaes thought his home in Pasadena on 1/5 of an acre was a “stopping-off” point before finding more acreage in order to get back to the land, to live the way our forefathers did. But something changed in Jules when he learned that genetically modified agriculture was making its way onto our dinner plates. He decided his family needed to be self-sufficient, and that they would do it with the little bit of land that they had.

What started as a way to feed themselves through subsistence farming has turned into a way of life for the Dervaes’. Despite its city setting in Pasadena, the Dervaes’ family farm is a self-contained feeding operation — they produce enough to feed themselves as well as supplying local restaurants with fresh produce. And it’s all done off the grid.

Solar panels, hand-cranked and pedal-powered appliances, a solar oven, and other energy-conserving methods sustain their cost-saving, low-impact lifestyle.

The family employs livestock, but not for eating, as they are vegetarians. They use and sell eggs from their ducks and chickens. They have pygmy goats for milking, plus rabbits and bees.

This urban homesteading project, Path to Freedom, demonstrates that we can all do more to make our lives more sustainable, and more meaningful.

Read more about how Jules Dervaes achieved self-sufficiency for his family.

Listen to a feature about the Dervaes’ farm on NPR.

Watch a 10-minute video about their way of living:

urban homesteading: part 1

August 11, 2008

There are a bunch of courageous, motivated, and maybe a bit crazy (which in this case I admire!), people returning to an agrarian way of life. What’s different about some of these folks is that they live in an urban setting. In the next few days, I’ll tell you about these brave souls venturing into a life of city farming.

Manny Howard, Brooklyn, NY

I can’t remember if I’ve already written about this guy whose honest attempt at farming in Brooklyn proves a bit more challenging than he expected. With the goal of eating as locally as humanly possible, Manny Howard vowed to only eat food he has grown in his 800 square foot backyard (a luxury many urbanites don’t have). I won’t go on and on about it, because his POV is much more hilarious (and heartbreaking). Here’s an excerpt from the New York Mag article:

In those giddy, delusionally hopeful first days, as The Farm took shape in my mind, I had occasional moments of clarity. I realized, for example, that there are things I need that I could never grow. So I allowed myself what I considered three reasonable exemptions: salt, pepper, and coffee beans. Beyond that, I identified dairy, cooking oil, and bread as the biggest conundrums. Because it was March already, it was too late to plant wheat, which has a winter growing season. Okay, no bread. As for dairy: It is illegal to have a cow or a goat in New York City, but I figured I could at least hide a goat in the garage. Was it worth the risk? Cheese would be nice, but have you ever put goat’s milk in your coffee? Black seemed the way to go. Finally, cooking oil: I didn’t have enough garden space for all the plants I’d need to produce vegetable oil, so I’d have to make do with animal fat of some kind. A pig, maybe? Duck fat was another good possibility—I could confit everything.

Read the whole story.

Listen to an interview with Manny on NPR.

(Image source: Margot Adler, NPR)

afternoon web scan

June 5, 2008

Happy World Environment Day!

love animals, hate sprawl

June 2, 2008

If you don’t already know this about me, I’m about to let you in on something: I’m a sucker for animals. There really isn’t an animal I don’t like. Even the ugliest, most bizarre creatures are fascinating to me. And the thought of actually communing with animals, on say my own piece of property, is — while a bit intimidating — very exciting.

Well there’s a community out in Nevada, outside of Reno, where people live on little patches of land (around 1 acre or more) with their animals. These aren’t farms and this isn’t really rural country. It’s where suburban sprawl meets the good ol’ days when it was commonplace to have livestock in the backyard. Even my dad grew up with chickens in the yard — in Hackensack, New Jersey.

So these people out in Golden Valley, NV, have horses, goats, chickens… and, yes, even donkeys. But now that the landscape is leaning toward suburbanization, their agricultural lifestyles may be threatened.

Sadly, one of these happy agrarian households was recently broken up. Seems the neighbor couldn’t take the braying of the donkey any longer. I can understand that. The guy couldn’t sleep because the donkey would bray in the middle of the night. But didn’t this guy realize he was moving next door to someone who had livestock in their yard? Wouldn’t you do a little research on the culture of a neighborhood before moving in?

The case went to court and despite a reasonable defense and much community support, the judge sided with the complainant. The community, outraged and fearful this case would set a precedent, sought that a stipulation be added to new home contracts in their town. Now, anyone new to the neighborhood will be forewarned. But who reads the fine print? And sadly, this may not protect the citizens from future litigation.

Check out the full story, plus interactive features, here.