Posts Tagged ‘urban agriculture’

follow this man: will allen

July 6, 2009

If you didn’t catch this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, you missed out on an article about one of the best role models for young Americans, and heck, old ones too. Will Allen — urban farmer, master composter, down-to-earth guy — is creating a community of people who care more about the food they put in their bodies, especially city dwellers who don’t have access to healthful food.

An excerpt:

Like others in the so-called good-food movement, Allen, who is 60, asserts that our industrial food system is depleting soil, poisoning water, gobbling fossil fuels and stuffing us with bad calories. Like others, he advocates eating locally grown food. But to Allen, local doesn’t mean a rolling pasture or even a suburban garden: it means 14 greenhouses crammed onto two acres in a working-class neighborhood on Milwaukee’s northwest side, less than half a mile from the city’s largest public-housing project.

And this is why Allen is so fond of his worms. When you’re producing a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of food in such a small space, soil fertility is everything. Without microbe- and nutrient-rich worm castings (poop, that is), Allen’s Growing Power farm couldn’t provide healthful food to 10,000 urbanites — through his on-farm retail store, in schools and restaurants, at farmers’ markets and in low-cost market baskets delivered to neighborhood pickup points. He couldn’t employ scores of people, some from the nearby housing project; continually train farmers in intensive polyculture; or convert millions of pounds of food waste into a version of black gold.

Read the rest

standing up for bees

June 24, 2009

[Image: Green Brooklyn]

There’s a movement happening in this city right now to develop a strong localized food system. Urban farms, community gardens, backyards, and rooftops are the sites for productive vegetable gardens, chicken coops, and even rabbit raising. People who care about food and where it comes from are going to great lengths to find space to grow. And some are even breaking the law to ensure greater success of these urban crops. They’re illegally keeping bees.

A matter of sustainability
In places like Chicago, San Francisco, and Atlanta, beekeeping is considered part of the city’s long-term sustainability plan. Bees are even kept in the White House garden. But in this city, according to sustainable food advocacy group Just Food,

The New York City Health Code under Section 161.01 prohibits the possession, keeping, harboring and selling of ‘wild animals.’ This ban’s listing of ‘all venomous insects’ includes bees and in doing so outlaws beekeeping.

The perceived risk (allergies, swarming) by few is limiting opportunities for many.

Without bees, we’d all have less food. Einstein didn’t say this, but it’s still rings true to an extent,

If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.

In a post on The Daily Green (2007),

Of about 240,000 flowering plants in North America, three quarters require the pollination of a bee, bird, bat or other animal or insect in order to bear fruit. Since many of our food crops – with the exception of grains – are imports, the imported honey bee is key to our food supply. Beyond that, no other pollinator can be collected, moved and unleashed to pollinate fields of crops like commercial beekeepers can do with honey bee colonies.

So losing bees would have repercussions throughout the food supply chain.

Legalize the bees!
In February, Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) introduced legislation to lift the ban on beekeeping. And yesterday he spoke at a press conference in front of city hall backed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (not “Stinger” as he joked), Executive Director of Just Food Jackie Berger, other Just Food members, beekeepers, urban farmers, and concerned citizens (that would be me).

[David Yassky, Scott Stringer, Deborah Romano, and a swarm of press]

We were all there not just in support of lifting the ban on beekeeping, but to support Park Slope resident Deborah Romano who received a fine for beekeeping and was ordered to remove her hive. Talking about the complaint brought against her, Deborah told the AP yesterday,

“I don’t know why (that neighbor) did it,” she said at the rally. “But my guess is that it probably was a combination of ignorance and fear. They didn’t understand how vital bees are to our very existence on the planet, and a more livable existence in NYC. They probably didn’t realize that honeybees and other pollinating insects are more endangered than dangerous.”

Bees work for me
As someone who uses honey on a daily basis, I’d prefer if the sweet nectar came from right here in Brooklyn than be shipped in from upstate or beyond. I also prefer beeswax candles to paraffin, a petroleum byproduct, or even soy, which is most likely a genetically modified crop.

If we could produce these items locally, it would boost our economy, improve the local food production system, provide the community with products to be proud of, and offer beekeepers the peace of mind that performing their craft brings.

NYC beekeeping in the news and blogosphere

NYC beekeeping resources

It’s Pollinator Week!
And there are still some fun events to partake in:

Hidden Hives Tour & Mead Tasting
@ Jimmy’s No. 43
Thu 6/25

Honey Fest
@ Union Square Greenmarket
Fri 6/26

Honey Tasting
@ The Unfancy Food Show
Sun 6/28

…And more!

For more info visit:

blogging for brooklyn food coalition

June 16, 2009

I’m psyched. I’m part of an amazing movement that’s happening in Brooklyn right now. It started with the Brooklyn Food Conference (well, I guess it started months before the BFC, by those great people that planned and organized that incredible event). It’s taken on new life as the Brooklyn Food Coalition, and it has the power to change the way people in this borough (and city, and nation) eat, for the better.

My part in this whole thing is specifically participating in neighborhood meetings, especially meetings in my own neighborhood, and blogging about it.

Check out my first post on the Brooklyn Food Conference/Coalition website

And in related news…
New food co-ops coming to Brooklyn
If you live in Park Slope or any of the surrounding neighborhoods, you probably know about the Park Slope Food Co-op. It’s a thriving cooperative business that provides a community of participants with healthful food choices, including locally sourced produce. Well, it seems other neighborhoods in Brooklyn are seeking a similar arrangement. As I mention in the BFC post, new co-ops are springing up in other parts of Brooklyn. That’s good news for small farms in the New York area, for the local economy, and of course for Brooklyn residents. When I wrote the post, I didn’t know about a new Bay Ridge food co-op that’s forming, but I was quickly informed. (See email message below). So if you live in Bay Ridge and are interested in becoming a member, check out their website, sign up for their newsletter, check them out on Twitter (@thefoodcoop), get involved!

Hi Liz – just saw your piece on the Brooklyn Food Conference site, and thought I’d get in touch. I’m coordinating the effort to bring a food co-op to Bay Ridge, and sat on the food co-op panel at the conference, alongside Greene Hill, Kalabash and others. I wanted you to know a little bit about us too.

The Bay Ridge Food Co-op has a database in excess of 700 people, and is now moving to start collecting membership equity from people, we’ve made as much progress as the other co-ops you’ve mentioned. Like all the nascent co-ops though, we need help to drive membership, and if you do anything on co-ops again, it would be great to get a mention...

Best wishes,
David Marangio

land, people, food… happy days

April 15, 2009

Not exactly. This isn’t your abuela’s garden. The Garden follows a South Central LA community fighting to keep their 14-acre garden. The trailer alone was enough to get me riled up about the “powers that be.” This one’s going on my Netflix queue, stat.

Read more at Black Valley Films official film site.


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