Future Urban Farms Map – A New Vision for the New World

Posted: January 29th, 2010 | Author:

40-46 Nevins St aka 311-315 Schermerhorn St, Bklyn

Look closely at the picture above.  Do you see a farm there?

No, you’re not crazy.  It’s not there yet.

In the last year, as the real estate market crashed around our ankles, we’ve all walked past by scores of empty, fenced lots with no discernible activity.

I am left to wonder: Future Urban Farm?

Why not transform the housing bust into an urban farming boom?

Looking at this silver lining, please nominate your favorite forgotten chunk of real estate for the Future Urban Farms Map.

[Once you land on this google map, click “Save to My Maps” to add photos and addresses of these sadly abandoned locations where one day our food might grow.  Alternatively, please send me the site addresses and any comments or photos and I will include them on the map.]

Who knows? Maybe we could submit the finished map to the City Council with a nicely polished legislative proposal that would change the cityscape and radically alter our local food system. After all, NY City Council re-zoned Williamsburg-Greenpoint to address imagined “blight.” So why not  re-zone today’s vacant lots for farming responding to these pockets of real blight?

Stalled construction sites can be found all over New York City. Brooklyn has the dubious honor of hosting the most.  Greenpoint and Williamsburg alone have 80 inactive construction projects — the same number of stalled sites in the entire borough of Manhattan! In a recent “Statement of Community District Needs,” Brooklyn Community Board 1 (Greenpoint and Williamsburg) made the following recommendation:

The Department of Buildings must take immediate steps to inventory stalled construction sites and monitor them for any issues that would negatively impact the community (homeless encampments, standing water – mosquito infestation/West Nile Virus prevention, illegal dumping, trespassing, arson).

Community Board 1 was not looking for alternative uses but trying to prevent nuisances. In the 1970s, however, many community gardens sprung up to thwart the nuisances caused by hundreds of vacant lots left by buildings torched for insurance claims.  So it’s only one more step to imagine 21st Century community gardens as community farms.

According to Ted Caplow of BrightFarm Systems “Growing all the fresh vegetables that New York consumes would require only 1.4% of the city’s surface area.” Maybe city residents need to eat more veggies because that is an amazing statistic.

I am not alone in promoting a future vision where farms are born from the hardscaping that dominates New York. In “Mannahhatta: A Natural History of New York,” (Abrams, 2009), Eric Sanderson contrasts images of Manhattan today with vivid 3D computer-generated maps depicting what Manhattan looked like in 1609 when discovered by Henry Hudson. Sanderson’s final chapter “Mannahattan 2409″ imagines the city with fewer buildings concentrated along the shoreline and a emerald patchwork of farmland restored in much of Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island.  The author continues this conversation about the place of nature in our City with The Mannahatta Project (a wink at the succinctly unnatural Manhattan Project that produced the Atom Bomb).

Please help me make this Future Urban Farms Map useful to you and your community.  Please comment on this post to indicate how you would use the map to promote urban agriculture too.  I will update readers about the utility of the map as it grows.

14 2d Ave @ Houston St, NYC

Filed under: Urban Agriculture, Urban Farming, Urban Planning | Tags: , Real Estate, Urban Farms | No Comments »

Evenings with Agriculture 2.0 Featuring “Truck Farm”

Posted: January 19th, 2010 | Author:

Image Courtesy of Agriculture 2.0/NewSeed Advisors by Janine Yorio.

Last week, I attended the first Evenings with Agriculture 2.0, a networking event billed as a “gathering for the entrepreneurs, investors, food producers, and experts working to catalyze—and capitalize on—the transition to a more sustainable agricultural and food system.”

“Evenings with Agriculture 2.0″ is a project of NewSeed Advisors. Founded in 2009 by investment banker Janine Yorio, NewSeed Advisors provides consulting to alternative and sustainable agriculture companies concerning raising capital and strategic partnerships.

According to Yorio “NewSeed aims to catalyze the growth of sustainable agriculture by connecting investors with entrepreneurs poised to have a game-changing effect on the current agricultural system.”

On September 17, 2009, NewSeed Advisors and SPIN Farming co-hosted their first sustainable agriculture investment conference called Agriculture 2.0 in New York City.  ”Agriculture 2.0″ appears to be a riff on the 2004 “Web 2.0 Conference,” which famously promoted alternative uses for internet and related technology that depart from older business models and media.  Another iteration of this Agriculture 2.0 conference is scheduled to be held on March 24, 2010 in Silicon Valley, California.

“Evenings with Agriculture 2.0″ aims for a dialogue similar to the conference yet held in a less formal setting, providing “the opportunity to network, share your interests and passions, and discover opportunities in the field of sustainable agriculture.” The first “Evening” was held on January 13, 2010 and about 200 people attended.

I juggled drinks and spoke with a wide variety of food folk.  I talked with both Jacquie Berger, Excutive Director of Just Food, and Diane Hatz, founder of Sustainable Table, about the need for greater entrepreneurial opportunities for food businesses and farms. I met Emily and Mark Peterson authors of The Gourmand & the Peasant, who regaled me with tales of composting in Jersey City, inviting me to check out their “operation.” Marc Matsumoto of No Recipe explained that he actually used recipes but he did not like “being a slave to the page,” preferring to improvise with what was in season and in the fridge. I chatted Sara Grady, mixed media maverick, currently a Glynwood Fellow. I even saw my neighbor from the across the street, Sarah Poten, Education and Special Events Coordinator for Greenmarket.

Still from the documentary film "King Corn" featuring Ian Cheney (left) and Curt Ellis (right)

I was pleased to meet the guest of honor, Mr. Ian Cheney, partner in Wicked Delicate, the production company that made the 2007 documentary “King Corn.” I am big fan of that film.  If you have not seen it, take a peek.

“King Corn” charts the story of two college friends (inspired by reading Michael Pollan) who travel to Iowa to plant a single acre of corn, exploring where our food comes from. “King Corn” clearly depicts the nature of American farm policy aiming to provide cheap food from corn which illuminates the difficulty of dismantling corporate corn welfare in the nation’s economy.

Cheney was on-site drumming up support for his new project: “Truck Farm.” Cheney has been growing food in the bed of his ’67 Chevy pickup truck. He travels in the “Truck Farm” to unlikely corners of New York City where food is being grown. “Truck Farm” seeks to answer the question “How do you grow your own food in the big city if you ain’t got any land?” (Sounds like thegreenest would like to consult on that project!) Side Note: My friends at Uhuru in Red Hook, Brooklyn designed the winter green house for “Truck Farm.”  So far, Cheney has taped a few preliminary episodes that you can check out. “Truck Farm” was seeking backers and funds through its fiscal sponsor GreenHoneNYC.

For the last couple of years, I have been going to Green Drinks NYC and Green Drinks Brooklyn, a networking event for green businesses and professionals. I have always enjoy these gatherings. However, Green Drinks have gotten so popular and diverse that it is sometimes hard to make solid connections that help advance your goals. Despite some of my misgivings about the growing size of Green Drinks events, I also get concerned about slicing the already small world of green ventures into ever-smaller specialty areas with their own networking nights.  Regardless, I think Evenings with Agriculture 2.0 provided a forum for people — like me — who have a common interest in promoting investment in sustainable food and agriculture.

Based on the success of the first Evening with Agriculture 2.0, NewSeed Advisors has announced a follow up event scheduled for March 10, 2010 at a location TBD.

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Question Your Food . . . or Perish?

Posted: January 11th, 2010 | Author:

Do you feel awkward when you ask restaurant servers or store counter staff to let you know some information about a certain food?

Like me, you may feel like a finnicky food snob (or worse) when you have the urge to ask some of the following questions: Is this local grass fed beef? Are the vegetables organic? Local? Is this salmon wild or farmed? Can you put the dressing on the side? Is there a low-sodium soy sauce available?

We may be reticent to ask such questions, plagued with doubts.  Am I prying into the trade secrets of the food business?  Breaking the unspoken contract of silence between client and server? Flaunting pretentious foodie knowledge by upstaging the experts?

It’s no accident that classic comedy preys on our fears of asking too much about food, starting with “Waiter, there is a fly in my soup” jokes.

Recently, I overcame my social mortification at a neighborhood bistro and launched yet another food cross-examination: “Do you grind the beef for the hamburger in-house?”

Absurd you say! This is taking the menu questions and special requests to a new level of foodie audacity, you snarl.

Wrong, I say. That last question (and to some extent those that preceded it) are about health. To be more precise: my health.

In addition, questioning food businesses about their products promotes change.  After all, even a supermarket works in the food service industry. They aim to please. And the customer is always right. Right?

Back to my burger question. I don’t know how you feel about hamburgers. But I have always been a fan. Early in life, I was a bit of a junk food junkie, hooked on Big Mac, Whopper and Jack-in-the-Box.

Of course, I am not alone.  Of the 70 pounds of beef that an average adult American consumes each year, 30 pounds consist of hamburger. That’s about 150 million pounds of hamburger consumed annually.

Recently, however, hamburgers have been featured in a series of frightening news stories.

The NY Times recently ran a story about young woman who was paralyzed after contracting an illness traced back to hamburger she ate at a family barbecue (“Woman’s Shattered Life Shows Ground Beef Inspection Flaws,” 10/3/09). The hamburger meat she ate was manufactured by Cargill Meat Solutions which was tainted with the toxic E Coli strain O157:H7 which sickened many customers of Jack in the Box in 2004.

According to the Times, the frozen hamburger came packaged in a box labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties,” which was very misleading:

“[C]onfidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.”

Holy Cholesterol! On top of all the other health and environmental reasons to avoid consuming beef, now we add: serious risk of food borne illness.

In “Safety of Beef Processing Method is Questioned” (12/31/09), the Times provided a follow-up on Beef Products Inc. (BPI), the “South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings.”

BPI has developed a $440 million dollar business by transforming “fatty trimmings” with trace amounts of meat into an additive for hamburger meat that reduces the cost of each burger by a few pennies. Fatty trimmings had previously been relegated to use in pet food and cooking oil because of its inferior quality and the significant incidence of E Coli and other bacterial contaminants.

BPI factory where ammonia added to fatty trimmings

Cooking is the most common method for killing bacteria. However, BPI wanted to sell its product as “fresh” and arrived at the novel idea of injecting the fatty trimmings with ammonia to kill bacteria.

BPI sells its processed “meat” product in 60 pound blocks that look like pink slime. You may not be surprised to hear that McDonalds — along with many other fast food chains — has been using BPI fatty trimmings in its burgers since 2004.

Enter the USDA. You would think that the United States Department of Agriculture — charged with providing food safety — would step in and rule that hamburger makers must reveal the source of the products added to the meat. Think again. BPI so impressed the Food Safety division of the USDA with its ammonia-processed beef that the company actually obtained an exemption from usual inspections.

The only problem with BPI’s product is that it stinks — the “meat” that is. Products using BPI’s filler smell like ammonia. Not appetizing. So BPI lowered the amount of ammonia used to improve the taste, resulting in more bacteria growth, more food-borne illness and product recalls. You would think that USDA would revoke its exemption for BPI. Not yet!

BPI's hamburger product made from fatty trimmings.

Recently, the school lunch division of the USDA pulled the plug on BPI products after tests found high levels of bacterial contamination, namely, salmonella.

In an editorial entitled “More Perils of Ground Meat,” (1/10/10) the Times reported:

“The Agriculture Department has now belatedly withdrawn its exemption [for BPI]. Top officials admitted that they had been unaware of the problem until The New York Times alerted them to the school lunch test results.”

Consumers should not have to wait until somebody in the school lunch program blows the whistle.

Now, I hope that you can trace the intention behind my impertinent question — “Do you grind the beef for the hamburger in-house?”

Really, I meant no offense or display of dubious aesthetic superiority. I merely want to continue to walk on my own two legs to the next hanburger joint in order to ask the same question.

How was my burger question received when lodged? Pleasantly. My server at Watty & Meg responded, “We grind all of our meat to order ourselves in-house.” I was mightily glad to hear it, ordering the beast medium rare with cheddar and sauteéd onions. The burger tasted a whole lot better, knowing there was no “mash-like substance” hidden in there somewhere.

The Eating Public has a right to ask as many questions about its food as possible.

Quite simply, the food inspectors paid by tax dollars are not going to be as careful as you are with your own health.

And, by asking questions, conscientious consumers — like you — can help transform the food marketplace — one restaurant or food store at a time.

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NYC Garden-to-Café Pilot Program in Public Schools

Posted: January 7th, 2010 | Author:

Matt Sheehan at Composting HQ at Brooklyn New School

In late Fall, I met with my friend, Matt Sheehan, to talk about his take on urban agriculture, which is vast.  He took a break from from building “worm bins” for Red Hook Community Farm (An Added Value Project) to speak with me.

Matt wears many hats: Master Composter, Vermiculture Impresario, Backyard Farmer, Father of Two Boys Who Like Dirt, Public School Teacher, and Added Value Volunteer.

Matt is passionate about teaching Urban Agriculture to kids.  He has been trying to get anyone who will listen to understand the value of kids making a mess to grow food.  He wants urban agriculture to be part of every school’s curriculum and every child’s science experience.

A south-facing planter at Brooklyn New School

“I have never seen students so engaged for such a long time on any subject that I usually teach in the classroom.  But I give them a shovel, a pile of dirt and leaves and they want to work and learn for hours.  I literally had to drag the students away from composting project.  By harvest, their minds are totally blown.”

Matt is part of a new initiative, Garden-to-Café Pilot Project, that aims to connect kids in NYC’s public schools with the growing, harvesting and eating of seasonal food at school.  Garden-to-Café is is a pilot program of NYC Department of Education, SchoolFood and NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension; GreenThumb; Added Value; and more than 20 community-based organizations.  Matt brought Garden-to-Café to the Brooklyn New School, which is one of 20 schools participating in the pilot program around the City.  For more info on Garden to Café, contact Christina Grace 718.722.2834 who works at the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Lack of fresh food in NYC public schools is a major health issue which was recently covered in the NY Times (Schools’ Toughest Test: Cooking).  Better school food raises a host of issues from nutrition to classroom performance to local economy and the environment.

Matt thinks school farms is the missing link that could help solve some major problems for students.  He is not alone.  There is a movement afoot across the United States that shares these aims, such as Edible Schoolyard, launched by star chef Alice Waters in Berkeley, California.

The student farming movement is almost like turning the clock back on education.  In the past, kids were let out of school in the summer to aid with the harvest on their homestead farms.  Later, progressive educational institutions in 1890s were called Farm Schools.  Maria Montessori included growing food as an essential element in early childhood education.  The impulse then as now is that young people ought to understand the way things grow.  Agriculture courses were taught in school along with other applied disciplines cut from curricula, like “Shop Class” and “Home Economics.”

Educational research has shown repeatedly that there are different types of learning and different types of learners.  And, in particular, kinesthetic learning is the most neglected, while audio-visual learning is ascendent.  Gardening provides for strong, memorable pedagogic experiences that elucidate scientific concepts.  Why is it we are always dissecting worms rather than promoting their life cycle in a compost bin?

Red worms making casings at Brooklyn New School

Matt is on a mission to start his dream small.  He has partnered with Brooklyn New School to build a farm there, taking small steps to make the growing possible.  With a small grant and a lot of volunteer labor, he built a composting station that transforms cafeteria food scraps into fertilizer and topsoil.

Matt also built a container garden around the perimeter of the school. Stalks of corn have popped up on Henry Street on a treeless stretch of sidewalk in front of the school. Matt has enlisted the students to design and plan the garden.  He has engaged students in discussions about irrigation, rainwater capture and composting.

Matt met up with a lot of challenges putting the project together but now he is aided by a committed group of parent volunteers. “What would it be like if the Board of Education simply decided to create an infrastructure for student gardening?  It wouldn’t be this process of one inspired guy, like me, hitting his head against a whole host of obstacles.   What if they swept away all the school rules that made it hard to undertake?  What if they made all the resources available?”  I like the sound of that.

Student work on seed germination

Matt’s experience as a teacher permitted him to craft connections between the work in the garden with classroom curricculum, reinforcing the lessons about the food systems with environmental science.  On the day that I met up with him, he was teaching kids about the composition of soil taken from several different locations around the region.  The week before, he was talking about seed germination.

Of course, Matt knows that operating urban farms in every school will be challenging to achieve.  ”In a school system where parents are asked to buy the teachers paper, I am not optimistic that they are going to buy teachers raised beds, composting bins and seedlings.” However, Matt was able to do it all with very little funds and lots of donated labor, equipment and materials. So your school could have a farm too.

As much as it is a cliche, children are the most obvious symbols of our future.  It would be worth exploring how we can help them grow a little more at school.

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The Waterpod Exhibit Opens at Exit Art

Posted: January 5th, 2010 | Author:

Images from The Waterpod

In the space of imagining multiple possible futures for a greener world, artists have seemed better equipped than scientists and governments to launch projects that inspire the public imagination. People aware of environmental issues seek alternative visions that float between the ground of the practical and the clouds of the fantastical.  The Waterpod was an artist-driven project that attempted to occupy this milieu between the possible and impossible.

Floating Island

The Waterpod was “a floating, sculptural structure designed as a futuristic habitat and an experimental platform for assessing the design and efficacy of living systems fashioned to create an autonomous, fully functional marine shelter.” Characteristically, the project was one part conceptual art, harking to Robert Smithson’s “Floating Island,” mixed with one part sustainability experiment, tracking lessons from The Science Barge (project of NY Sun Works).  The Waterpod also draws on elements of “live in” agit-prop performance art happenings, akin to the recent Camp for Oppositional Architecture, installed over a week as part of Performa09, or living installations, like “Novel” staged by Flux Factory, in which three writers collaborating with architects were enclosed in distinct habitats for thirty days during which they produced work influenced by their conditions.

For those who may have missed the opportunity to visit The Waterpod on its five month voyage — between June and October 2009 — we have a second chance. The retrospective exhibit “Waterpod: Autonomy and Ecology,” will run from January 9 through February 6, 2010, surveying of the journey around the boroughs of New York at Exit Art Underground. “Waterpod” is the sixth exhibition of the SEA (Social Environmental Aesthetics) program and includes videos, photographs, relics, art works, journal entries, and ephemera that tell the story of this unusual public art project.

The Science Barge – Groundworks Hudson Valley

The Waterpod was produced by a New York-based multinational team, led by founder and artistic director Mary Mattingly, drawing upon the talents of artists, designers, builders, civic activists, scientists, environmentalists, and marine engineers. During a global recession and within strict government guidelines, the Waterpod sought to achieve new ways of community outreach, resource sharing, and art creation.

The Waterpod arose from a reaction to the possibility of widespread climate change, desertification, overpopulation, and rising sea levels, offering a potential path to sustainable survival, mobility, and community building  The Waterpod’s mission has been to prepare, inform, and offer alternatives to current and future living spaces.

The Opening of the exhibit “Waterpod: Autonomy and Ecology” will take place on Saturday, January 9, 2010 from 7pm- 10pm.

Also, the Waterpod is hosting a “Back to Land” party at Exit Art Underground on Friday, January 23, 2010 from 7-11pm with music, participatory edible food performance by Bridget Stixrood, readings and performances by Waterpod members, films, ephemera, new project highlights and much more.

Throughout the exhibit, the Waterpod in collaboration with Exit Art will host a free lecture series. On Friday, January 15, 2010 at 7pm Artist Natalie Jeremijenko, Terreform One, and BLDGBLOG creator Geoff Manaugh will discuss their work in an event; Interactive Architecture: Reinventing Social Spaces.

On Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 7pm, Sara Reisman, Director of Percent for Art at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs will moderate a panel discussion with artists Mary Miss and Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and Jennifer McGregor, Senior Curator at Wave Hill. The discussion will focus on sustainable practices in contemporary art, both in the public realm and in a gallery setting.

Exit Art is located at 475 Tenth Avenue and the corner of 36th Street.

View Larger Map

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Foodie Field Trip: Winter Events at Stonebarns Center

Posted: January 4th, 2010 | Author:

Photo by Roberto

If your New Year’s Resolution included getting closer to the source of your food, then you might want to take a trip to Stonebarns Center for Food & Agriculture in lovely Pocantico Hills, NY.

If you are like me, you may be feeling a bit shut in by the cold, so a little out-of-town field trip might help fight the winter blues while raising your environmental IQ.

Below is a sampling of some of the tours and tutorials that are being offered in January and February. For a full calendar, more information, reservations and prices for the events, please click here or contact Rebecca Sherman 914.366.6200 x 118

Winter Farm Market
Shop for vegetables, meat and eggs on the following Sundays from 1-4 PM in our Hay Barn: January 17, February 21, March 21, April 18. Weekly Farm Market will re-open in May.

Cooking for Kids – January 9, February 13 and March 13, 1:00 PM–2:30 PM. Themes: Breakfast Foods (1/9), School Lunch (2/13), After-School Snacks (3/13).

The Legacy of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil with Lorenzo Caponetti – Sunday, January 17, 2:00 PM–3:30 PM

Meet the Farmer: Brassicas – Saturday, January 16, 1:00 PM–2:00 PM

Writing a Food Memoir – Three Saturdays: February 27, March 6, and March 13, 9:30 AM–12:30 PM

Hands On on the Farm Tour: Youth Ages 2 to 14Sundays, 1:00 PM–2:00 PM

Winter Farm TourSundays, 3:00 PM–4:00 PM

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Window Farms Raises Funds to Go from Project to Pro

Posted: January 4th, 2010 | Author:

Window Farms started with a mere $5,000 as an art project initiated by Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray in February, 2009 through an artist’s residency at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in New York and sponsorship by Submersible Design, Riley and Bray’s interactive design firm.

The response to Window Farms has been so positive and (frankly) overwhelming that Riley and Bray have decided to launch Window Farms as a full time organization, starting with a funding campaign on Kickstarter in which they have already exceeded their goal to raise $25,000 by more than 10% but could still use all the help they can get for a successful launch.

Window Farms arose from the founders’ desire to address the growing need to address food deserts in cities around the world. Rather than wait for expensive vertical farming solutions to get off the ground (if they ever materialize), Riley and Bray decided to take a low-tech DIY approach:

Inner city dwellers can grow their own food in their apartment or office windows throughout the year by means of these elegant, inexpensive, vertical, hydroponic vegetable gardens made from recycled materials or items available at the local hardware store. The first system produced 25 plants and a salad a week in mid winter in a dimly lit 4’ x 6’ NYC window.

Riley and Bray developed Window Farms as as a Web 2.0 “crowdsourced” innovation inventing the How-To Manuals and an Online Community so that participants can build “their own microenvironments, share ideas, rediscover the power of their own capacity to innovate, and witness themselves playing an active role in the green revolution.”

According to Riley and Bray, Window Farms focused on the design process rather than the consumer product in an effort to address sustainability in the information age:

Big Science’s R&D industry is not always free to take the most expedient environmental approach. It must assume that consumers will not make big changes. Its organizational structure tends toward infrastructure-heavy mass solutions. A distributed network of individuals sharing information can implement a wide variety of designs that accommodate specific local needs and implement them locally. Ordinary people can bring about innovative green ideas and popularize them quickly. Web theorists claim that this capacity to “organize without hierarchical organization” will be a fundamental shift in our society brought about by the web over the coming decades.

Riley and Bray have articulated simply but clearly a central aspect for charting a new course in urban agriculture and in sustainability practice. The union of information de-centralization and global environmentalism creates a powerful nexus in which the process is known to be part of the product and the means of production is community property.

If we look to big government or big business for big solutions to our big environmental problems, we will get more large scale ideas (no matter how persuasive) with massive unintended side effects. One should recall that US government corn subsidies were intended to reduce the volatility of farm income during the Great Depression. Now the same subsidies have morphed into the biggest corporate welfare package in the world with disastrous consequences for consumer health and the environment.

So far the viral design process for Window Farms has yielded 29 separate modifications and sparked hundreds of thousands of hits for their site. Not surprisingly, Window Farms has been a big hit with schools eager to teach children about the source of their food but lacking big budgets to plant a garden.

So take a minute and check out Window Farms, donate some leftover holiday dollars and become part of the movement to take over your own food supply.

Filed under: Urban Agriculture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

L.A. Teens Learn to Green the Food Desert

Posted: January 4th, 2010 | Author:

Public Matters, a California collective of artists, educators and media professionals working on civic programs in neighborhoods, has been empowering teens to “green the food desert.” Alissa Walker, in her “Design Is a Verb” series in GOOD Magazine (11/30/09), writes about a project to make-over the convenience stores in low-income communities. She talks with Public Matters’ Mike Blockstein and Reanne Estrada about “Market Makeover,” their grassroots, creative public nutrition initiative. They’re working with progressive institutions and local store owners in South L.A. to physically configure store layout and signage, leading consumers away from junk food and toward health food. Putting cameras in students’ hands has produced videos helping the community “understand how their neighborhood came to be a food desert, so they can have the power to see how they can shape their neighborhood in the future.” (Source: APINews via communityarts.net)

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