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In January, Knute Berger and Matt M. McKnight took the time to visit some of our farms in Whatcom County and then explained in Crosscut why bridging the urban-rural divide is so important for our state and communities. After all, as they mentioned, our failures to understand one another can blossom into hot political issues. What happens in urban areas affects farming and rural communities — and vice versa. For instance, a crisis in farming can quickly disrupt the food chain supplying city dwellers.
In February, the issue of pesticide use by farmers arose and provided a compelling example of what happens when the bridge between rural and urban mindsets fails.
A bill was introduced into the Legislature by well-intended and mostly urban legislators. It proposed to solve a “problem” with pesticide application by requiring four days’ notice before a farmer could apply necessary crop-protection materials. Farmers opposed the measure which was reported in Crosscut. That February article, in the view of farmers, added to the bill sponsors’ misperceptions about farmers and their interest in protecting workers, consumers, and neighbors.
1. I use an old plastic mesh bag to round up leftover slivers of soap. I rubber-band the bag so it’s tight and hang it next to the hose. The combo of the slightly abrasive bag and the soap scrubs off garden dirt. — Irene, Washington
2. I make row covers out of tomato cages, old rebar I got free, and used blankets I got at the local thrift store. — Cathy, Florida
3. Instead of purchasing expensive weed-blocking landscape cloth, I use free old tarps from my local lumber store that they used to cover wood during shipping. — David, Utah
4. I gather pieces of concrete to use as stepping stones in my garden. — Susan, Virginia
5. I recycle drink cups to grow tomatoes from seed. When they’re ready to transplant, I simply remove the bottom inch or so of each cup and plant directly in the ground. This prevents cutworms from making a meal of my transplants. — S., California
6. I was given some heavy-duty metal “for sale” sign frames, and I placed them in my raised beds to support bed covers in early spring. — Kat, California
7. Old pantyhose are my friends: They make garden ties, and I use them to “bag” cantaloupes growing on trellises so the melons have extra support. — Donna, North Carolina
8. I make all my garden fencing with scrap wood and build my veggie trellises and arbors with fallen branches and saplings. — Irene, New Jersey
9. My plant tags are twigs with a shaved-off area to write on. — Michelle, New York
10. For a cold frame in late winter, we prop old windows against straw bales. When I know we’re in danger of a frost, I take old bean poles and jab them into the ends of my beds, throw old sheets over them, use stones or bricks to hold down the edges, and voilà! I have a makeshift tent in my garden. — Liz, Ohio
Reverends Robert and DeVanie Jackson, founders of the Brooklyn Rescue Mission Urban Harvest Center in New York City, are proud of the fig trees and raised beds in their organization’s urban garden. Since 2002, local students and senior citizens have tended the crops that help stock the mission’s food pantry. A mile and a half away, Bushwick City Farm, which started in 2011 with volunteers reclaiming a vacant, garbage-strewn lot, now provides free, organically grown food to in-need community members.
Despite deep roots in their communities, both of these urban farms are at risk of collapse. The Jacksons may lose their land in March unless a crowdsourcing campaign can raise the $28,000 they owe the bank for the lot, located in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. And though the owner of Bushwick City Farm’s lot originally told the farmers they could use the space, in August, he changed his mind and gave them 30 days to vacate. The owner has yet to enforce that order, but that could change at any moment.
“We’ve got 30 chickens there, and we didn’t have anywhere to go; we felt like we were participating in the community and he wasn’t,” said Bushwick volunteer James Tefler. “The neighborhood rallied around us and we had meetings with city government representatives.”
In the basement of a landmark 27-story tower in Stockholm’s central Kungsholmen district, Owe Pettersson is hoping to sow the seeds of an indoor urban farming revolution.
Pettersson is the chief executive of Plantagon, a new Stockholm-based urban farming venture set to kick off operations in the basement of an office block in the Swedish capital later this month.
“This will be one of the most advanced food factories located in a city that we have today,” says Pettersson, who has spent more than 25 years in the insurance and banking industries.
He is by no means the first enthusiast for indoor farming, which has become increasingly fashionable in recent years. Claims for the practice of growing food in basements or warehouses range from feeding people in desert environments to reversing the negative environmental effects of monoculture farming.
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“Canadians have grown accustomed to seeing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pop up in unlikely photos, sometimes shirtless or in athletic gear. But Trudeau was wearing a suit for a planned photo op when he toured Lufa Farms, a 63,000-square-foot rooftop greenhouse in Montreal, last March. During his visit, Trudeau took a moment to harvest a bag of greens for his family.
One of Canada’s largest urban farming projects, Lufa Farms is the brainchild of Mohamed Hage and Lauren Rathmell. Back in 2011, Hage and Rathmell—partners in business and life—opened the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse, a 31,000-square-foot space atop an old Montreal warehouse. They now oversee three hydroponic greenhouses, each placed on a sturdy, low-rise building, with a combined 138,000 square feet.”
“Does your garden need a little refreshment? If you have no idea of how to upgrade your garden and add some life to it, not to worry. We have these awesome DIY Cheap Garden Decor Ideas to solve your problem. It’s always fun to make creative and unique outdoor garden projects. Your garden is the place for outdoor activities, fun BBQ parties or even if you are in a mood to chill. If you are ready to put little efforts, you would be able to add a personality and glow to your garden.
These projects are so cheap. You can re-purpose existing stones from your garden, colors, wires etc.”
“If you are planning to a vegetable garden, the best place to plant it may not be in the ground, many gardeners today use raised beds which lift the plants and their roots above ground level. There are a number of good reasons to garden this way; you can choose your soil for good plants and good harvest. Raised bed also brings the garden up where it’s easier to reach for weeding and harvesting.”
Growing food in cities became popular in Europe and North America during and immediately after World War II. Urban farming provided citizens with food, at a time when resources were desperately scarce. In the decades that followed, parcels of land which had been given over to allotments and city farms were gradually taken up for urban development. But recently, there has been a renewed interest in urban farming – albeit for very different reasons than before.
As part of a recent research project investigating how urban farming is evolving across Europe, I found that in countries where growing food was embedded in the national culture, many people have started new food production projects. There was less uptake in countries such as Greece and Slovenia, where there was no tradition of urban farming. Yet a few community projects had recently been started in those places too.