News and views for urban farmers.
Breaking Ground in the U.K.
Organic gardening is literally taking root in the U.K., thanks to two projects that give landless, wannabe gardeners access to plots of land and the ability to grow their own produce.
Landshare, a KEO digital project launched by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley0-Whittingstall, allows wannabe growers and people who own unused land or garden plots to network and share resources.
“[Landshare] is principally about enabling people to grow, but in the process, can also help achieve positive contributions in relation to education, community, health and environment,” says Jane Lucy, producer of Landshare. “The ultimate goal is to get as many people growing as possible.”
Landshare took root in autumn 2008 when Fearnley-Whittingstall announced the idea on the River Cottage Autumn television series. A beta phase was launched in spring 2009, followed by the official launch of the program on June 3, 2009. Approximately 20,000 people signed up before launch, and now the program has more than 40,000 registrants across the U.K.
While the program has successfully taken off, Lucy says one challenge was launching the program late in the growing season. “We are really looking forward to seeing the lead up to spring 2010, when people will have had more time to prepare and get involved,” she says.
“The challenge that remains is making more land available,” Lucy adds. “Whilst the ratio of growers to landowners can be misleading, given most landowners are offering space for more than one grower, I think it’s fair to say there is certainly still demand for more land.” They are addressing that challenge by communicating the benefits of Landshare to more people, including providing case studies and finding ways to speed the land-sharing process.
While this program is currently only in the U.K., Lucy says similar initiatives to Landshare exist in the U.S. and Canada, and other countries have expressed interest in seeing the program extended to their areas.
Read the Landshare blog to see how people rate the program. Click here for more information »
Another eco-friendly project making headway in the U.K., LandFit exists to make the most of green space in the city for gardens—this allows landless urban gardeners to use untended plots of land to grow organic food. The goal of LandFit is to set up agreements between the person responsible for a garden (lead stakeholder) and the gardener. LandFit as an organization is in the development stages, but LandFit as a concept can be practiced anywhere there is an agreement between grower and landowner. Click here for more information » —Krissa Smith
Go Green to Get Green
Have a drawer full of old cell phones? Reward the Earth and your pocketbook by using the ecoATM Kiosk to get rid of old mobile phones and other electronics. Simply insert your old device into the Automated eCycling Station. The device is valued by the machine and binned inside. ecoATM then spits out a coupon, gift card or charitable contribution in exchange.
Due to the growing number of used devices and the demand for second-hand mobile phones and electronics, ecoATM set out in June 2008 to make inspecting and recycling mobile phones easier. The company devised the automated machine and expanded its original idea of recycling mobile phones to support portable consumer electronics and larger devices. The machines also offer eWaste-compliance data collection and reporting, helping retailers achieve eWaste compliance, offer trade-in or trade-up promotions, increase store spending and enable responsible recycling.
In June 2009, ecoATM installed the first Automated eCycling Station at a large consumer-electronics retailer, and in September 2009, ecoATM began in-store trials with mobile carrier stores and the Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha.
EcoATM plans to launch additional eCycling Stations with national retailers in San Diego, Boston, Dallas and Seattle. Click here for more information »
Catch Some Rays, Make Some Dough
If you wanna go solar but aren’t ready to make a huge investment, solar companies are leasing solar panels to soften up-front costs and help you immediately capture savings from solar power. The catch? You might get hooked.
With the leasing program, companies generally pay for installation of the panels, and with the combination of your monthly lease fee and power bill, your bill will usually cost less than in non-solar days. Because leasing and rental companies take care of maintenance for you, there’s no upkeep burn to your pocketbook. An added plus? Solar panels generate no carbon emissions and save water needed to produce energy.
Depending on your lease agreement, you may pay a fixed monthly payment and have the option of buying the system after the lease ends. However, if you want to eventually own your own solar panels, buying upfront may be more cost-effective.
Rap Those Apps
Photo by Stephanie Staton
Make your eco-friendly lifestyle a touch easier with these 10 green iPhone applications.
1. A Real Tree
Fight deforestation with one A Real Tree app at a time. When you buy A Real Tree app, a tree is planted in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Burundi, Senegal, Zambia, India, the Philippines or Haiti. So far, more than 1,400 trees have been planted. With the app, you’ll remember the tree you planted while watching your iPhone’s tree grow ($0.99).2. The Green Lemur
Want advice on leading a greener life? Check out everyday tips with the Green Lemur. These tips are conveniently organized to help you lead the most eco-friendly lifestyle with efficiency. You can easily search for tips and personalize your menu with your favorites (free).3. greenMeter
The greenMeter not only computes your vehicle’s power- and fuel-usage characteristics, it also evaluates your driving to increase efficiency, reduce fuel consumption and cost, and lower your negative environmental impact. This app can help you learn to accelerate moderately and choose an efficient cruise speed ($5.99).4. Carbon Tracker
From daily commuting to vacations and business trips, users can easily calculate their carbon footprints with the GPS-enabled carbon tracker. The tracker can determine the approximate distance of the trip, and users can monitor their progress by setting a monthly maximum emission goal (free).5. Locavore
By entering your zip code, you can discover which foods are in season in your area and where to find the nearest farmers’ markets. Also check out what local people are eating. When you click on a food item, it brings up Epicurious recipes ($2.99).6. Better World Shopper
Get the lowdown on retailers with this app—from food manufacturers to airlines and banks, you’ll get a grade of A to F based on the companies’ polices and actions regarding human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement and social justice ($1.99).7. iRecycle
Let your phone guide your recycling needs. This app will tell you what is recyclable and where to send it off. It even tells you the operation hours and directions for the facility (free).8. Seventh Generation Label Guide
This app gives the lowdown on the harmful chemicals in your common household cleaners. The guide is handy when you’re shopping—it gives info that is often not found on product labels. (free)9. Dirty Produce
This app from the Environmental Working Group helps you select which veggies and fruits to buy organic and which are OK to eat conventionally grown when organic isn’t available (free).10. Seafood Watch
With updated information, regional guides and a guide to sushi names (common and Japanese), this app will help you find and make the most sustainable seafood choices (free).
Not Quite Urban Farming
Urban farming takes on a new meaning when farmers milk cows and plant corn and soybeans in their PJs from the comfort of their living rooms. City folk have transformed into down and dirty farmers with the Facebook application and online game FarmVille. The game has swept the virtual world, with more than 65 million “farmers” registered to play and a third of them actively tending to their crops every day.
“We get stories all the time of people who set their alarm clocks to tend to their crops or people who love to play the game because it gives them a break from the real world or ‘city life,’” says Bill Mooney, FarmVille’s general manager.
When the Zynga company came up with the farming concept, they believed it would unite people from different backgrounds. As players have found, the game can be quite addicting, but not necessarily reflective of life on the farm.
“It doesn’t deal anything with crop rotation to save nutrients in the soil and erosion from over-farming. You get the same price whenever you sell or harvest your crops,” says Kristen Everman, a FarmVille player in Ohio who spent summers on a real farm growing up.
Zynga has heard from customers who play the game with their kids to teach about growing crops and time management, says spokesperson Lisa Chan; however, Zynga never intentionally sought to use the game for educational purposes, as most players realize.
“It has not taught me anything about farming really. It is more about time management,” says Kristen Copley who “farms” from her home in Atlanta. “For those who have very limited knowledge about farming, they might learn that grapes grow on vines and dates on trees.”
So, kudos to you if you wake up at 6 o’clock to harvest your eggplant, but if you intend to be considered among the rising wave of urban farmers, you might need to take a break from Facebook to get there. —Rachael Brugger
Photo courtesy Virginia Sasser
Some people look at an abstract painting and see a vegetable garden. Others look at a city lot and see the opportunity to create art and foster a sense of community—through a vegetable garden.
“At the Maryland Institute College of Art, there’s growing interest in food production in the intersection between art practice and community engagement,” says MICA professor of art Hugh Pocock. This shift in thinking at the school and throughout the community encouraged Pocock—an artist, educator and gardener—to develop a class called Baltimore Urban Farming at the college in spring 2009. The class filled immediately with 23 students—more than double the 10 Pocock had expected.
Students visited eight gardens and farms in the Baltimore city area, including older community gardens, urban CSAs, the Sondheim Artscape Prize-winning Participation Park urban farm and Great Kids Farm, an organic farm owned and operated by the Baltimore City Public Schools. At each location, MICA students learned about issues of obtaining and maintaining the land and techniques for growing food in small spaces, then spent several days working the land there.
The class also worked cooperatively with Parks and People, a Baltimore green-space advocacy group, to learn about soil ecology, land security and garden networking. In addition to the community work done in class, MICA students garden on college grounds and are starting a chicken co-op and a food-waste-composting system.
“Growing food—farming, gardening—is an amazing educational vehicle to talk about myriad related subjects, from urban sustainability to nutrition to social-fabric repair, community building and survivability for young, engaged people. It’s a way to talk about these other issues while learning something practical.
“It’s not what people initially think of as art or sculpture. ... [Students] think of it as social sculpture,” Pocock says.
Baltimore Urban Farming will be offered again in spring 2010. Pocock hopes to introduce the class into the college’s full-time curriculum.
Keep up with class initiatives through the student blog. —Lisa Munniksma