Re: Co-farming in the Cities
From: Wayne Tyson (
Date: Sat, 12 May 2012 10:42:02 -0700 (PDT)
Sounds like the right way to progress--one tiny step at a time rather than trying to drag politicians and bureaucrats and other lawyers forward into the Age of Self-Sufficiency and away from over-regulation of people (and under-regulation of concentrations of power).

Decades ago, I worked a bit with Rosemary Menninger, a truly energetic pioneer in community gardens who made it happen in California and elsewhere. She would be worth searching for some of her writings, such as,5867627 which cautions about contaminants. She has extensive experience.

When I worked with her, I was emphasizing the fact that a lot of food goes to waste in waste places, but one must be cautious about where such food is gathered. Some plant are apparently better at accumulating contaminants that others, the spinach family being a notable example. Actual concentrations and dosage levels require analysis and study, but as far as I know, little of this is done. Planting an area before starting a garden and getting the actual materials to be consumed analyzed might be a good idea.

Not all "contaminants" are necessarily bad, however. Iron, a heavy metal, is poison at certain levels, but a vital element in the diet. Eat your spinach, right? Yeah, well, that depends . . .

It's not my purpose to stimulate an OVER-abundance of caution, but to say that reasonable caution is worth paying attention to, especially in vacant lots. I live on one, and I garden on it, and I eat the food without testing. But that doesn't mean that everybody should, especially younger people. When I forage, I tend to pick higher elevations and more remote places. Knowing something of the past land uses can provide some useful, if preliminary, hints about contamination potential. Even if a bit of land has been contaminated, that doesn't necessarily mean that it will end up in the food at harmful levels.

There's a lot more work to be done on this subject.


----- Original Message ----- From: "Thomas Lofft" <tlofft [at]>
To: "Cohousing Network-L" <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2012 6:55 AM
Subject: [C-L]_ Co-farming in the Cities

Here's an inspriring article about households working together to create urban farms. With a little stretch of the imagination, people could work together to develop clustered residential communities together :-) (NaturalNews) You won't see cornrows stretching into the horizon or amber waves of grain as far as the eye can see, but there's a growing phenomenon in urban America -
agriculture is "growing" in our big cities, and as a result, lawmakers and
policy chiefs are taking notice.

And perhaps nowhere is the trend more
evident than in Buffalo, N.Y., where, in 2003, a group called the
Massachusetts Avenue Project turned a vacant lot on the city's West Side
into a sizeable vegetable garden.

Some 10 growing seasons later, the
neighbors there no longer think of it as "weird," says Diane Picard, executive director of the organization. And neither do scores of other Buffalo residents,
because urban agriculture is, in a word, flourishing in the

A growing number of residents who, as the Buffalo News
reports, "a taste for local food, a passion for living sustainably and a
devotion to ensuring everyone has access to healthy, affordable food," have started urban farms in several once-empty lots on both
the city's East and West Sides. And this growing season, the level of
city farming is reaching new levels.

A group of young folk thereabouts in
Buffalo took to buying vacant lots on Michigan Avenue and Peckham Streets.
They've teamed up with others from yonder across town to form a farming
cooperative, in fact. They aim to poll enough resources and skills to grow
enough food to feed them and sell the excess at market stands they will

Nobel, ingenious and entrepreneurial. All from the fruits
(vegetables?) of a little labor of love.

Government catching on - and
catching up

Normally, having government get involved in much of
anything spells doom for the project, but in this case it might actually be a
good thing. And, as it turns out, a necessary one at that.

In response to
the growing numbers of urban farms, city officials have developed a "Green
Code," which is a total revamp of Buffalo zoning regulations that deal with
everything from beekeeping in one's backyard to selling produce grown by

"It's amazing actually," Picard told the paper. "It's so exciting
now to see it start to be paid attention to. Policy makers and the movers and shakers are getting a handle on how this can be an economic development driver, a way to solve food security issues, a way to employ young people, and how it
brings people together."

And like taters on Wilson Street, Picard's
project has grown exponentially from its humble, ahem, roots, nearly a
decade ago. Lot after vacant lot is being transformed into, well,
productive land. Moreover, the concept is expanding into education as

One group, PUSH Buffalo, through its Growing Green
youth initiative, young people are taught agriculture as well as business and job skills. In fact, the initiative has employed more than 400 young folks since
it began.

"It also runs a farm stand and a mobile market in the summer
and has ventured into tilapia farming," said the paper.

A real
growth industry

Like weeds in the onions, the effort is

In fact, more and more city residents are applying to
Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo, a group that helps facilitate community
gardens on city-owned vacant lots, so they can grow veggies like zucchini,
tomatoes and peppers instead of just flowers and shrubs.

Indeed, those
who are transforming the city into a huge farming community - if that's even
possible - often see themselves as rebels with a cause. They call
themselves Farmer Pirates (as in, Arrrrrr!) because they see themselves
as fighting against the corporate food system.

They even have a song.
Sung to the tune of "Home on the Range," the first stanza goes like

Home, home in the 'hood. There are things that I'd change if I
could. Like taking the waste in this limited space and growing a product that's

Nothing like vacant-lot corn on the cob to spruce up a
mid-summer barbeque.

Sources for this article include:

Learn more: Thanks for reading,

TOM LofftLiberty Village, MDwhere local community agriculture is thriving.

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