Introductory Article on Urban Farming

I am a Sierra Club board member (an environmentally focussed US based NGO) and have taken advantage of that to hone my writing skills. They have a quarterly newspaper they publish and I decided I want to write for them on various topics of mutual interest. They were nice and polite enough to not reject my proposal outright! The first article I wrote for them was on e-waste and was 5 times over the word limit. Our editor did I mighty fine job of cutting it up and putting me in my place. This time I wrote on urban farming and he reminded me it has to be within 400 words..so below is the article in all its usefulness for everyone to read and learn from…

A lot has been written recently about the harmful effects of industrial food and the alternatives available to it. One of those alternatives is urban farming. This includes a host of techniques including roof top farming (practiced successfully in parts of NYC), permaculture- a means of (re)defining ourselves culturally by focusing on ‘consciously designed landscape’, CSA-community supported agriculture; where health and food sustainability conscious consumers partner with local farms to get weekly produce supplied to them. And last but not the least- bio-intensive farming; whose biggest proponent; John Jeavons talks about giving back to the soil and getting a lot more in return in terms of nutrition, health and tasty food!

Environmental Problems addressed:

Industrial agriculture relies on price supports and government subsidies. Additionally it directly leads to health costs of eating highly processed foods, water pollution (through plenty of chemical usage), fuel costs (in producing fertilizers, transportation of excess food produced etc) and lastly the huge carbon footprint (15-30% of total contributed by industrial agriculture)

On the other hand, urban farming has a social, ecological and economic bottom line. The technical systems used— worm composting and aquaponics —can be replicated for relatively little money.

Sample projects in NJ:

Community Supported Agriculture- If you go to http://www.localharvest.org/csa/, and put in your zip code, you will be rewarded with a list of local farms that will on request (and for a certain fee) deliver a box of fresh organic vegetables to you on a weekly basis. Besides supporting local urban farms, you are improving your health and taste buds too.

NOFA NJ workshops-This organization recently held their annual conference. It is one of the better known venues for the organic and sustainable food and farming community. Last year’s conference had over 500 participating farmers, gardeners, educators, policy makers, students and consumers in attendance. I attended their event at D&R Greenways in Princeton and was happy to see the interest amongst fellow new jersians.

There are similar interesting events happening across the country. Seattle culinary institute not only connects students with food and the origins of that food, but strives to get students involved in hands-on sustainability learning by sending them to farms!

Brighter Planet in VT conducted a Sustainable Cooking Contest last year. It introduced an opportunity for Americans everywhere to share tips and experiences about reducing their environmental impact in the kitchen. The theory behind it being: the average American’s carbon footprint from food is as big as that of their car or their home.

Conclusion:

I would like to conclude by reminding all readers that urban farming is an incredibly positive opportunity and sustainable means of helping decrease many of our problems such as obesity, better water management, less oil used to create pesticides, transport the same, easier access to fresh and organic food. Like John Jeavons mentioned, “being farm literate is so much important for us than being computer literate!” Farming is the only true sustainable activity in the world and can be done in any form: gardens, mini farms, permaculture, hydroponics, green belts

Organizations that support urban farming in NJ:

· NOFA (Northeast Organic Farm Association)
· Rutgers University (http://njfarmfresh.rutgers.edu/archive.html)
· Restaurants like Eno terra (www.enoterra.com) and Namaste café in New Brunswick (http://www.namastejuicebar.com/)

Learn more:

· CSA- http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

· Bio-intensive farming- http://www.johnjeavons.info/workshop-main3.html

· Better food habits- http://www.michaelpollan.com

· Slow food movement (www.slowfood.com)

· Carbon Foodprint: http://attachments.brighterplanet.com/press_items/local_copies/52/original/carbon_foodprint_wp.pdf?1264533289

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