As a sign of the urban farm trend, the USA pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015 will showcase a building that grows crops on the exterior of the structure. The food themed expo will be exemplified in this pavilion among others according to this article from Gizmodo and may provide a glimpse of the future of hydroponic farms. As urban planners think about ways to improve food security and self-sufficiency, along with restaurants and institutions starting to grow their own food, this may be an example of things to come.
Quality food access for many Americans is not a guarantee. In impoverished communities, barriers to obtaining healthy food include location, income, time, mobility, and motivation. The concept of 'food deserts' was coined some time ago in reference to the serious limitations within a community to obtain any type of food, let alone healthy food. As we start to understand the valuable role of plant-based diets on health, the dilemma of poor nutrition from restricted food access in our communities and among school children becomes more frustrating since it predisposes individuals to chronic illness before they even know it.
The video below of Clint Smith, a D.C. school teacher who witnesses the complications first hand, graphically describes the grim problems we must unquestionably overcome. I watched him recite this poem, Place Matters, on stage and found it to be very moving. He explains the plight his students encounter daily due to inadequate food access and the tragic consequences. He insists we replace "pollution with solution" and that his students, who are struggling to survive, are "warriors" and like "roses growing from concrete".
There are efforts to solve this problem. One inspiring program in the city of Detroit is called 'Keep Growing Detroit' which aims to create food sovereignty within the city by developing a network of urban gardens to reduce barriers to healthy food access for deprived residents.
WE FOSTER DIRECT RELATIONSHIPS TO FOOD. In a vegetable garden, the act of planting, tending and harvesting gives gardeners a direct relationship to his or her food. This is a city where many residents must buy food at gas stations or convenience stores with bulletproof windows in monitored transactions. Against this backdrop it is revolutionary and empowering to put one’s hands in soil and control one’s food source.
The organization does a number of wonderful things to develop community, networking, and empowerment within the city so that residents have a best opportunity to eat healthy and promote well-being.
In addition, the USDA has expanded the SNAP program to allow purchases at farmers markets which is an excellent use of this resource for the recipients. This aids programs like Keep Growing Detroit since they are making farmers markets more accessible to people who have SNAP resources to purchase the fresh produce.
Access to fresh vegetables and fruit does increase usage within households as studies have shown. The more we can aid the efforts to improve access to these natural products, the more we'll help struggling people within our local communities who desperately need it.
The farm to table concept is a wonderful way to eat, especially when it's organic. The freshness of the vegetables we use has such an impact on their nutritional value, flavor, and texture. Growing your own vegetables or purchasing them from a local farmers market are a couple ways to ensure fresh vegetables are always in your kitchen and on your table.
Since consuming fresh plant-based foods has such a positive health impact, applying this concept to those being treated for chronic illness makes great sense. The farm to patient concept is now being pioneered by a hospital and farm partnership in the Phoenix area. Cancer Treatment Centers of America and McClendon's Select have established a 25 acre organic farm next to the hospital with the purpose of delivering the freshest ingredients to the patients!
Per this article, the farm, named Hope Springs, harvested its first crop in 2013 and the hospital hired a well known chef, who participated in the development of the farm, to create meals for the patients with the belief that the fresh vegetables have the power to heal.
Chef Caputo believes they might be the first hospital in the US to establish its own farm, and he thinks it’s a model for others. His passion for food as the embodiment of love and compassion, his commitment to constant improvement and learning, his belief in the advantages of organic, fresh produce over the food service standards used in hospitals and institutions nationwide - these are the core of his conviction and the reason he goes to work each day. Source
It's great to see a hospital adding nutrition as a key element for treating chronic illness. Plant-based nutrition has the power to potentially reverse chronic illness, even in the later stages of disease. If more hospitals and healing centers can integrate the farm to patient practice into their therapy and serve an abundance of all plant-based meals, those striving to return to well-being and the families who care about them will certainly benefit.
McClendon leases the land from CTCA, growing for Chef Caputo’s kitchen on part of it and using the remaining acreage to grow for his farmers market and other wholesale clients. Maxed out at his previous site and unable to meet increasing demand, the farm at CTCA provided the perfect opportunity for McClendon to expand his growing while deepening a relationship that contributes to the healing of hundreds of patients every day. Many of those patients participate in garden activities with their caregivers and a few even help regularly with harvests for the kitchen.
Imagine living in a housing estate where an organic farm is the center of the community instead of a golf course or a town park! Many real estate developers see this as the model of the future according to this article from the Des Moines Register. It takes the concept of urban farming to a new level. Since interest in locally grown food has increased and the farm-to-table concept has been popularized, this living model addresses an expanding need in a nice way!
One can envision an suburban community where the farm is a short walk down the street and families rely on the fresh organic ingredients it provides daily in their cooking. They learn to grow and harvest their own food and cook it as well. As mentioned in previous blog posts, easy access to quality vegetables is a key motivation for eating them. These conservation communities solve this problem in a big way!
Having food grown in your backyard can be exciting, Cleverley said. “There are very few things that are more rewarding than walking into a field and bringing back dinner,” he said. Source
"Farms have become the new golf course," according to a senior fellow at Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C. who estimates that there are close to 200 such developments nationally now. This is very beneficial for those who want alternatives to the classic development around a golf course, constructed lake, or other resource which is great for occasional leisure but doesn't directly improve the lifestyle of the majority of the people who live there. A gardening community within a metropolitan area will help those who use it potentially eat better and enjoy the food more. For those who already eat healthy and want to utilize the convenience of such a development, it's a fantastic opportunity!
“When I was a kid, almost every farm had a garden. Those are good memories for a lot of people — being in a garden with their grandparents or sitting around a table, shelling peas” with their parents. “People would like to recapture that feeling,” said Cleverley, who will likely help Hubbell develop the plan for the project’s organic farm. Source
“There is a big demand that needs to be met, which is why we are able to sell everything we grow,” said Salcines, one of the founders of the cooperative, which now covers a total of 10.14 hectares and produces more than 230 different crop varieties (primarily garden vegetables, as well as some fruits, grains and tubers) in greenhouses and open fields.
Vivero Alamar is an organic farm cooperative just beyond the city of Havana, Cuba, which is proving that non-sugar cane agriculture can prosper. The farm grows garden vegetables, fruits, some grains and tubers and produced more than 400 tonnes of vegetables in 2012, all of which was sold.
The farm is unique in that the agriculture sector in Cuba is depressed and the country had to import $1.6B in produce last year to meet demand. It's a sign that agriculture in Cuba can work and the country can become more self-sufficient.
What also makes the farm unique, with its 195 employees, is that it's run professionally and with the employees in mind - flexible hours, good wages, and career growth - all of which encourages pride in the organization and its products. Further, the coop is training the next generation of farmers on how to run an agricultural enterprise and be good at it according to this article from TierraAmerica.
Being vegan or vegetarian can be hard in a country like Cuba with limited supplies of fresh vegetables, but Vivero Alamar is helping fill the gap by making nutritious ingredients available to all who want it at an affordable price.
While more governments start to acknowledge that global warming may impact how we live in the future, some communities are already making adaptations. This is especially true among island nations and coastal cities that are exposed to rising ocean levels.
In Lagos, Nigeria, one of the world's largest cities and one which is very prone to damages from rising seas, the swampy economically deprived community of Makoko, a floating community school has been built in anticipation that land based buildings may be in jeopardy in the future. Images of the school show an A-framed wooden building atop a barge like platform.
The architect is Kunle Adeyemi and he proposes that this may be a model for other at risk cities. His idea is gaining attention as storms ravage east coast cities this last year like New York and Boston as mentioned in this article. Maybe we can extend this idea to include floating gardens and crops. This could help preserve precious land resources and prevent overuse. Some thought leaders have already conceptualized floating cities and near shore based urban buildings in which people live and work and which also have large urban gardens supporting the off-shore community.
Whether its changing climates, land overuse, or diminishing resources to supporting land based mega-population centers, evaluating near-shore platform cities may lead to acceptable living options in the future.
The urban farm concept is catching on now even in airports! Built on the second floor in between the terminals, this vertical garden supports several airport restaurants including Wolfgang Puck. The crops include basil, cilantro, lettuce, arugula, and edible flowers. It also gives the airport a nice fresh botanical feel and shows what can be done with urban gardening even in a compact busy environment. I hope they expand the garden and more airports and business try to replicate the model!
Make Simple Vegan Meals