Archives for posts with tag: urban agriculture

This post originally appeared on the Pop-Up City

Paris has taken urban sustainability to the next level with the most recent addition to its team of municipal workers. Rather than investing in another fleet of gas-guzzling lawn mowers, the city has acquired four large sheep to take care of its green spaces. Known as “eco-grazing”, the sheep won’t just be mowing the city’s lawns — they’ll be fertilizing them too!

For now, the team of lawn-mowing sheep will be living and grazing a grassy slope just outside Paris’ Municipal Archives building. At a cost of €260, the sheep were incredibly cheap, another aspect of the program’s overall sustainability. Along with the wildly successfully Velib bike sharing system, the sheep are part of the efforts of Mayor Bertrand Delanoë to make Paris more environmentally friendly. This is a spectacular example, and its extensive coverage from traditional news outlets and blogs worldwide are undeniably contributing to the image of a greener Paris. If the pilot program succeeds it will be extended and expanded.

The program is appealing in its reference to the commons of the pre-modern city, where public land was shared, and free-roaming domesticated animals were as commonplace as benches and street lamps. With today’s immense popularity of urban farming, rooftop gardens, and urban chickens, Paris’ urban sheep represent one more step in the complete (re)integration of farms and cities. Looking back to historical uses of cities, but with modern standards for health and safety, we can reference the past, and improve it while building the sustainable city of the future.

This post originally appeared on the Pop-Up City

Farming the City

With the popularity of food trucksfood-apps, and pop-up restaurants, preoccupation with what we eat has never been greater. Along with our eating obsession, urban agriculture has been fervently adopted by conscious urbanites seeking to reconnect with their food. The principles that guide many urban agriculture projects and initiatives, however — a do-it-yourself ethos, a preference for bottom-up, community planning, and hyper-localized solutions — don’t lend themselves to the forming of a unified social movement capable of major change at a global scale.

Seeing an opportunity to unite the wide-ranging efforts of urban farmers worldwide, CITIES Magazine and Trancity have published Farming the City: Food as a Tool for Today’s UrbanisationFarming the City’s mission is to link international activists and thinkers to increase their potential for positive impact on society, actively ‘joining the dots’ between independent initiatives around the world. Farming the City provides a platform for knowledge-sharing, motivation and inspiration for the diversity urban farmers worldwide.

Farming the City

A central message of the book is how food can be used as a tool for urban development. With thoughtful planning, clustering and the facilitation of local food projects, the book argues that we can dismantle the urban paradox that “the closer we cluster together, the further removed we get from our sources of sustenance”. In an introduction by Carolyn Steel, UK-based architect and author of Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our LivesFarming the City sets a hopeful tone, proclaiming that “across the world’s cities, food is coming home”.

Farming the City

Farming the City establishes that urban agriculture is an inherently a bottom-up process. Urban agriculture is also “opportunistic by nature,” adapting to “the possibilites and limitations of the city”. Accordingly, municipal bureaucrats and planners should recognize this, and shift their role toward mapping where urban agriculture can take place, and facilitating the process of finding space.

Farming the City

The book is organized as a collection of essays by a variety of activities, thinkers and urban farmers, followed by case studies that elegantly straddle the line between thoughtful academic analysis, and accessible, engaging descriptions of projects around the world. The book is animated with beautifully designed infographics that illustrate important concepts, their consistent design unifying the diversity of projects. The infographics illuminate concepts such as Jan Jongert’s ‘Resilient City’, which argues for a reconnection of urban flows such as food, energy, water and money toward an integrated and regenerative city. Gro Holland, a company that supplies restaurants with mushrooms grown in coffee grinds collected from restaurants is a prime example of how to reintegrate urban flows.

Farming the City

Farming the City also includes a wide range of case studies from around the world, such as a history of FoodShare, a place-based food security organization in Toronto, and Debra Solomon and Mariska Van den Berg of Amsterdam’s Urbaniahoeve, a social design lab that specializes in bottom up transformations of public space into socially driven, edible urban foodscapes. Urbaniahoeve’s experience in establishing a ‘Foodscape’ in The Hague taught them that convincing decision makers is a lengthy process, but important in its bridging of cultural and professional gaps. Eventually, the struggle with municipal bureaucracy is always worth it in the establishment of productive landscapes, which bring increased activity in public space, increased social cohesion, an increase in biodiversity and, lots of delicious food!

Farming the City

Farming the City effectively takes a diversity of concepts and case studies around the world and distills them into clear recommendations as to how food could be used as a tool for urban development. Emphasizing a diversity of urban agricultures, Farming the City goes on to define the importance of establishing a ‘local food field’, something akin to the creative field that was all the rage with urban planners in the early 2000s. A spatially clustered food field, with its own set of urban demands, spatial articulations and social interdependencies is capable of filling voids in the city, and would encourage the emergence of new urban networks and communities.

Farming the City

Farming the City’s strength lies in its ability to shift between technical descriptions of best urban gardening practice on one hand, to broad ranging social theory on the other. By ‘joining the dots’ between both theory and practice, and international urban agriculture projects, the book firmly establishes an otherwise fragmented scene of city-gardeners as a broad social movement, capable of collaboration, support and inspiration.

Farming the City

The folks behind Farming the City have also created a website that acts as a natural extension of the book’s recommendations, translating them from prescription into action, and empowering and supporting local food projects. Launched in 2011, the Farming the City website is a platform for all things urban agriculture and includes an interactive map of urban agriculture initiatives around the world, a section for volunteers availabilities, tips on best gardening practices and negotiating bureaucracy, and listings highlighting available space for urban farming in cities around the world (including empty roofs, lots, parks). It is an accessible resource, that if widely adopted — perhaps becoming the Facebook of urban agriculture  – has the potential to meaningfully link international efforts to farm the city toward a unified global urban agriculture movement.

Farming the City: Food as a Tool for Today’s Urbanisation
Published and edited by Cities Magazine and Trancity
17 x 23 cm, paperback
240 pages, English
ISBN 978-90-78088-63-9
EUR 27.50

Cross-posted from the Pop-Up City

You read on the Pop-Up City how urban farming is becoming a serious and profitable business in many cities around the world. But of course, a large part of this movement is maintaining its DIY roots.

Hawaii-based Eating in Public’s Seed-Sharing stations are unmonitored installations that have started to pop up all over the USA and Canada. They offer an easily accessible space for urban gardeners to exchange seeds and important information about how to best grow their fruits and veggies.

Seed-Sharing StationSeed-Sharing Station

In response to companies putting patents on the growing of food, Eating in Public wants to promote a pay-free fruit and vegetable seed exchange. As a participant, you could swap your heritage tomato seeds for a rare breed of melon, and learn what soil conditions, watering-cycles and amount of shade is needed to take care of them. Seed-Sharing stations can be installed in a variety of spaces, as long as they are accessible locations with “lots of traffic and used by people of diverse populations”: outdoor public spaces, busy indoor space, and even art galleries!

Seed-Sharing Station

All stations are built out of scrap and repurposed material. Anyone can adopt a Seed-Sharing Station or easily build one themselves: Eating in Public’s website offers a downloadable, easy-to-use design guide, with a variety of models ranging from the temporary (‘The Tag Along’) to the more permanent (‘The Wallflower’).

Despite being made from scrap material, they are uniformly stylish and, with the Seed-Sharing station logo & Eating in Public website stamped on each installation, maintain consistent design no matter where they are in the world.

Seed-Sharing Station

Each Seed-Sharing station is designed individually to fit the specificity of its context, another example of how ‘local’ grassroots initiatives to improve the city are actually part of a global urban culture, with identical projects stemming from wide-spread ideas made possible by the internet. Each Seed-Sharing station is slightly different to meet the needs of its community, but they are all “branded” as part of Eating in Public, with the same logos and explanations.

Whether it’s big urban agribusiness, small scale guerilla gardening or DIY seed swapping stations, the reality of urban farming continues to express itself in every nook and cranny of the city.

I’m a gardener too —

— slowly accumulating knowledge, tips and tricks each summer of urban agricultural experience. A garden is a wonderful thing. It provides an incredibly calm environment to absorb the wisdom of horticulture, philosophize, sit quietly and think about the world and us and eternity.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about beans and their trellises these days.

I love what they say about the relationship between people and the rest of the world, the rest of nature.

We plant bean seeds and then we build trellises that will soon support them. Trellises are often made of thin string or twine, and can be built in many ways. The beans need a trellis — they rely on having something to grow up-on to thrive, to ensure they don’t suffocate themselves, to give room to the flowers and eventual beans that pop out periodically from the vine.

String-trellises give a gardener an opportunity to trace the route that the beans will grow up-on; the beans will inevitably follow that route. Unrolling a ball of twine and building a trellis is determining the shape of the future plant.

Like a magic finger tracing lines in the air, we point at the sky and lead the future bean-vines upwards.

An “artificial” infrastructure is the frontier of a living system, and, is not apart from that living system.

Are the cities we build for ourselves not similar?  We pave a path, and life inevitably follows. We trace a route over the hills and into the sky, and a city sprouts.

I guess this is an opportunity to meditate on the quality of roads — traced-then-fulfilled life-paths, in an era of premeditated urban plans. Living in Halifax makes this especially pertinent, where new roadways are typically of the highway and subdivision varieties.

A street is a necessity to a thriving, diverse eco-city-system. When we build them, let’s take this into consideration, and hope — know, almost — for the best, that good streams of life-force will follow.

cross posted from Spacing Atlantic

This summer across the country, the idea that vegetables can and should be grown in the city continues to gain momentum. Urban agriculture is a lot of things, but as a formal movement promotes local, sustainable food systems, renewed inner-city social and physical health, and a shift toward people-oriented urbanism. Inner city food production has obvious impacts on the urban landscape, creating pleasant productive spaces in otherwise unproductive, sterile land.

Halifax has many lovely gardens, many of which can be found on the Halifax Garden Network’s user-generated map. You can, of course, engage in urban gardening in a variety of ways, ranging from formalized municipal allotments, to semi-private community gardens, to straight up guerilla gardens.

The nexus of do-it-yourself city planning and urban agriculture, guerilla gardening is a reminder of the possibility and importance of informal urban design. With the eye of a guerilla gardener, a quick scan of any street in Halifax presents many plots of public and private land that have the potential to be reclaimed and transformed from barren, asphalt spaces into beautiful urban places.

On my regular bike trips to the Far North End, I have noticed the slow cultivation of an otherwise barren lot at Agricola and Bilby. Though I haven’t met them, it seems that an individual or a group of people have taken it upon themselves to transform what was (as some quick Google Street View investigative work revealed) an extremely desolate corner, into a lovely urban space.

 Many vegetables and flowers have been planted, and thoughtfully labelled to educate curious onlookers about the varieties of species grown there. Though the changes are few, the introduction of a variety of vegetation and DIY landscape architecture imbues a formerly neglected, barren corner into a space that is obviously cared for, and as a result, has become a beautiful place to be.

It’s not news that official urban planning in Halifax often leaves much to be desired. A history of decisions that have favoured developers and promoted car culture, Halifax has a notorious knack for destroying communities in the name of potential economic development and urban renewal. With the potential widening of Bayers road on the horizon, it’s obvious that official planning in Halifax, for now, will continue along its historically misguided footsteps, while the rest of the world experiments in progressive, community-oriented urban design.

Guerilla gardens, like the one at Agricola and Bilby, are one of the many ways that we can take shaping-the-city into our own hands. As the summer roars on and the gardening season reaches its peak, let us celebrate these fantastic guerilla gardens, reminders that we do not have to be the passive recipients of top-down city plans, but that we can be, and are, active agents in our cityscape.