Category Archives: Urban Farming

#Farming Friday 23: Urban Farming for Food Security



First, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the local food supply system in New Orleans and then the BP oil spill wiped out the fishing industry. The fishermen were mostly from the Vietnamese community which had a history of urban farming to meet the local demand for vegetables for Vietnamese cooking.  In an interesting convergence, the Vietnamese fishermen drew on this practice of urban farming to offer locally grown vegetables to area residents still awaiting the return of grocery stores destroyed by Katrina; a solution which worked towards food and income security.

The Story Behind Frozen Peas

Before I went off to the hospital to have my baby, I showed off to my mother the  stock of frozen vegetables in the freezer: peas, beans, greens, this would last us a while. She, more used to picking out what she wanted from the fresh arrivals in her neighborhood market everyday, looked doubtful. By the end of her stay though, she was a convert! With deft handling, those frozen vegetables can make a meal in minutes. So who thought this one up?  Clarence Birdseye was the man who made it all possible and this new book by Mark Kurlansky , relates his fascinating story.He traveled the world, sampling different types of food and then found a way to bring  them all to the table. And no, frozen is not inferior to fresh from the nutritional perspective because the produce is frozen at its peak. I am looking forward to reading the full story!

And if fresh is more your thing, and you are looking to grow your own garden, here is the story of the White House vegetable garden, among other interesting details.

Atlantic Food Summit Today

I will be attending the Atlantic Food Summit today, eager to hear the discussion on childhood nutrition, obesity and most important, how to feed 9 billion people sustainably. I will be sharing  and posting on all of that in detail and for the first time, will also attempt to tweet as it happens! Please follow @thegreenfork for updates. Martha Stewart and Mario Batali will be participating, among others, so it should be a good thing….

Is Small Always Beautiful?

In the midst of all the bad food news: the obesity epidemic, use of hormones and toxic chemicals in the food industry, food deserts, to name a few; reports of flourishing urban gardens are always encouraging. But are they really a long term solution to the problems in our food system?  It can be argued that their small size prevents them from spurring economic growth in the community in a meaningful way and they can do little to solve the problem of global hunger.

As in most issues related to the food world, it is essential not to take an extreme view. Urban gardens are an important step toward revitalizing devastated urban areas like Detroit or New Orleans and in small ways their scale can be ramped up to spread the benefits in the community but they are not a magic wand which we can wave and fix the food system.

In this piece the author argues that it would be more efficient to have a Wal-Mart instead as that would create more jobs and bring economic growth to the area. Before we knock the idea, check out a Wal-Mart store. In my neighborhood, the store stocks wild caught fish, organic produce, milk and eggs and has organic options to regular cereals, granola bars and other basics on the shelves, all at an affordable price.

We cannot all grow our own food and small farms cannot feed everyone. We have also learned our lessons from the consistent growth of huge industrialized farms and the subsequent breakdown of the food system. Can we try for a middle path where local, nutritious produce is available at prices consumers can actually afford?

From the Yard to the Pot

Urban farming is not just about fresh herbs and juicy veggies from the backyard, many people are raising small animals too; ike goats, rabbits and chicken. The ultimate destination for these animals , of course, is the pot. Their living moments, it is argued are more humane in these urban backyards than they would be in a factory farm, but what about their end? Is it safe, hygienic, desirable? While approving of the idea in principle, would we actually welcome it in our own neighborhood? Where I live, you cannot paint the outside of the house any color you like, much less raise and kill chickens in the backyard. There is a logic behind this, we have chosen to live in a community, in an organized way so collective opinion is important. My right to raise animals for dinner has to coexist with your sanitary or health concerns. Right now, these issues are being debated in Oakland, CA as new zoning laws for urban farms are being drawn up.

To me, these conflicts are similar to the raw milk or vaccine debates. Yes, we have a right to choose what we eat and decide how to nurture our children. But we have all opted to live in a social framework as well and harmonious coexistence is crucial.