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Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

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Photo: King Associates
Whether you call it edible landscaping, foodscaping, or front-yard farming, many landscapers around the country are helping homeowners convert work-intensive, enviromentally unsound lawns into productive gardens.

If you’re a homeowner and your yard is covered with snow right now, you may be dreaming of the beautiful lawn you will have in spring. You may even be imagining that you love having a lawn even though no one uses your lawn to picnic or play catch and that you enjoy mowing and spreading weed killer to give your home a green welcome mat until summer sun turns it brown. When you’re in a deep freeze, it’s easy to feel that everything about spring is fun.

But what if someone knocked on your door one day and offered to plant and care for a vegetable garden where your lawn is now, promising to give you a generous cut of the produce?

That is actually happening. Fleet Farming, for example, does this work in Orlando, Florida.

Their website says, “Fleet Farming is a non-profit urban agriculture program whose mission is to empower all generations to grow food to increase local food accessibility. Our Vision is to create localized food systems that bring communities together towards a healthier, more connected world in harmony with people and planet.

“We accomplish this by converting underutilized lawn space into productive localized edible gardens or micro farms. Our program works to provide edible landscaping to schools, community centers, affordable housing units, businesses and individuals through our community farming initiative and Edible Landscapes garden-installation service. Together, we are changing the cycle of food.”

The organization describes a 2018 project at its blog, here. “In May 2018, over 100 student volunteers from Rock Bridge Community Church in Northern Georgia came down to Orlando and partook in a series of action days in partnership with United Way. They aided Fleet Farming and Orlando Permaculture in revitalizing Audubon Park Covenant Church’s beautiful grounds.

“The students were a massive help in clearing bushes and planting new trees. They collaborated in shoveling and transferring fresh mulch to the church’s plentiful gardens. They showed a true sense of generosity and community.

“Every person, young or old, deserves the right learn how to grow their own food, and engage with nature and the outdoors. If you have a group who would be interested in working with Fleet Farming for a day of action, contact us at info@fleetfarming.org.”

You can also consider “donating” your lawn.

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Rupa Shenoy had an interesting story on WGBH radio recently. It was about local startups interested in urban farming. I wrote previously about Higher Ground Farm, situated on top of the Design Center in South Boston, but Grove Labs, with its use of LED lighting for indoor gardening, was new to me.

Shenoy says, “Some of these new entrepreneurs are thinking big. Jamie Byron and Gabe Blanchet graduated from MIT and started Grove Labs two years ago with the idea to make every living room a potential growing space. …

“Their product is a cabinet that allows people to grow fruits and vegetables year-round in the home. It’s connected to the internet, controlled by an app on your phone, and designed to make urban farming easy and engaging.

“There are a few models set up in a space at Greentown Labs in Somerville, which they share with other startups. Each wooden cabinet, with several components, is about the size of an entertainment center.

“At the heart of the cabinet system is a fish swimming in a tank. The waste from that fish is sucked into tubes and converted into nitrate fertilizer. The fertilizer is pumped around the cabinet to trays filled with brown clay pebbles. That’s where the fruits and vegetables grow, with the pebbles serving as soil. Byron says once you get the system up and running, you can harvest enough for about two small salads everyday.” More at WGBH.

For more on using fish to fertilize your produce, see my recent post about an experiment in Duluth, here.

Photo: Rupa Shenoy / WGBH News
Somerville startup Grove Labs plans to sell cabinets for growing produce in your home.

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The Globe‘s Callum Borchers wrote recently about an organization called Seeding Labs, which presented at the IDEAS conference in Boston.

Founder Nina Dudnick, he says, “collects and ships used lab equipment to developing countries.

“Last year, Seeding Labs hosted six scientists and researchers from Kenya, one of whom was a chemist, Mildred Nawiri, who is studying how certain vegetables that are indigenous to West Africa might help prevent cancer.

“On Wednesday, Dudnick pointed to Nawiri’s research as an example of work that is unlikely to be done in the United States, because the vegetables she is studying do not grow here.

“And whatever benefits she might discover could go unrealized without modern equipment. Before Seeding Labs, Nawiri was using techniques Western scientists employed in the 1800s, Dudnick said.”

Dudnick points out that “this talent really is everywhere. The problems that face us, like cancer, don’t respect boundaries drawn on a map, so why should our scientific community?”

More at the Globe.

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I’m hoping someone from my deep past will remember the name of the man who used to travel to my growing-up neighborhood in a blue-painted school bus to sell fruits and vegetables. The name “Mr. Mackey” is clawing itself to the surface, but I may have that wrong.

I had flashbacks about the huckster today when I read about the Fresh
Truck, an old idea made new in a time of urban food deserts and locavore sensibilities.

Christina Reinwald wrote the story for the Boston Globe.

“A food bus began to roll down the city’s streets Thursday. The retrofitted school bus, the brainchild of a Boston start-up called Fresh Truck, is expected to visit Boston communities that don’t have nearby grocery stores, selling fruits and vegetables.

“Fresh Truck founders Josh Trautwein and Daniel Clarke, recent Northeastern University graduates, came up with the idea last year and work full time now to serve neighborhoods in need of more healthful food options. …

“Fresh Truck raised more than $32,000 from over 300 contributors to its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign earlier this year. It also received private donations to get started.

“Starting Monday outside the New England Baptist Hospital in Roxbury, Fresh Truck will sell its produce for about 20 percent less than average grocery prices, Trautwein said.

“Avoiding the traditional brick-and-mortar shop eliminates many operating costs for Fresh Truck.” More.

Photo: Yoon S. Byun/ Globe Staff
A food bus run by Fresh Truck, a Boston start-up, aims to serve neighborhoods in need of more healthful food options.

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Like most Americans, I don’t know much about the multibillion-dollar Farm Bill, which is up for renewal this year. NYU professor Marion Nestle talks about its enormous complexity in the Boston Globe.

“I’d like to bring agricultural policy in line with health policy. Health policy tells us that we ought to be making fruits and vegetables inexpensive.” Her biggest concern is that those who produce and sell processed foods benefit most from current policy, which has had the effect of lowering prices for processed food and increasing the prices for the fresh fruits and vegetables people really need.

I have blogged before about the related problem of “food deserts,” localities where there is no reasonably priced market and people end up eating too much junk food. (Check out this post and this one.)

Today I would also like to point you to a National Public Radio story by Nancy Shute.

“Increasingly, metropolitan areas are creating or bolstering their food policies, recognizing the need to ensure that healthful and affordable foodstuffs are available for residents. Baltimore fashioned a food policy initiative in 2009 which involves multiple city departments and an advisory group of over 30 organizations. Priorities included the reduction of ‘food deserts’ and the support of projects that allow low-income residents to order groceries online and pick them up at the local library. New York and San Francisco have also created their own food policy initiatives, and mayors across the U.S. have met to launch a food policy task force.”

“In the summer, Shirley and Ewald August grow blueberries at their Windsor Mill, Md., farm and sell at Baltimore farmers markets.” Photograph: Amy Davis/MCT/Landov

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Check out this story in the Boston Globe. It seems especially timely given the increasing numbers of people growing their own food and the concerns about many others who are struggling.

“Every summer, 40 million backyard farmers produce more food than they can use, while people in their communities go hungry. If only they could link up. Enter Gary Oppenheimer, 59, of West Milford, N.J. He was directing a community garden a couple of years ago when inspiration struck. In May 2009, AmpleHarvest.org hit the Internet, connecting food pantries and gardeners. In just 150 days, Rosie’s Place in Boston became the 1,000th pantry on the site, and the growth has continued. As of Labor Day, 4,188 pantries were listed, in all states. Oppenheimer says the nonprofit organization is actively seeking grant funding to sustain what has sprung up.” Read more here.

If you have extra produce from your garden, you can go to AmpleHarvest to find a food pantry near you.

Photographs: Sandra M. Kelly

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Concord’s main business street, sometimes called the Milldam because it was built over a dam, got blocked to traffic this morning, and farmers set up booths. Concord doesn’t do this often because most farmers around town have their own stands. I bought a small yellow watermelon, corn, lettuce, green beans, and a tomato. Because I was on foot I resisted buying more, but the raspberries looked wonderful as did some seasoned salt, pots of flowers, dried hydrangeas, and homemade soaps.

Among the farms represented were Verrill Farm (where we went for Mothers Day brunch this year),  Pete & Jen’s Backyard Birds, Frank Scimone Farm, and Hutchins Farm (pictured).

Last year we attended the Concord farms’ annual Stone Soup dinner, a benefit organized by the town’s Agricultural Committee — quite elaborate and delicious. A scholarship was awarded that night to a young local farmer as part of the campaign to encourage the next generation to pursue or stay in agriculture. I was surprised to learn that there are 18 farms in Concord. Read more here.

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