Category: Urban agriculture

C-U Public Health District garden gives back to the community

Read the full post at Smile Politely.

The days are finally warming up in Champaign, with blooming flowers and chirping birds reminding us that it is indeed early May. Moreover, warmer temperatures indicate that fresh, local vegetables and fruits are soon available in beautiful abundance. If you’re anything like me, you’re ready for just about any excuse to be outside after such a long winter. The Champaign Urbana Public Health District’s (CUPHD) Give Back Garden provides community members the perfect opportunity to be outside and give back to the community so that all can enjoy Mother Nature’s offerings. What could be better?

Have Backyard Chickens Gone Too Free-Range?

Read the full story at CityLab.

Urban-poultry laws need to be stricter about public health and animal welfare, according to one expert.

A Secret Superpower, Right in Your Backyard

Read the full story in the New York Times.

As the verdant hills of Wakanda are secretly enriched with the fictional metal vibranium in “Black Panther,” your average backyard also has hidden superpowers: Its soil can absorb and store a significant amount of carbon from the air, unexpectedly making such green spaces an important asset in the battle against climate change.

Backyard soils can lock in more planet-warming carbon emissions than soils found in native grasslands or urban forests like arboretums, according to Carly Ziter, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The results of her research, published Tuesday in the journal Ecological Applications, were something of a surprise, given that those of us who have yards generally don’t think of them as “nature,” or as especially beneficial to the environment. But at least in this case, the things we enjoy for ourselves are also helping the community at large.

IN: Master Gardeners to open seed library

Read the full story at Current.

A new library is opening in Hamilton County in March, but you won’t find any books in it.

The Hamilton County Master Gardeners Association is opening the county’s first-ever seed library at Carmel Clay Public Library.

Interconnected benefits of urban agriculture

Read the full story in Science Daily.

From a vacant plot in a blighted neighborhood springs neatly combed rows of plants put in by the neighbors. They meticulously care for this small piece of land and among the drab looking buildings sprouts a patch of green. Cultivating the land may have started as a way to unite a neighborhood; to give pride to place, or it might be the project of a local high school to teach land stewardship.

The urban agriculture phenomenon has grown over the years for many reasons, each specific to the plot of land or rooftop it covers. While most of the benefits from these efforts seem to be limited and very local, when taken collectively there is a significant environmental impact that results from them.

Now a team of researchers led by Arizona State University and Google has assessed the value of urban agriculture and quantified its benefits at global scale. They report their findings in “A Global Geospatial Ecosystems Services Estimate of Urban Agriculture,” in the current issue of Earth’s Future.

Local Roots: Farm-in-a-box coming to a distribution center near you

Read the full story from Ars Technica.

Ars checks out shipping-container farming that’s said to have price parity with farms.

Could indoor farming help address future food shortages?

Read the full story from PBS NewsHour.

By 2050, Earth’s population is expected to rise to 10 billion, while the resources on the planet continue to shrink. Researchers in the Netherlands are experimenting with one way to feed more people with less: growing crops indoors. NewsHour Weekend’s Ivette Feliciano takes a look at how indoor farming could shift our relationship with food.

Hidden tour at Epcot teaches sustainable gardening

Read the full story at WKMG.

If you’ve ever ventured through the “Living with the Land” boat tour at Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park, there’s a hidden adventure inside the greenhouses.

News 6 anchor Kirstin O’Connor took a “Behind the Seeds” tour alongside Les Frey, a horticulturist for Walt Disney World. From backstage, visitors can touch, taste and even test their knowledge of more than 150 plants grown around the world.

Hydroponic Veggies Are Taking Over Organic, And A Move To Ban Them Fails

Read the full story from NPR.

Dave Chapman and dozens of other long-time organic farmers packed a meeting of the National Organic Standards Board in Jacksonville, Fla., this week. It was their last-ditch effort to strip the organic label from a tide of fluid-fed, “hydroponic” greenhouse-grown vegetables that they think represent a betrayal of true organic principles.

One of the issues raised in the NPR story is whether traditional organic farming is less resource intensive than hydroponic growing methods. Because I’m a librarian and I was curious, I did a little bit of digging and found the following articles analyzing the life cycle impacts of hydroponic and conventional agricultural growing methods.

Steven W. Van Ginkel; Thomas Igou; Yongsheng Chen (2017). “Energy, water and nutrient impacts of California-grown vegetables compared to controlled environmental agriculture systems in Atlanta, GA.” Resources, Conservation and Recycling 122, 319-325. DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2017.03.003

The Central Valley in the State of California alone produces most of our nation’s fruits and vegetables and represents just 1% of the nation’s farmland. Since California’s recent drought was the worst in the last 1200 years, supply of these products may decrease and new sources are needed. To understand the efficacy of growing fruits and vegetables more locally, the energy, water and nutrient impacts of growing fruits and vegetables in local hydroponic and aquaponic controlled environment agriculture systems are compared to vegetables grown in California and shipped to Atlanta, GA. Hydroponically and aquaponically grown fruits and vegetables have areal productivities 29 and 10 times higher than CA-grown vegetables while hydroponically grown vegetables consume 30 times more energy than the CA-grown vegetables. There appears to be no difference in energy consumption between aquaponically- and CA-grown vegetables. On average, 66 and 8 times more water is used in CA-grown vegetables compared to the hydroponic and aquaponic growing techniques. Approximately double the nitrogen needed by plants is applied to CA-grown fruits and vegetables which suggests nitrogen is lost in runoff causing eutrophication downstream. There are 20, 348 and 10 times twenty times more rainfall, nutrients in domestic wastewater and vacant land needed to supply the water, nutrient and space requirements for vegetable production in Atlanta, GA.

Barbosa, G.L.; Gadelha, F.D.A.; Kublik, N.; Proctor, A.; Reichelm, L.; Weissinger, E.; Wohlleb, G.M.; Halden, R.U. (2015). “Comparison of Land, Water, and Energy Requirements of Lettuce Grown Using Hydroponic vs. Conventional Agricultural Methods.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 12, 6879-6891. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph120606879. Open access.

The land, water, and energy requirements of hydroponics were compared to those of conventional agriculture by example of lettuce production in Yuma, Arizona, USA. Data were obtained from crop budgets and governmental agricultural statistics, and contrasted with theoretical data for hydroponic lettuce production derived by using engineering equations populated with literature values. Yields of lettuce per greenhouse unit (815 m2) of 41 ± 6.1 kg/m2/y had water and energy demands of 20 ± 3.8 L/kg/y and 90,000 ± 11,000 kJ/kg/y (±standard deviation), respectively. In comparison, conventional production yielded 3.9 ± 0.21 kg/m2/y of produce, with water and energy demands of 250 ± 25 L/kg/y and 1100 ± 75 kJ/kg/y, respectively. Hydroponics offered 11 ± 1.7 times higher yields but required 82 ± 11 times more energy compared to conventionally produced lettuce. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first quantitative comparison of conventional and hydroponic produce production by example of lettuce grown in the southwestern United States. It identified energy availability as a major factor in assessing the sustainability of hydroponics, and it points to water-scarce settings offering an abundance of renewable energy (e.g., from solar, geothermal, or wind power) as particularly attractive regions for hydroponic agriculture. View Full-Text


The following review article includes a discussion of hydroponic vs conventional growing methods in the context of urban agriculture.

Benjamin Goldstein, Michael Hauschild, John Fernández, Morten Birkved (2016). “Urban versus conventional agriculture, taxonomy of resource profiles: a review.” Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 36 (1), article 9. DOI: 10.1007/s13593-015-0348-4.

Urban agriculture appears to be a means to combat the environmental pressure of increasing urbanization and food demand. However, there is hitherto limited knowledge of the efficiency and scaling up of practices of urban farming. Here, we review the claims on urban agriculture’s comparative performance relative to conventional food production. Our main findings are as follows: (1) benefits, such as reduced embodied greenhouse gases, urban heat island reduction, and storm water mitigation, have strong support in current literature. (2) Other benefits such as food waste minimization and ecological footprint reduction require further exploration. (3) Urban agriculture benefits to both food supply chains and urban ecosystems vary considerably with system type. To facilitate the comparison of urban agriculture systems we propose a classification based on (1) conditioning of the growing space and (2) the level of integration with buildings. Lastly, we compare the predicted environmental performance of the four main types of urban agriculture that arise through the application of the taxonomy. The findings show how taxonomy can aid future research on the intersection of urban food production and the larger material and energy regimes of cities (the “urban metabolism”).

America’s largest urban farm takes root in Pittsburgh

Read the full story from Mother Nature Network.

At 23 acres, Hilltop Urban Farm will serve up fresh produce with a side of affordable housing.

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