Small Scale, Big Impact

Glenway Street Farm, Boston. Photo credit: Urban Farming Institute

Boston urban farm innovator Glynn Lloyd helped turn vacant lots into commercial market gardens.

It started with a drive through his urban neighborhood.

While driving down Harold Street on the way to my cousin’s house, I noticed a vacant lot on my left and then, just a block down, I saw two large vacant lots on my right. At the end of Harold Street—right before Howland Street—stood a huge half-acre vacant lot. (…) Later that week, intrigued at the amount of vacant space, I walked the streets and tallied approximately 1.5 acres of land sitting vacant among the homes and apartment buildings.

We could do a similar tally in our own cities. In Evansville, where Common Ground is located, the residential downtown area is similar to what Lloyd describes as he tells his story: a tough neighborhood with beautiful houses, long-term residents, and strong community leadership.

And plenty of small vacant lots.

He goes on to write:

In the commissary kitchen of my company—City Fresh—the staff was preparing meals for one of the summer camps in session. The team members were cutting heads of lettuce that had been shipped in from across the country, and a question occurred to me: Why couldn’t we be growing this lettuce closer to home?

It’s a question that brought many of us into the local food movement, which in turn has led to a burgeoning of farmers markets around the country, including our own area, where a small but increasing number of local farmers have stepped up to grow specifically for local restaurants and direct-to-consumer sales.

The movement is remains fledgling, however, and many urban areas — Evansville included — face have serious problems with soil and water contamination from urban industry, problems that complicate the progress of urban farming.

Still, bringing food production closer to where we all actually live, scaling it down in a way that allows us to develop solutions to the specific needs of our urban and suburban neighborhoods, would be a significant step toward building a food system that is inherently resilient and sustainable.

Once more from Lloyd:

I would argue that it is no longer sustainable or practical to have less than 2% of the U.S. population directly involved in its own food production. Urban and suburban readers: Picture each household on your block growing market-size gardens and fruit trees, and maybe even a few of your neighbors farming chickens or rabbits. Now envision all the in-between spaces—sidewalk medians, vacant lots, and unused parts of parks—overflowing with food production. We need to get there, but how?

You can read the entire article here.

via Slow Money

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