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Food & agriculture - May 17

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Fruit and vegetable community co-ops rise to 350 in Wales

Nick Bourne, BBC Wales News
The number of community-run fruit and vegetable co-ops run by volunteers in Wales has risen to more than 350.

A report on one Welsh government-funded umbrella group said by 2011 it helped set up 280 supplying 10,000 customers with locally-grown food.

The Rural Regeneration Unit (RRU) in Wrexham says more have since started, run by more than 2,700 volunteers.

In Wrexham, for example, there are at least seven food co-ops supplied by a local farmer.

But the true number of groups across Wales is not known as they can be set up and run independently.

One such group is Roots and Fruits, which has been operating at Wrexham's Caia Park housing estate for the last two years.

As well as getting fruit, salad and vegetables from a local farmer, an estate gardening team of 15 volunteers grows food for a nearby day care nursery, older people's day centre and cafe.

If the gardeners produce a glut it is put in with food co-op customers' veg bag orders...
(9 May 2012)



Quantifying Urban Agriculture Impacts, One Tomato at a Time

Peleg Kremer, triplepundit
With most of the world’s population living in urban areas for the first time in history, understanding food supply in urban areas is becoming increasingly important. With the resurgence of the local food movement, urban food production in the form of personal, institutional and community gardens, rooftop gardens and urban farms, are emerging as a popular activities. For the past five years major urban areas have again been starting to recognize the potential of urban food production and consider ways to support it. The list of examples is endless.

Last year, for example, a bill to change San Francisco’s zoning code to allow urban agriculture across the city and legalize the sales of foods produced in urban gardens was passed by the Board of Supervisors. In 2010, a report by the Manhattan Borough President recognized personal, community and commercial urban agriculture and urban food production as the first goal in strengthening the local food system of New York, and the city’s Council speaker (and now mayoral hopeful) Christina Qunin introduced FoodWorks: A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System. In addition, a report by the Urban Design Lab at Columbia University sorted through available land in NYC with some 29,000 lots of vacant and underused land to evaluate its effectiveness for urban agriculture.

In Philadelphia, the city included urban food production in the actionable goals of its sustainability plan, Greenworks Philadelphia. The Seattle city council passed a resolution “establishing goals, creating a policy framework, and identifying planning, analysis and actions for the purpose of strengthening Seattle’s food system sustainability and security” and approved a bill that supports the rapidly growing local food movement in the city. The ordinance updates the city’s land use code governing urban agriculture uses, including allowing “urban farms” and “community gardens” in all zones, and allowing residents to sell food grown on their property. And it’s not just big cities that are leading the way. Three towns in Maine, Sedgwick, Penobscot and Blue Hill passed a food sovereignty bill last year....
(10 May 2012)



The Edible City

Staff, The Dirt Blog

Watch a new animation from ASLA’s “Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes” online exhibition that shows how to turn a conventional community into an edible city. Learn how to transform unproductive spaces into agricultural landscapes that help fight obesity and reduce food deserts:

According to the United Nations, some one-fourth of all agricultural land is seriously degraded. As a result, people are now turning to untapped urban land. In fact, some 800 million people a year worldwide are practicing urban agriculture. Beyond creating green spaces, urban agriculture may aid those who don’t have secure access to food. In the U.S. alone, some 49 million Americans experience food insecurity and another 23 million live in food deserts where there is little fresh produce or public space. To fight insecurity, many Americans, even those in poorer areas, are taking food production into their own hands: Some 38 percent of households or 41 million people grew vegetables, fruits, or herbs on their property. (Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations; RUAF Foundation and Feeding America; “Urban Agriculture: Practices to Improve Cities,” Mia Lehrer and Maya Dunne, UrbanLand, Urban Land Institute )

While growing food breaks the law in many U.S. cities, innovators like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and smaller cities like Madison, Wisconsin, are now changing regulations to accommodate the growing numbers of urban farmers. In those communities, many types of private and public spaces — front and backyards, courtyards in multi-family complexes, abandoned lots, and building rooftops — can now be legally transformed from unproductive spaces into low-cost sources of nutrition. In Washington, D.C and Portland, homeowners can even lease out their yards to local organizations and reap the benefits. In Cleveland and Detroit, abandoned lots owned by the city are leased at almost zero cost to farmers if they promise to grow things on them. In Chicago, the rooftop of one youth center was redesigned as a farm and now produces 1,000 pounds of organic produce each year while teaching urban kids where food comes from. (Sources: Backyard Farmer; DC City Farmer; Rooftop Haven for Urban Agriculture, Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes, ASLA / Gary Comer Youth Center, Chicago, Illinois; and “Keeping Urban Farmers Safe,” The Dirt, ASLA)

Commercial urban farmers are also starting to make money on rooftops. In New York City, the Brooklyn Grange, a 40,000 square foot farm, grew some 15,000 pounds last year. Underutilized spaces can be leased out for around $1 a square foot, creating enough financial incentive for urban farmers to take root. Another great idea being considered: big-box stores could lease out their massive rooftops to farmers, and then purchase the food there to re-sell. However, many landscape architects argue that for these new urban agriculture projects to really work, they need to be knit together into a network. Produce grown in neighborhoods can be distributed via farmers’ markets, shops, coops, food banks, even mobile storefronts. With local networks in place, nearby suburban farms can also participate, finding new markets and creating a more healthy food system in the process. (Sources: “Farm the Rooftops,” The Dirt, ASLA and “Urban Agriculture: Practices to Improve Cities,” Mia Lehrer and Maya Dunne, UrbanLand, Urban Land Institute)

(30 April, 2012)

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