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Connect The Dots: Rebuilding the Foodshed

Alison Rose Levy, Progressive Radio Network
Today on Connect the Dots at 10 AM ET in Solutions for Sustainable Food Systems, Alison Rose Levy speaks with Philip Ackerman-Leist, the author of Rebuilding The Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems

(27 February 2013)

Urban gardener hopes to turn foreclosures into farms

Nicole Sweeney Etter,
“This is a grassroots movement. Move grass. Grow food.” That’s the motto of the Victory Garden Initiative, a nonprofit organization founded by Gretchen Mead, a former social worker who is a member of the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee.

Thanks to Mead, hundreds of Milwaukeeans are rediscovering the joy of dirt under their fingernails. This year’s Victory Garden Blitz tapped the power of 300 volunteers (including many of Mead’s fellow UUs from FUSM) to install nearly 300 raised garden beds across Milwaukee. The Victory Garden Initiative also plants seeds in several other creative ways, ranging from the Fruity Nutty Campaign (to help develop “food forests” in the city) to urban permaculture courses and an LGBT Weed Dating event (like speed dating for gardeners). Yard by yard, Mead and her colleagues hope to turn everyone into a farmer.

“The big vision is really that we have a harvestable city where everyone has access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said. “The capacity to improve the quality of life for so many people lives in that realm, with that solution.”

Now Mead is poised to launch her most ambitious project yet. Earlier this fall she was chosen from 100 applicants to have her idea included—along with many other city-designed initiatives—in Milwaukee’s application to the national Bloomberg Mayors Challenge, which awards $1 million to $5 million to the best, boldest solutions to problems faced by cities across America.* Mead’s proposal, titled the Post-Industrial Urban Homestead Act, is to rededicate foreclosed properties to growing food and to give families the chance to become homesteaders—an innovative idea for a city plagued by approximately 6,000 empty lots and 3,000 empty homes.

“The idea is to pair foreclosed homes with empty urban land, and after someone farms the land for five years, the home becomes theirs,” Mead explained. “The prize money would go toward rehabbing those homes and the infrastructure for the farms so they wouldn’t have to do this all by themselves.” Mead also envisions a legion of volunteers from high schools, colleges, and corporations to help support urban farmers.

(15 Febrary 2013)

Permaculture Garden at UMass Documented on Video

Food gardens for campus dining halls aren’t particularly unusual anymore – along with renewable energy installations, I’d guess that this is one of the most popular ways of bringing sustainability to colleges and universities. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst went a step further, though, and not only converted a 12,000 square foot plot of land into a permaculture garden, but also documented the process on video. The three-part series, which run about 16 minutes total, covers the entire process of reclaiming the land for food production, and aptly demonstrates the excitement generated among students, faculty, and staff from this activity. Here’s part 1 of the series:

Talk about an educational experience: everyone involved gets crash courses in soil science, agricultural ecology, resource management, and more. Gardening like this also brings together members of the campus community in a common purpose: what other activity would connect kitchen staff, students, and members of the administration? And, finally, all get to share really fresh food transported from a few feet away…

Parts 2 and 3 of the series are available on the documentary’s web page.

(20 February 2013)