Urban Farm Inspiration from Near and Far

Spring is such an inspiring time of year for gardening — it seems like everyone you run into is telling you about what they’ve been up to in their yard or community garden plot and wanting to hear about what you’re growing, how it’s all going, and what new projects you’re wanting to take on.  On that note, I thought I’d put together a small roundup of inspiring urban agricultural projects, some from afar, and some from very close to home.

Novella Carpenter’s Ghost Town Farm in Oakland.  Novella Carpenter has a thriving urban farm in a (formerly) vacant lot next to her house in downtown Oakland.  She’s raised chickens, goats, rabbits, pigs (entirely on dumpstered food, no less) and completely transformed an unused lot into a pretty epic urban farm.  She blogs about her experiments and experiences (unfortunately, one of the most recent ones being the city of Oakland trying to shut down the farm and prevent her from selling her produce) and has also written a book called Farm City, which you can snag from the library here in town.  I like how improvised and low budget Novella’s techniques are — it makes her project particularly inspiring to those of us who are renters and don’t have access to ideal garden space.  It’s cool to know that you don’t have to own property to be able to create amazing urban ag experiments.

The Rhizome Collective in Austin.  These folks are in the midst of reorganizing and re-opening, but they operated out of a warehouse in Austin from 2000-2009, and you can take a virtual tour of the Rhizosphere (here or here).  The collective was focused on the design and display of functioning ecological tools and technologies. Their goal was “to create environmentally sustainable systems that provide for people’s basic needs: food, water, waste management, energy, and shelter. By having these systems on display, [they] hoped to educate and inspire others to continue the work of building sustainable infrastructures.”  They focused on really interesting areas such as bioremediation, manufactured wetlands, passive solar technology, bicycle powered windmills (!), biogas, and other rad technologies.  A couple of the collective members also put out a book called The Toolbox for Sustainable Urban Living which is amazingly inspiring and practical.  We have a copy of it in the Compost Education Centre library, or you can order it online.

The Mason Street City Farm here in Victoria.  The city farm is a quarter acre market garden located three blocks from City Hall, a stone’s throw from the local fast food joint and tucked in between condos, grocery stores, and the local elementary school.  Angela Moran, urban farmer extraordinaire, has been farming the site since 2005, and trying various permutations of box programs, market sales and restaurant sales for that time.  Current volunteer hours are Mondays and Tuesdays from 8:30am to 2:30pm and Wednesdays from 8:30am-11:30am if you’d like to help out.  You can also check out the farm website or Facebook page to find out more.

Bounce Back Farm here in Victoria.  This new urban farm’s mission is  to connect with the community through sustainable agriculture, providing a source for local, organically grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs all year round.  They are a small, organic urban SPIN (Small Plot INtensive) operation with some cool projects on the go (composting greenhouse!), and lots of tasty food being grown.  You can meet the intrepid farmers and buy their produce at the Bastion Square Market on Sunday or check out their website or Facebook page to keep up with all their doings.

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