Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘planning’

HOMEGROWN Life: Visions of Urban Agriculture

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012






Call me nerdy, but I think planning and zoning is fascinating. Give me a project proposal or zoning code, and I gladly immerse myself in land use regulations, zoning jargon and mapping.  So when the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Mayor’s office held a kickoff and visioning meeting to rezone Boston for urban agriculture on Monday night, I was sitting front row, pencil in hand!

Image courtesy of City Farmer News

Boston is not new to agriculture. The Boston Common was used from 1634-1830 as a public livestock grazing pasture. The city has the highest number of community gardens per capita; 150 gardens throughout the city in which 3,000 members grow. There are currently 6 urban agriculture projects in Boston, and farmers’ markets in every neighborhood. A new pilot rezoning projectapproved last year by the city leases two parcels of land in South Dorchester to be farmed by local organizations.

But, this rezoning project is critical to the future of the local food system in Boston.  As it stands now, the current Zoning Code details 3 (basic) types of land uses for Boston:

  • Allowed by right use: A land use that is permitted as a matter of right. Board of Appeal approval is not required.
  • Conditional use: A land use permitted by the Zoning Code provided that it is found by the Board of Appeal to comply with certain conditions set out in the Code
  • Forbidden use: A use that is not permitted in a particular district because of harmful impacts on other allowed uses; e.g., noise, pollution.

However, as I learned Monday night, if a particular use is not expressly mentioned in the Zoning Code, it is, by default, forbidden.  This applies to most agricultural land uses. In order for urban agriculture – the use of a parcel of land to cultivate food and other products with the intent of sale – to thrive, the Code must be revised.

Map courtesy of Boston Redevelopment Authority Pilot Urban Agriculture Project

As urban environments, like Boston, seek to become more sustainable, food and agriculture will play an increasingly critical role. I am excited to see my city take the first steps in becoming greener and creating a local food system. The expansion of urban agriculture in Boston will have profoundly positive effects on the city. A new chapter in the Code will increase residents’ access to local, fresh food, it will provide new economic opportunities to grow and sell food products, it will expand educational programs about healthy eating and agriculture for local youth, and it will utilize vacant lots and empty spaces in a sustainable and beneficial way.

At the meeting I was pleased to see a diverse group of Boston residents present, asking question, and providing their own visions for the future of urban agriculture. Mayor Menino voiced his enthusiastic commitment for agriculture and urban farmer and founder of Growing PowerWill Allen, the man who transformed Milwaukee into an thriving agricultural city, gave an inspiring presentation about possibilities for growth in Boston.  The meeting wrapped up with a spirited roundtable discussion and thoughtful comments from residents that left me energized for an urban agriculture revolution in Boston!

Even though this rezoning and planning is in it’s infantile stages, and I’m sure at some point this year-long process may become arduous, the prospects urban agriculture holds for Boston will be worth it.  Beekeeping, backyard chickens, and farms in my neighborhood? Let’s get started!

Photo Credit: Linda N., Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License


I am the Flock-Tender here on I am keeping a chronicle of my experiences learning, living, and growing a homegrown lifestyle fresh out of college.

Poor Girl Gourmet – Eating Sustainably is for Everyone

Monday, November 29th, 2010

The concept of Amy McCoy’s Poor Girl Gourmet – Eat In Style on a Bare-Bones Budget is simple: eating sustainable, ethically-raised, family farm food is financially feasible for everyone.

Through her recipes, Amy shows that, for close to the price of a “family meal” bucket of fast food, a family of four can sit down to a wholesome, nourishing, lovingly-grown meal. Delicious meals like Kale Lasagne with Walnut Pesto, and Braised Pork Shoulder with Honey Mustard Cole Slaw!

Amy was generous enough to share a favorite recipe for Chicken in Cider Gravy – a recurring dish in our meal plans! NOTE: We’ve adjusted the numbers to reflect the current higher price of packaged chicken at finer grocery stores ($2.29/lb). Even at $3/lb., this meal for four still rings in under $5 per person. This, of course, is irrelevant for those of you keeping your own meat birds!


Chicken in Cider Gravy

This is a variation of a chicken in white wine gravy recipe that I make when I have half a bottle of white wine hanging around. I developed this version to use the cider that was about to ferment in my refrigerator in place of the white wine, and added mustard. I think this is an improvement on the white wine version of the recipe, and the gravy would also be fantastic with pork shanks or pork shoulder.
If you want to increase the amount of chicken in this dish, you can add a couple additional drumsticks and thighs using the same amount of liquid. That would allow you to create a potpie worth of company with the Savory Pie Crust (page 134) a night or two later with very little effort.

1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken, pieced into thighs, drumsticks, wings, and breasts (see Note)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped, plus 6 medium carrots (approximately 1 pound), peeled, sliced on the diagonal
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ cups apple cider
2 cups chicken broth

1 Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
2 You’ll need enough oil to coat the bottom of a Dutch oven. Use a smidge more than ¼ cup if necessary. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat until the oil becomes shiny. Working in small batches, 3 to 4 chicken pieces each, add the chicken, skin side down, and brown until the skin is crisp. Remove the chicken from the pan and place it on a plate. There should still be enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. If not, add enough to do so.
3 Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook over medium-low heat until the onion is translucent and the carrots and celery are softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the thyme and mustard. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then sprinkle the flour evenly over the vegetables in the pan and cook until no raw flour is evident, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the cider, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the broth and simmer, uncovered, for 1 to 2 minutes.
4 Place the sliced carrots and the chicken, skin side up, into the pot.  The chicken should be in one layer with only the skin above the liquid. Bring the liquid back to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the chicken meat falls off the bone—meaning no knife, peeps—approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, being careful throughout not to let the liquid come to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve it forth.
NOTE: Ask your butcher to cut the chicken for you if you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself.

Estimated cost for four: $10.92 $13.32. That’s for you big eaters who can polish this off between four of you. If we’re talking six servings, we’re looking at $1.82 per serving. The chicken should cost no more than $1.69 around $2.29 per pound. At 4 pounds, that’s $6.76 $9.16, though I am expecting you to be on the lookout for 99¢-per-pound chicken, okay? The olive oil is 48¢. The onion costs 33¢. The carrots cost 94¢ at $3.99 for 5 pounds of carrots, figuring that our soffritto carrot is at most 1/6 of a pound. The celery costs 20¢ at 10 stalks in a bunch costing $1.99. The cider was 56¢ using 1½ cups from 8 cups at $2.99. The broth was 2 cups of the 4-cup box that costs $2.19, so that’s  $1.10. The flour is 24¢ per cup, so that’s 5¢.  The mustard is 2 tablespoons from a bottle that costs $2.99 for 19 tablespoons, so that’s 32¢. We’ll throw in 18¢ for the thyme. If you serve this with the Buttery Mashed Potatoes (page 121) those will cost you around $2.50, keeping you well under the $15.00 $16.00 dinner budget, and leaving a person or two in your family happy to have some Chicken in Cider Gravy leftovers.
—From Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget by Amy McCoy/Andrews McMeel Publishing

Amy’s recipes are simple, the dishes are beautifully photographed, and the most valuable part of the book comes in the form of “Poor Girl Pointers”: simple, seemingly-common-sense (but then why don’t we do it) practices that can be a life line for those who may be wondering where to start. Tips like meal planning, buying meat on the bone and “do not forsake your freezer” provide the guidance and discipline that many of us with busy lives need.

So, HOMEGROWNers, how do you save money while eating family farm food? Leave your comment here and you’ll get a chance to win a copy of Poor Girl Gourmet – Eat In Style on a Bare-Bones Budget!