Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘urban’

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 HOMEGROWN.org. I am keeping a chronicle of my experiences learning, living, and growing a homegrown lifestyle fresh out of college.

HOMEGROWN Life: What We Learned From Our Year Without Groceries

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t believe it’s been a year now since we started our year without groceries. We learned a lot in that year. We are definitely healthier, but also we’re happier. Our relationship with each other is stronger as we’ve had to learn how to really work well together.

When we first decided to do a year without buying food from the grocery store, convenience stores, box stores or restaurants we thought the challenge was going to be really difficult. And it kind of started out that way. We had difficulties getting local milk, even though we live near a lot of dairies, and our goats hadn’t been bred yet so we had to wait for them to start producing. We had an order on part of a steer that almost didn’t come in, and our first monthly co-op order was missed.

But as time continued onward we started to get into the groove of things. After a lot of research I had found a milk delivery service that actually came to my town. We made do that first month without our co-op order and the steer finally came in. We visited the farmers’ market every Saturday and if something came up and we couldn’t make our local one, we were able to always find another one in a nearby town that we could go to. Our little urban farm started to become more productive and eventually we were able to provide all of our own dairy from our two goats.

 

We met a lot of great small family farmers and built relationships with them. They answered our questions, gave us tours, and we relied on them for our food. We learned that you don’t have to produce your own food to give up the grocery store, you just have to get out there and meet the people that do produce your food. Not to mention that we saved money on food while buying higher quality products.

About 6 months into our year we realized that it was pretty easy and that we wanted to have more of a challenge. We decided to go the last three months of our challenge without buying any food. We would have to rely on what our little lot could provide us along with anything we had on the shelf.

We were so far behind on planting due to Mother Nature refusing to cooperate that I was worried we wouldn’t have anything to eat fresh. We got lucky and our first big harvest was the day we started the three month challenge. For those first few weeks we were limited to cucumbers, green beans and zucchini. That was probably the hardest part of the challenge – having such a limited diet. And because of our less than stellar weather during the first part of the year, our fruit trees were a complete failure.

On the plus side though we learned first hand what we should have in storage in case of emergencies. We also developed a bartering system with friends which helped strengthen our community.

After a year of being free from grocery stores we decided to continue this journey indefinitely but we’ll allow ourselves one restaurant visit a month. We met a lot of great people along the way and we learned a lot about ourselves.

 

My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter acre as humanly possible. With my husband, we run Dog Island Farm in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

 

Welcome to the “Real World”

Monday, July 11th, 2011

This summer I’m getting in touch with “reality”.  Two months ago I joined the “real world” as a proud post-graduate.  While many of my peers are searching for jobs, joining volunteer corps, or backpacking through faraway lands, I am making my first “home” in an off-campus apartment and commuting to work sleepy-eyed, fair-trade coffee in hand, with the rest of the working world every morning during rush hour.  Don’t get me wrong! I feel forever grateful to have a job in this economy, let alone to be working at an organization that lets me explore my interests, communicate with like-minded folks, and savor the goodness of homegrown living, a lifestyle I am eagerly adopting.

I’ve heard horror stories of newbie professionals eating Ramen noodles every night for dinner, living in cramped quarters, and pining away for college life.  I’ve managed to avoid all that by continuing to educate myself on all things homegrown.  From shopping for ingredients to reconstructing leftovers, recycling waste into something useful, or planting from seeds and cooking a meal with my own hands.  And (thankfully), it can all be done on a post-grad budget!

local

Homemade Pizza Night! Local (hydroponic) tomatoes and our own basil in the sauce, topped with locally-made mozzarella

I’ve embraced the philosophy of HOMEGROWN.org in my search to establish a post-graduate lifestyle that encompasses all of my interests and values.  I want to know where my food comes from.  I want to eat healthfully and enjoy the bounty of each season.  I want to sharpen my culinary skills.  I want to consume less and waste less.  I want to learn to make a home, rather than just live in limbo in apartments from month-to-month.  I want to learn from and teach others the importance of living HOMEGROWN.

 

local

Digesting (with music) after our local-foods 4th of July "picnic"

So, how successful has this mission been?  Well, so far, I’ve dedicated two nights a week to feasting with friends, sourcing local ingredients and creating healthy meals together that we can enjoy as leftovers for the rest of the week.  I’ve been composting when I can, recycling everything (thanks to single-stream recycling!), and making smarter purchasing decisions when I need some retail therapy.  I’m paying more attention to where and how my clothes, shoes, cosmetics, and food are made, aiming for local, sustainable, and chemical-free products.  I am maneuvering a refurbished bike around my neighborhood, and walking and taking public transportation wherever I need to go.  I am trying my green thumb at container gardening in my apartment.  I am reading more about the way I want to live, and practicing experiential learning in the process.  Lots of my new skills are ones gleaned from reading YOUR posts on HOMEGROWN.org, and from the wide array of blogs, websites, and books at my fingertips. Keep the information flowing!

 

local

Suppertime

 

local

Fun with food - local parsnip and radish lobster, complete with a native mussel garnish for a centerpiece!

While most college kids and recent post-grads think they are “know-it-alls,” I consider myself a “know-nothing”.  I’m a blank slate ready to complement my schoolhouse skills with real-life know-how.  I’ll let you know how it goes…For now, here’s a peek at my life and what I’ve been up to in my first summer out of school.  Welcome to reality!

local

Mussels and Beer from New England!

local

Local Kale!

 

local

Massachusetts native beets, parsnips, carrots, and radishes make for a mean meal!