By Jac Smit
The Urban Agriculture Network (TUAN)
1711 Lamont Street, NW
Washington, DC 20010
Phone: (202) 483-8130
Fax: (202) 986 6732
E-Mail: jac smit
Market Gardening: [East Coast USA]
Indian Rock Produce, Inc.
Is a thriving urban agriculture family business in Bucks County, Pennsylvania just north of Philadelphia. The company distributes produce to over 1,000 restaurants and hotels including the famous Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Indian Rock has made its mark by supplying chefs with the uncommon fruits and vegetables that they want, but cannot find anywhere else. Twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year the family sells over 800 different items, some of them heirloom varieties, with more than $ 40,000 worth passing out their doors daily.
Indian Rock is an example of what is possible with urban agriculture in any suburban portion of a larger city with good marketing application.
Cass Peterson: is a contributor to the garden column of the New York Times and a flower and vegetable producer for the Washington DC metropolitan area. At a November 1997 workshop, she had this to say about the potential of urban agriculture, quote:" When we first started marketing in 'producer-only' [farmers'] markets, the varietal selection was pretty monotonous [14 years ago]. Today, tomato season finds at least 70 varieties on display in a given week. Declining crop variety may be an issue and a worry for farmers who live by the wholesale market [where the cultivar "Sunny" is said to account for 90 percent of winter tomato production]. The issue for farmers who produce for the 'direct market' is how best to manage the overwhelming diversity that the market demands."
TUAN finds that Indian Rock and Peterson exemplify the new urban food system that is emerging in the United States and may indicate a turning point away from the 100-year trend towards larger more remote farms.
Numerous publications of interest to urban farmers are available from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service [CSREES] of the USDA, for instance:
- shitake mushrooms - sheep
- specialty potatoes
Small Farm Program, USDA
Mail Stop 2220
Washington DC 20250-2220
Best Practices Awards:
Is assembling a database of 'Best Practice' in Urban Innovations for consideration for the 1998 Award of Excellence in Improving the Living Environment. Cities and communities are encouraged to submit their experiences. The Dubai Municipality is sponsoring ten awards in the following categories that may fit urban agriculture projects:
- improved production/consumption cycles
- urban poverty reduction and job creation
- use of innovative technologies
- improved urban environment and health
- solid waste reuse
- mainstreaming gender and combating social exclusion
- responsiveness to the ideas of youth
The deadline for submissions is April 1st 1998. The awards will be in October 1998. Each award is US$ 30,000.
A word to the wise: the application form is not simple.
Training Opportunity:UCSC Farm & Garden Apprenticeship:
The University of California in Santa Cruz is offering a six-month training course in organic small-scale farming called the "apprenticeship in ecological horticulture". The course runs from April 13 to October 11 1998. The official application cut-off was November 1997 but do not hesitate to ask. Tuition is US$ 3,000 and waivers are available for minorities and the economically disadvantaged.
This course, established by Alan Chadwick in 1967, includes soil fertility, composting, propagation, irrigation, IPM, and marketing.
Apprenticeship, Farm & Garden
UC Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
TUAN is in discussions about five regional and global urban agriculture conferences. We are not able today to give out particulars but are willing to pass on your indications of interest.
- MEXICO CITY: fall 1998 for Latin and North America, locally funded
- BRISBANE, Australia: July 1999, Global, with Australian funds
- HAVANA, Cuba: late 1998 or 1999, Global with funds from Germany
- EAST AFRICA: late 1998, All Africa with funds from Canada
- PHILADELPHIA, USA: 1999 Mexico, Canada & USA, locally funded
We are waiting for the proceedings of a fall 1997 conference on urban agriculture in Prague Czech Republic and the Spring 1997 'Sustainable Urban Food Systems' conference at Ryerson University in Toronto. At the latter conference, papers were presented on urban agriculture in Latin America [six papers], Turkey, Poland and UK, Africa [Uganda, Zambia, Ghana, Kenya], Asia [China, Japan, Sri Lanka and Laos] and North America [six papers]
A Workshop at Ryerson "Why Urban Agriculture?" had the following results:Economics:
"We find that Urban Agriculture matters for the Following Reasons:
Health & well-being:
- builds a community economic base
- provides non-money access to food
- builds economic self-reliance
- increases local enterprise
- reduces the cost of food
- exercise and fresh air [most popular benefit]
- improved micro-nutrient access
- higher level of organic/fresh food
- improved community life-style
- clean city [air, water, land]
- increased bio-diversity
- conserves fossil fuel [transport & cooling]
- closes now-open nutrient/ecological loops
- waste becomes food Social:
- brings people together [second most popular benefit]
- enhances gender and minority equity
- biophillic connection [man & nature]
Further 'sustainable urban food systems conference' results are expected in the coming months.
GOVERNANCE CONFERENCE, UNDP:
In July 1997 the UNDP held a major conference on Governance at the UN General assembly. TUAN and IDRC presented two urban agriculture workshops: one for the UNCHS Urban Management Program and one for participants in the 'Mayors' Colloquium'. We will be reporting on the results of these workshops in coming editions.
AGROVIDEO '97 CONFERENCE IN HAVANA October 1997:
The Cuban Ministry of Agriculture and the UNFAO set the conference objective as: "to promote the utilization of cultivable urban land to increase organoponics and small gardens geared towards the production -- of food while minimizing the use of outside resources." Contact:
Edif. MinAg, Piso 2
Conill y Av. Carlos M. de Cespedes, Plaza
The big news under this heading is that the Farmers' Markets or street markets of Havana have been re-opened after 50 years, with municipal and national government support. These markets, as are all farmers' markets, are stocked substantially by locally grown products.
An indication of the increasing importance of such 'direct marketing' by urban farmers is a recent survey by the United States Department of Agriculture. From 1994 to 1996 the number of farmers'markets jumped by 40 percent in the 50 states from 1,730 to 2.410. Apparently American small-urban-farmers have learned what most of the rest of the world has known for a long time, the small labor-intensive urban farmer can compete in the urban market in certain product lines with the large capital-intensive rural producers.
[Just because you are homeless does not mean that you can't be an urban farmer and nutritionally self-reliant]
In 1996, the Santa Cruz Homeless Garden Project received a Harry Chapin self-reliance award for its innovative approach to fighting hunger and poverty by empowering poor people and building self-confidence.
The garden project provides people who are homeless with the opportunity to acquire skills and move beyond their marginalized situation through participation in job training based on a commercial mini-urban-farm.
Proposals are being requested for the 1997 awards.
Contact: 'Hunger Year' in New York
Urban Agriculture For Refugees:
Millions of refugees worldwide receive food grain from relief/disaster organizations and raise their own vegetables and small livestock for essential micronutrients and protein. One successful project for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is reported in the "Permaculture International Journal".Contact:
Ma'an Development Centre
FX 281 8611 or 281 5703
Urban Agriculture In Ethiopia And Uganda
[Reports from UNCHS/Habitat]
In Addis Ababa, a study was conducted to define the behavior and motivation of low-income urban farmer households facing poverty, food insecurity and unemployment. A survey was carried out of members of a mostly-male vegetable producer's cooperative [on government land] and women who farmed as individual entrepreneurs on 'private' plots.
The women earned a higher income with lower outside resources. The members of the cooperative earned a multiple of the average income in their neighborhoods. A most significant finding in this and similar surveys in Africa is that. "urban agriculture was taken as the ultimate stage in the process of looking for jobs and a better survivable for the family." Most had passed through less effective steps of household workers, day laborers and street vendors before becoming urban farmers.
The women of Nakawa Parish in Kampala elected to accept UNCHS assistance to initiate a solid-waste management project. They consulted several experts from government agencies and visited other communities. Their project became the production of compost and its use in the production of food on small plots. UNCHS/CMP provided management training in setting up farms as a business.
One hundred of 300 'compounds' in Nakawa now have operational farming businesses. Solid waste is collected and composted jointly by 4 to 6 households. Each household then takes a share of the compost produced and each household [woman] produces and sells her own food products. After one season, all of the women had earned a profit and many more families were making plans to enter the industry.
UNCHS concludes: "Urban Agriculture is a subject of significance to urban development policy, planning and management. It is hoped that the potential of urban agriculture will be incorporated in the current thinking of urban and regional development planning."For further information, please contact TUAN at:
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