“Cities can’t exist without farms,” says Mark Bomford, the newly appointed director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project.
A Canadian transplant, Bomford comes to Yale from the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he honed his vision of making a university the standard-bearer for raising the food consciousness of a growing population of city dwellers — an experience that should serve him well as he leads Yale’s comprehensive food program into its second decade.
At UBC, Bomford founded and managed the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, a far-reaching and multi-faceted organization that includes a 60-acre “learning and research” farm — the last working farm in the city of Vancouver — and 150 academic and community programs linking people to their source of food and, through food, to each other.
Bomford sees land-based programs such as the one he created in Vancouver as providing a catalyst for change, in effect empowering people at the ground level to take control of their own food supply.
He is particularly interested in the phenomenon of urban agriculture, which he defines broadly to include “farms under the influence of urban growth, urban politics, and urban land values” — i.e., an interdependent network of farms and cities.
The irony of urban-influenced agriculture is that cities all over the world grew up where farmland was richest, and as those cities grew, they began to encroach on the very land that fed them, he says. “If you want to feed people in a dense city where there are more than 100 people living on every hectare [2.2 acres], you can’t escape the fact that on average it takes a half hectare of farmland to feed each person. … It’s pretty simple math. Cities can’t exist without farms.” READ MORE >>
The Lexicon of Sustainability is an amazing, creative website focused on multi-faceted issues of food and sustainability: food security, permaculture, urban gardening and more. Created by Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard-Gayeton, the site reflects their ongoing work on the Lexicon project "by illuminating the vocabulary of sustainable agriculture, and with it, the conversation about America’s rapidly evolving food culture...to educate, engage and activate people to pay closer attention to how they eat, what they buy, and their responsibility for creating a healthier, safer food system in America."
Alice Waters on edible schoolyards. Wes Jackson on reinventing wheat farming. Joel Salatin on embracing the value of saner farming practices. Vandana Shiva on the global imperative of protecting seeds. Paul Stamets on how mushrooms can save the world. Will Allen on Food Security. Temple Grandin on the humane slaughter of animals. Farmer John on the revolutionary idea of community-supported agriculture.
After visiting Detroit for the first time in 17 years, my first jarring impression of the city was the silence. Wide boulevards approaching downtown Detroit were bereft of cars. Once stately neighbourhoods laden with enormous houses emitted no sounds except for my footsteps. What was once the roaring Motor City, it seemed to me, had been reduced to a mumble.
But that initial snapshot belies what is occurring at the grassroots as Detroit's people work hard not only to survive, but to revive their city and even thrive. The hurdles are enormous. Automakers will always be part Detroit's fabric, but not as the reliable economic and jobs engine that they had been for a century. And for a city that has lost more than one million residents since 1950, the leadership has decided that demolition and deconstruction are behind the city's survival. To that end, 10,000 homes are to be torn down in the coming years.
Nevertheless, there is more than just demolition in Detroit. Families who have lived there for generations, as well as recent transplants, are taking back their city with their own hands. Old Detroit still offers a stunning collection of art deco architecture, a museum with a billion-dollar art collection, and a solid manufacturing infrastructure.
Now, all of it will be embedded in an environment that offers both the urban and the rural. And it is the rural, built with those determined hands, that could change our conceptions of what a city is. Detroit will be model for ageing cities and towns looking for a redefinition. READ MORE >>
Who would have thought that the regeneration of a city can start from a market stand that sells fruits and vegetables, or clothes? But it’s true: one of the pillars that Detroit has chosen to structure its very difficult relaunch around, is the development of a network of local public markets, based on the “Torino model”.
Facing an uncertain industrial future, having lost nearly half of its inhabitants in fifty years, and with a fragile urban fabric that needs to be rethought, Detroit is looking in the mirror and discovers it has much in common with the situation facing Torino fifteen years ago. So now, building on the newborn Fiat-Chrysler connection between the cities, Detroit is retracing the steps of Torino’s regeneration. The city’s urban and (particularly its) social fabric needs to be knitted back together, and the Michigan heart has decided where to start from.
It may seem bizarre to us, but for the Americans it isn’t. Yesterday morning a delegation landed in Torino led by Kathryn Lynch Underwood, the City Planner of the City of Detroit. And with her came a group of about ten managers, experts and market operators. The first thing they did was taking a plunge in the heart of the Porta Palazzo market. Then they gathered in an office, to be briefed in detail on Torino’s 45 local markets by the city’s administrators in charge of local commerce and public spaces.
As of today they will visit them one by one, trying to understand how they can export their DNA and adapt them to the Detroit context. “They are interested in understanding the social, economic and cultural functioning of the markets and of the nearby businesses, which in Torino constitute one of the more distinctive aspects of urban life,” explain deputy mayors Ilda Curti and Giuliana Tedesco.
It took the American delegation only one day to understand that the replication – even in a reduced version – of the “Torino model” could be the engine of the urban regeneration process that the Michigan capital will have to undertake if it wants to rise up again. “Ours is a feeble system, made up of only six markets,” explains Pam Weintestein, who is in charge of one. “In Turin, however, everyone does their shopping at the market stands irrespective of their social background or their income level.” Dan Carmody is in charge of the Eastern Market, Detroit’s largest. He is surprised: “What makes the difference here is the sense of community that transpires from your markets. It is obvious that they add value to the urban context.” READ MORE >>
Urban gardening used to seem subversive. People planted tomatoes in public parks, strung their hops to rooftops to make homebrew and reclaimed empty lots as community farms, never mind the property owner.
Yet here in one of the more thoroughly tilled cities in America, subversive has come full circle: the federal government plans to plant its own bold garden directly above a downtown plaza. As part of a $133 million renovation, the General Services Administration is planning to cultivate “vegetated fins” that will grow more than 200 feet high on the western facade of the main federal building here, a vertical garden that changes with the seasons and nurtures plants that yield energy savings.
The Blue Sea Development Company’s new state-of-the-art housing complex planned for the South Bronx, NY will be the first ever affordable housing development to feature a fully integrated hydroponic rooftop farm, designed by BrightFarm Systems. The six-story building will feature a 10,000 sq ft rooftop greenhouse that will operate using leftover heat from the building and water harvested from the greenhouse roof. Annually, the farm will be capable of producing the equivalent fresh vegetables needs of up to 450 people, capture 750,000 liters of stormwater, and mitigate 80 tons of CO2.