My garden began about eight or nine years ago with a cutting from a blackberry, given to me by a guy in Berkeley. That was not only my first plant in my food garden, but it is also my first big harvest each year. It’s a well-established perennial that has produced over 50 pints in each of the past two years. I’ve had several 10-pint days of ripe berries and one blast of a day last year at 27 pints.

This year is going well. I’ve been getting a small but steady supply of raspberries and blueberries and (more…)

For anyone who has been paying attention the past few years, it’s clear that growing your own food is becoming popular again. Seed companies have seen sharp demands for their seed stocks and beekeeping and chicken husbandry classes are being offered in virtually every urban area. There are many reasons for this. Some people are concerned about food security. Some people want the better taste and variety of homegrown food. Whatever the reason, the trend is clear.

The New York Times has chronicled this change for the past several years and yesterday reported that the trend has even hit botanical gardens. Apparently, attendance is down and previous event sponsors are no longer supporting traditional events. So, the gardens are getting more creative on a variety of fronts. But, the primary change is captured in this single sentence, buried in the middle of the article:

Edible gardens are the fastest-growing trend at botanical gardens, consistently increasing attendance, experts say, along with cooking classes.

This is not only unsurprising, but good news. Edible gardening is also the primary trend in home gardens, resulting in higher food security and higher quality food.

What would urban agriculture look like if it were industrialized? Everything on this site approaches urban agriculture from an ecological perspective. As urban agriculture becomes more popular, we find entrepreneurs looking at opportunities in the field. Some of those entrepreneurs will follow the current trends towards local, sustainable agriculture. But, others will see the opportunities and approach urban agriculture from the industrial approach. What will their agriculture look like?


ag1_fourPeoplePisgahView_lKevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams improbably plows up his corn field to build a baseball diamond when he hears a voice say “Build it and he will come.” Robert White’s story is just the opposite and equally improbable — but true. When Robert  became possessed with the idea of growing food, he’d never done it before. But he went ahead anyway, starting with taking over an existing baseball diamond in Asheville NC and turning it into an urban farm. When I visited there in April, (more…)

This website is partly about my education as an urban farmer. But I want to recommend to you a new book by another urban farmer who has had time to develop her farm and her farming knowledge much further than I have. Coincidently, Novella Carpenter also farms in Oakland, where I live. I heard her speak a year ago and found her talk to be not only hilarious, but filled with learning experiences. As I’ve advised elsewhere in this blog, farming is about learning. There is a lot to learn and the best way to do this is by experimenting, by trying things to see what works and what doesn’t. In Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, Novella describes her experiences doing just that, experimenting–particularly with different kinds of livestock–in the heart of a major city. I’m sure she also touches on two key issues for urban farmers, access to land and water.

I expect the book is as funny and informative as her talk was. A New York Times reviewer found it so. You can decide for yourself by reading the first chapter. Even though I haven’t read this book yet–I plan to write a review of it soon–I recommend it wholeheartedly.

I’ve often viewed agriculture, urban agriculture in particular, from a resource perspective. In order to grow food, people need access to land, water, genetic stock and knowledge. I’ve taken for granted one absolutely essential resource: energy from the sun. This is available to everyone, everywhere, right? (Of course, I’m ignoring the far north and far south polar regions, that lose sunshine for months at a time.) Turns out I am wrong. I need to include access to sunshine as one of the critical factors. (more…)

The Great Wall of China has been getting lots of attention this week, as part of the Olympics coverage. But, my Great Wall is a blackberry picking site I discovered last year with my friend Karen. In the Bay Area, August is blackberry month, and we’ve been out twice now to the site. This is a popular site, in fact that’s how we found it last year, driving by and seeing a number of pickers scattered along the hillside. We now go out prepared, with lots of containers, pruning shears and leather gloves. So far I’ve picked and frozen 14 pints of berries. (more…)

One of the key problems for urbanites who want to grow food is access to land. Some people simply don’t have land; others have land that isn’t usable, due to soil toxicity or excessive shade. I recently had dinner with an apartment dwelling woman, Elena, from Kazakhstan, who mentioned that her downstairs neighbor shares food that she grows on her dacha. I always thought a dacha was something just for the wealthy and powerful, that is, that they were large estates or second homes few could afford. But, Elena told me that it was very common for people in Kazakhstan to have dachas, small plots just outside of cities, often with a small hut or cottage to spend the night. Since Elena had told me that most people in Kazakhstan don’t have cars, I asked how her neighbor got to her dacha. She rides the bus. (more…)

[WARNING: Long post. It’s long because it’s important. The myths surrounding industrial agriculture’s “cheap food” are widespread, and this post addresses those myths by responding to a “cheap food” blog post at Freakonomics.]

Stephen Dubner, co-author of the book Freakonomics, recently wrote in his blog about trying to make orange sherbet with his children (Do We Really Need a Few Billion Locavores?). Apparently, he wasn’t very good at it, spending far more than is reasonable for ingredients and making a product that wasn’t very good. This isn’t surprising, of course, for a first effort. What is surprising is that he used his first-time-effort failure to introduce an argument that eating locally produced food is inefficient due to lack of scale and specialization. In the process he exhibits an appalling ignorance of the locavore (local food) movement and industrial agriculture, plus he makes egregious rhetorical leaps. Let’s take a look. (more…)