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Urban Agriculture – It’s Big

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Touch the Soil News #766 (feature photo – courtesy of FAO) According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FA0), a division of the United Nations, 800 million people worldwide practice urban agriculture. These urban agriculture efforts account for roughly 15 to 20 percent of the world’s food supply. The FAO sees urban agriculture as reaching far beyond just vegetables to include small animal agriculture (rabbits, goats, sheep, dwarf cattle, pigs, guinea pigs and fish). Urban agriculture includes trees for fruit and fuel wood. Small garden plots can be up to 15 times more productive than rural holdings. The FAO is working to expand the recognition of urban agriculture as an…

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Seeds of Change

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Touch the Soil News #760 (feature photo – Downtown New York – Alex Proimos CC SA 2.0) The history of New York City is the epitome of paving and urbanizing farmland. Since its founding in 1624, New York City and its surrounding metro areas have grown. Today, New York City proper has a population of 8.5 million people. The larger New York City metropolitan area has 23.7 million people. Originally, New York was the lands of the Algonquain Indians, which sold the island of Manhattan in 1626 to Peter Minuit. Minuit was charged with building of the New Netherland for the Dutch. A few days ago, New York councilman -…

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Urban Food Systems – A New Cornerstone of Urban Infrastructure

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Touch the Soil News #754 (feature photo – Joe Mabel – CC SA 3.0) As many of the stories we cover reveal, connecting with urban food (agriculture) is as much about other benefits as it is about the direct food benefit. We are all familiar with the policy directives of the national government through the USDA – ditto for other governments as well. This “centralized” policymaking approach to the world’s food systems is slowly being challenged by Municipal (city) efforts to establish their own food policies. Toronto, Canada has one of the most advanced and mature Food Policy Councils. The 30-member councils is free to be creative in bringing urban…

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Developing New Farmers

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Touch the Soil News #724 (Feature Photo – Kimball Musk – cofounder of Square Roots, and brother of Elon Musk of Tesla – CC SA 3.0 GNU Free Doc License) For years, the USDA has been publishing statistics that farmers are getting older and the children are not coming home to the farm. Many young people, who are not farmers, do want to come home to the farm, just not the industrial farm in the hinterlands. Welcome to Square Roots. It’s a company dedicated to cultivating new farmers. Only these new farmers do not have a farming background, they are staying in the city and their getting set up into…

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Is Shipping Container Farming for You?

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Touch the Soil News #711 (photo courtesy of Alescalife) Chinese startup Alescalife is promoting shipping container farming. Their business model is to create and sell what they call the EDN (Every Day Nutrition). They refer to the EDN as the all-in-one solution optimized for growers of every size. Alescalife boasts that its shipping container farms can be operated by one person working about 2 hours a day. The farm comes with a one-year guarantee. The company does not publish a price. Alescalife recently came into the news because of the enormous agricultural problems China has. Estimates are that one fifth of farmland in China is compromised by chemicals and toxins.…

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Kelp4Less News – Discovering the Mega-Trends for You

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Touch the Soil News #707 (photo – Kelp4Less News Editor Benjamin Gisin) For those of you familiar with our news postings, you know we cut a broad swath as relates to happenings in the food chain. We are now well into our third year of publishing the “News” page. During this time, we are keen to discover trends. Following are three (3) mega-trends we see unfolding that may have relevance to what you are doing: Food tremors (when things go wrong in the food chain) are increasing in size and number. There are two main reasons for this. 1) The financial world has pushed the industrial food chain into a…

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Far Reaching Concepts

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Touch the Soil News #670 (photos courtesy of Sasaki) International architecture firm Sasaki, with offices in Boston, Massachusetts and Shanghai, China is looking to re-invent food and cities in a big way. The firm just unveiled plans for a 250 acre urban farm to be integrated into the city of Shanghai, China. Shanghai is the world’s largest metropolitan area of over 35 million people. This urban farm is intended to integrate the latest vertical and urban farming technologies. There will be algae farms, floating greenhouses, vertical walls and seed libraries. Farming models will include hydroponics and aquaponics (includes fish). The project, when completed, is intended to produce enough food for…

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A Long Shot At Rethinking America

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Touch the Soil News #662 The State of Illinois is considering legislation that would formalize urban food and farming throughout the whole state. Illinois State Representative Sonya Harper (Democrat) is proposing urban agriculture zones. Illinois is the sixth most populous state with a population of almost 13 million. Sonya Harper has lived in a food desert most of her life. What this legislation aims to achieve is to break up food deserts and put vacant lots to use by establishing urban agriculture zones that would incentivize the sale of locally grown foods. An agriculture zone would be made up of organizations or individuals who grow produce or other agricultural products…

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The Role of Gardening

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Touch the Soil News #653 (Feature Photo – Volunteers of the Victory Garden Initiative – photo courtesy of the Victory Garden Initiative) A number of years back, a professional woman living in Milwaukee – Gretchen Mead – was working as a social worker in a child and adolescent medical psychiatry unit. Her young patients, often diagnosed with serious mental health issues, typically consumed what is called SAD – Standard American Diet. The SAD diet is laden with preservatives, chemical residues and high amounts of carbohydrates, wheat and meat products. Mead found a correlation between what we eat and how we feel mentally. However, she made more connections with the food…

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Urban Agriculture is Getting More Popular

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Touch the Soil News #606 (feature photo courtesy of Groundwork Sommerville) The state of Massachusetts today announced $108,266 in grants to five projects through the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Urban Agriculture Program to support growing the emerging urban agriculture sector and provide city residents access to fresh food. Last year the state awarded more than $160,000 for urban agriculture projects. Following are the 2017 recipients. It gives you an idea of what the State of Massachusetts wants to bring to its cities:   City of Boston, – $ 40,000 To increase the capacity of Boston’s urban farming network, the City of Boston will utilize funds to transform five…

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