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urban agriculture - what can be done and what not?  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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Recently we were driving through Sydney towards the South coast. The area around Campeltown and around the new Badgery creek airport is terrible. All farms are converted into awful new housing.
The same happens everywhere in China, Europe, here.
Probably urban farming gets more important. But what REALLY can be done? High rise farms probably will never pass the viability test, neither is it possible to grow most of your food (energywise) in your backyard.
I think lifestock regulations are playing a huge role - my grandmother told me stories about people raising rabbits on balconies, note: they did not raise salads.
I would like some REALISTIC input.
 
pollinator
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This is one of the first videos I watched on urban gardening.  6000 lbs of food on 1/10th of an acre.  They are in the city.  8 chickens, four ducks and goats.  They are making bio-diesel.  At the time of filming their electric bill was around $12.00 a month with solar panels.

 
pollinator
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There is a tremendous amount of available land to cultivate in the city.  Once you get out from the down-town high-rise core, cities offer millions of square feet of cultivatable space, but you've got to look for it and find ways to gain permission to use it.

The suburbs offer even more space.  Basically, anywhere where there is grass growing, food could be cultivated.  Where I live, our moderate climate offers year-round gardening.  There is always a tree bearing fruit, and always something growing in the garden.  So if you are creative about finding places to plant trees, you can cultivate millions of calories for consumption.

Three years ago, I was part of a project to plant 15 citrus trees on the campus where I work.  They were remodeling one of the older buildings and in that process, they had turned off the sprinkler system and the grass had died.  Further, trucks had used that space to load and unload, so anything that had been growing was crushed to dust.  As they finished, we gained permission to re-landscape the space, but this time with trees, comfrey, a few other support plants in the guild, and lots and lots of mulch.  We didn't bother to try to decompact the soil: we just dug wide and deep holes for the trees, and then backfilled with loose soil.  As the tree roots pushed out and as the comfrey pushed down, it is decompacting on its own.  Now, in a space that used to get mowed every week, we are growing lemons, limes, oranges, mandarines and grapefruit.  Students absolutely love it.  There is no fruit on the ground because it all gets picked so quickly and eaten by the students.  We still have room there to plant a few more trees, and judging by popularity, I think we'll plant a few more mandarine orange trees.  We are now pushing to plant more trees elsewhere on campus.  There is a long hillside that runs along a road on the edge of campus.  They irrigate it with sprinklers and then mow the grass -- a total waste of resources.  Our vision is to plant a couple of hundred avocado trees.  If we are able to complete this, that would be millions of calories coming off a space that currently produces nothing.  Students would go crazy for free avocados.  Hopefully, that'll happen in the next two years.

There is a nearby creek that flows through our area.  I've planted dozens of oaks and hundreds of moringa trees all along the river bottom in a "park" area that isn't kept.  When it rains hard, the low areas flood, so it's a perfect place to plant moringa.  I take a hoe, scrape a spot where I plant, and then lay a couple of layers of newspaper down first.  Then I tear a hole in the center of the paper and plant the seed or seedling.  I sculpt the area around the tree/seed so that rainwater will be channeled into the seed.  The first year, I'll dip a bucket into the creek once every couple of weeks and give the little trees a drink, but by the second year, they are on their own.  There is now so much moringa growing down there that I regularly gather huge armloads of the stuff to feed my chickens.  Others in the area have learned what it is and they will occasionally harvest some as well. 

I've got little nooks and crannies all around my house where I've planted things—an almond over here, bamboo in a small 5 foot by 4 foot space by my mailbox on the street . . . just little spots that can support a tree or a useful plant.  Papaya are perfect for a little spot: they grow straight up and don't need more than a foot or two of ground.  Find those spaces and utilize them.  A simple trellis offers the opportunity to go vertical with your planting.  Arbors over sidewalks or along the side of a house or wall allows you to plant a shade producing plant while also getting a crop.  I've got passion fruit growing in this capacity. If you want to get even more creative and heroic, plant on rooftops. 

I've heard it said that the second largest cultivated crop in America (behind corn) is grass.  Millions of acres of lawns, golf-courses, parks and such.  Even if we took 10% of that and converted it to garden space, there would still be plenty of places to kick a football or put a blanket down for a picnic.  Schools should all have gardens. 

Abandoned homes in some of America's rust-belt cities offer huge opportunities to be converted into chicken coops and the land that surrounds them to be converted into orchards and gardens.  If I lived in Detroit, I'd have a massive garden and orchard.

Anyhow, those are just a few ideas.
 
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I contributed the following to a thread on urban homesteading, but it applies here.

I have often thought about the livestock part of this equation. Where I live, of the animals usually thought of as livestock, it is legal to keep fish and rabbits. I am currently looking to get a pet rabbit for my better half and I, because I can grow an awful lot of what it will eat in the city as green manures and naturalised ornamental garden, which will return to me directly as mulch, adding fertility to the gardens that produce my food.

In a legal urban situation, all a rabbitry can provide is faster nutrient cycling and fertility, companionship, and for some specific breeds, fibre, although I have heard horror stories about how French Angoras will choke on their own hairballs if you don't groom daily or more frequently.

When I do fish, it will depend on the scale, but in the city, I want to use those 1000L liquid transport containers, hopefully three of them, placed in a row in the shade beside the house, with the shared sides cut away and sealed to produce a 3000 L tank. I want to do a trout or salmon-based system (difficult, I know, because of the salt water nature of part of the salmon life cycle, but certainly possible), with at least one feeder fish species to provide food and to control insect larvae in the tank, and with a catfish species cleaning up the bottom and providing a secondary food source.

To this tank I would add a black soldier fly larvae composter, with a larval drop chute into the tank to feed the fish.

I would also use a sedimentation barrel system, wherein I would keep filter feeders, maybe some variety of freshwater clam. Should this ever need cleaning out, I would apply it, again, directly to my garden as an amendment, or to my compost pile.

If leaving the legalities aside, I would definitely consider keeping rabbits for meat, although I have difficulty with the concept personally, as I have owned them as pets before. Still, they can put on a lot of weight from comparatively little feed.

Chickens are the obvious one here. How many chickens would it take to supply a family of four with eggs daily for a week, considering the ability to freeze the excess in times of heavy production?

Backyard beekeeping could be a boon to people and bee populations alike, as cities have some of the greatest diversities and longest periods of flowers and trees in bloom of many habitats, and rarely are they as severely sprayed as in agricultural settings, though there are obvious hazards to be considered. Still, the potential returns are manifold.

Space is obviously an issue, but goats could easily provide milk in an urban environment. As grazers, getting enough hardy graze for them would be more challenging than sheep, and as herd animals, I wouldn't ever want to keep less than two female dairy goats, but on anything but a tiny lot, it should be possible to grow at least a portion of their food.

With the fondness for lawnspace inherent to some city dwellers, sheep could be a good fit.

Mushrooms can easily be grown on sterilised wood chips. The sterilisation would need to be done by the batch, probably in the oven, but wood chips in many urban environments can be had for free, provided you can take enough of them to be worth a trip with a truck.

Pigs could even be used, although I would personally expect only the smallest types to be suitable for urban backyard use. Still, they would definitely reduce the volume of organic waste transported to landfills. Hell, the need for cheap and healthy food for pigs and chickens could easily create a market for food scrap collection, like perhaps, I don't know, a token amount of eggs delivered in exchange for a bucket of food scraps from neighbour to neighbour.

I would expect there to also be a run on used coffee grounds, as worms love them, and chickens love worms. But imagine the effect if grocery stores could, instead of throwing away the produce they can't even sell at a discount, bag that stuff for pickup, or for an even steeper discount, to feed people's backyard chickens and pigs at home?

I think it important to note that it's very unlikely that anyone could do all of these, together, on one urban homestead. There just isn't room or time enough to keep livestock and have a garden, even if you are deriving the animal feed from the waste stream. But everyone can do one thing, and they they can barter the excess between themselves.

I expect the effect of all this commerce, whether it takes the form of bartering backyard-produced goods for animal feed, or a more generalised form of trading, as seen in situations like local Bunz pages on facebook, where you can buy or sell literally anything, and the currency, if not barter, is usually transit tokens or tall boys of beer, will be a greater social interconnectivity due to the increased inter-reliant nature of the urban homesteading community.

Basically anyone who contributes or interacts with urban homesteaders will be engaging in some amount of urban homesteading themselves, and it might draw them in. If they trade a bucket of food scraps for eggs, and they love those eggs, well, they might not be able to do chickens themselves, but they might do backyard beekeeping, or they might keep a garden, or brew beer, or do some other homesteading activity that produces a surplus feedstock for someone else's system, and so they will feed someone else's system to be able to get more of those eggs.

I think urban homesteading could be the greatest way to spread permaculture and to reconnect urban life on the village level.

-CK
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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The answers let me think.... often there's not so much a lack of space (often there is) but a problem with our overburding bureaucracy. You can't have roosters, fatten a pig, you can't simply plant fruit trees in open space and so on.Here we have the second problem with the native defenders. There's a very nice lady she organised hundreds of native tree seedlings and we planted them in the park around the corner. But there is no will to plant anything edible. The council lets her easily plant natives but  certainly would see hundreds of problems if someon would plant a lemon instead (and the lemon is expensive too)
 
steward
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I know of case recently where five families in the south of france , city dwellers kept a cow together on their allotments  :-) respect but alas illegal , I am told they kept it a year before someone told the authorities . wtg

David
 
gardener
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hau Angelika,

I have found that the best way to deal with the bureaucracy is to get enough people together of like mind and start a media campaign for change.
The more people point out the problem and give plausible solutions to the press, the more the bureaucrats will be forced to listen because of pressure from the elected officials.
It takes time to do this but it does happen, it happens faster when more and more people add their voices.

Redhawk
 
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