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4 Innovative Urban Farms Changing the American Landscape
There has been an explosion in urban farming initiatives across the country in recent years. All kinds of creative solutions have emerged in urban agriculture to feed the growing number of city-dwellers worldwide—from growing food in converted shipping containers to operating vertical farms out of abandoned warehouses and even repurposing swimming pools to become garden oases. Even some baseball stadiums like Boston’s Fenway Park are devoting space for stadium-grown grub.
And it's not just city centers themselves that have become sources of food production once again. Suburbs, where millions of Americans live, are embracing locally grown food as well. Here are four urban and suburban farms changing the American landscape:
It's a proposed 140 home, 230-acre development 20 minutes outside of Durham, North Carolina. It's part of a movement being called "agriburbia" or "agrihood"—agriculture projects integrated into suburban development plans. "Wetrock Farm offers a lifestyle connected to our roots," says the project's website. "The exciting new concept features a real community with high-quality homes, an organic farm and over 100 acres of preserved open space."
There will be hiking trails through forested land and picnic areas, and residents can volunteer for and learn from the lead farmer. The developers say the venture is a blend between the often ideologically focused intentional communities and a more traditional suburban housing development.
"There are co-housing communities out there that feature organic farming as an integral part of their model," developer Rick Bagel told Treehugger. "And there are conventional housing developments that include a farm as part of their master plan. As far as I know, though, we are one of the first conventional housing development that will include a weekly delivery of fresh, organic fruits and veggies grown on-site paid for through your HOA [Homeowners' Association] fees."
Eagle's Nest Farm
Students at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, a high school in Gary, Indiana, developed a business plan and started a farm last year as part of an advanced business class that the charter school piloted. Now the venture has turned into a full-fledged chicken operation with a wholesale certificate of registration through the Indiana State Egg Board.
The entirely student-run project has been a huge success with each of their 17 birds producing between seven and nine dozen eggs a week. While a few eggs have been sold at the school, the vast majority are sold to a local grocery store—Local Organic Affordable Foods or LOAF, in neighboring Chesterton.
"The kids make every single decision for the business," teacher LaMario Richards told The Times of Northwest Indiana. "They feed the animals. They designed the packaging for the egg carton cover. They make the decisions regarding reinvestment of the money back into the business. They decide what products they want to expand to and any new markets. Any major decisions have to be brought back to the board of directors which consists of myself and Lynda Bodie.
"What I'd like the students to learn from this is what it takes to run a business. I want them to see that they have the ability to do that. I want them to understand about sustainable life. I'm not saying I expect them to be farmers but they need to know where their food comes from."
West Oakland Farms
The former chairwoman of the Black Panther Party, Elaine Brown, has made headlines in recent days for her ongoing efforts to turn a once-vacant Oakland, California lot into a bountiful farm that employs former offenders. The produce is going to a fine dining restaurant in town. But she doesn't plan on stopping there. Brown eventually wants to add "a juice bar, fitness center, grocery store and tech design space, along with affordable housing on the city-owned property under the umbrella of the nonprofit organization she founded last year, Oakland & the World Enterprises," reports KQED of Northern California.
“I’m not in the farm business,” Brown told Civil Eats. “I’m in the business of creating opportunities for Black men and women who are poor and lack the education, skills, and resources to return to a community that is rapidly gentrifying without economic avenues for them in mind.” She sees the venture as part prison re-entry program, part small business startup incubator and part community hub.
The Cannery Farm
The 100-acre mixed-use "farm-to-table community" includes a 7.4-acre farm, but that's not all. Also part of the "agriburbia" or "agrihood" movement, the site is located at the former Hunt-Wesson tomato cannery facility (hence the name)—a mile from downtown Davis, California. The planned community includes a total of 547 homes ranging from $400,000 to $1 million. If you can afford it, your residence will come replete with a 1.5-kilowatt solar system, bicycle parking and parking spaces wired for electric vehicles, and some home types can be upgraded to support net zero living, according to Curbed.
The Cannery drew thousands of visitors on its opening day in August, in which tours were given to prospective buyers and curious on-lookers. “The opening of the project marks a significant milestone for the city of Davis, with the former cannery site that closed over 15 years ago now representing a model development for other communities in terms of sustainability, aging in place, smart growth and incorporating a working farm into a new neighborhood," Davis Mayor Dan Wolk told the Daily Democrat. "The Cannery provides much-needed housing for families and seniors in Davis. I am very excited about the grand opening and look forward to it.”
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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