June 2012 will go down in history as the first month that I did not blog at least once. After 27 consecutive months. Oh well I'll just have to start another streak. June was quite a busy month. I've been beekeeping with friends and now have a hive in my backyard waiting for bees. In June, I worked on completing 2 school gardens in Queens NY so Junior High schoolers in Jackson Heights and K-5 kids in Long Island City now have spaces to garden. I even worked with kids to make the grow bags to hang from a railing in the garden. 2 rainwater harvesting interns have been working with me on a storm water management project. We are working together on planning a rooftop garden in Manhattan and a rainwater harvesting installation in the Bronx. We will work with teenagers on both projects. A community garden enhancement to create space to grow vegetables for a local food pantry on Staten Island is in the planning stages. These last 3 efforts will be completed in July. I'm not seeing a lot of time for blogging in July either.
What did get me to the computer was a news item that Michigan State University is partnering with the city of Detroit on MetroFoodPlus Innovation Cluster @ Detroit. On first read this is a wonderful idea. Why not bring the resources of this great university to help the city utilize the untapped potential of the vast amount of vacant land and buildings to grow urban agriculture in a positive way. It is interesting that one of possibilities that is mentioned in the Detroit Free Press article is that they want to use vacant building for vertical agriculture, an idea that was pioneered in the Bronx in the 1980's. While that program eventually folded, it was still a great idea at the time and hopefully lessons will be learned and it will succeed this time around. So much could be done, as I have written in an earlier post about my idea for an Institute of Community Gardening . Ah but... there is a difference between urban agriculture and community gardening. Urban Agriculture can be just a farm. A farmer making a living off the land. Nothing wrong with that although small farmers have a really hard time doing that in rural areas where land and farming inputs are inexpensive. That may not be the case in an urban area. True, the transportation costs of getting the produce to market are lower but does that offset the added costs of doing business in the city? The problem is Community Gardens have that complicated word attached to it - community. People have to make decisions as a group. Not an easy task but very often a worthwhile one.
I know that the community garden folks in Detroit are watching this closely to make sure that community gardeners are not overwhelmed by the interests of corporations that have the money to fund this endeavor. Let's hope their voices are heard and @ Detroit has at least some of the flavor of an Institute of Community Gardening.