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Motown to Growtown: Detroit’s Urban Farmers (First screened in 2012, and a 2019 update)


Residents of the US city of Detroit are now producing organic food locally, reducing the environmental footprint of their food by cutting down on carbon emissions from transport and on chemical inputs. They are also helping revive communities as new green spaces and farmer’s markets crop up, providing neighbourhoods with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Plots of land range from backyards, to seven-acre (2.8 hectares) community farms, to plans for large-scale commercial farms.

70-year-old Edith Floyd, an urban farming veteran, has expanded her farm from 9 lots to 32 and has added a large hoop house, where she can grow fruits and vegetables year-round. “We have broccoli, collards, green peppers and celery,” she explains.

A few miles away, Mark Covington and his mother have also grown their farm. “I want to say we only had eight lots and now we have 24 that we either keep cut or we grow something on,” Covington says.

He now keeps bees, which he says has tripled food production, and he has a host of new farm animals.

Both farmers have their communities in mind; Floyd contributes to a food bank, and people who have court-ordered volunteer hours can fulfil them on her farm instead of paying a fine or going to prison.

Covington has purchased a nearby house for a community education centre, and also provides fresh food to the area. “This is an asset to the city. Not just the neighbourhood but the city,” he says.

One individual’s roadside beautification project turned into a farm (Kerala, India)

Photo Source: Mathrubhumi

The COVID pandemic has hit people hard around the world, not only in terms of health risks but also their most basic economic security and well-being.

Some are using this as an opportunity to become self-sufficient by growing food for their own families or as community projects, showing the way for others. 

Perinjanam is a coastal village in Thrissur district in Kerala, and one of the smallest villages in the state, just half a kilometer wide. The name of the village is believed to be originated from the Tamil expression for “people with good knowledge”. Anilkumar Kattil, a tourist bus driver who lost his job during the lockdown, and his neighbours certainly fit that description. 

About four years ago 55-year old Anilkumar decided to improve the sides of a road passing through his village, as he noticed people dumping waste by the road. He cleaned up the waste, cleared the weeds and started growing plants in grow bags. He found encouragement from the panchayat (local government) and fellow residents.

He began with flowering plants before moving on to planting vegetables. At various times, he has planted Chinese potato, okra, brinjal, turmeric, ginger, chillies, capsicum, spinach, bitter gourd, snake gourd and pumpkin.

After losing his job due to the lockdown, he found more time to tend to the organic farm.

As of now, one side of the road has lush paddy growing and the other side has vegetables and flowering plants.

While Anilkumar has spent money in buying the seeds and saplings, now he also receives support from his neighbours, many of who also benefit from the crop.

He is occasionally offered money, which he refuses, saying that this garden is on public land and not his private property. “I know what I’m doing is small, but I hope my efforts send a valuable message across,” he says.

We hope so, too!

Photo credit: Mathrubhumi

EVENT | Vegan Raw Food Preparation | Auroville | India | 1st February 2020

Krishna McKenzie

This workshop is an exploration of the values of local food which is at the very heart of permaculture. Local foods are easy to grow thus are found in abundance. They use less water, have high nutritional & medicinal values, are non-exclusive and have no ecological cost. All in all, exploring & eating local foods is the most simple and direct action we can have to undermine the vast exploitation and pollution caused by industrialised agriculture.

Contents of the Workshop:

Exploring man’s relationship with Mother Nature and where his food comes from.
A tour of the farm, exploring various practices in context with a specific focus on understanding the values of local foods, their medicinal & nutritional values etc.
Harvest upto 25-30 different local foods; leaves, roots, flowers, fruits, wild vines etc.
At the kitchen, we display the produce and prepare it into a delicious salad, a tribal booster juice and a green chutney which is served with our localicious lunch.
To close the workshop, we read a chapter from Masanobu Fukuoka’s book The One-Straw Revolution, to demonstrate that this is no idle philosophy but something lived every day at Solitude Farm.

Workshop Facilitator: Krishna Mckenzie, born in England has lived the last 26 years in the International township of Auroville, Tamilnadu, South India. He started and runs Solitude Farm & Organic farm cafe and is widely recognised for his work in permaculture, natural farming, local food and ‘Nutritional Cultural Identity’.Krishna Mc

EVENT | Grow Your Own Microgreens | New Delhi | India | 19th January 2020

Grow Your Own Microgreens

Microgreens are nutrient-packed, flavor-rich mini versions of commonly eaten greens and vegetables like spinach, alfa alfa, mustard, radish and broccoli. They add color, taste and freshness to salads, soups and sandwiches or you can whizz them into your smoothies. Best of all, they require minimal space, sunshine, time, and what’s more, you’ll have your first harvest in just 5-10 days. Book a spot now & learn how to grow Microgreens at home!

Pre-Registration: 1,700 INR
Walk in session: 2000 INR
Upto 13% group discount (min. 4 participants) applicable with pre-registration

Indian Schools Asked to Set up School Nutrition Gardens

Smt Sulochana Singhania School Thane (Mumbai) - organic farming

All schools in India have been asked to set up “school nutrition gardens” by the central government. The gardens will have to be managed by the students, with the help of staff and teachers.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), which governs the education sector, issued guidelines for developing and maintaining kitchen gardens in schools in both urban and rural areas. The Government’s aim is to improve nutrition in schools, and also to connect children with the sources of food in an era of rapid urbanization and mounting environmental issues.

However, some schools have already embarked upon this journey well before the official guidelines came into place.  One such is the Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhania School, Thane (Mumbai, India).

Students have been introduced to not just growing food within the school themselves, but grow it organically, without synthetic chemical inputs.  The aim of the project has been to grow chemical-free, nutrient-rich vegetables and to provide an opportunity to learn by doing. The project is to teach the students how organic farming discourages environmental exposure to pesticides and chemicals, helps to build healthy soil, fight the effects of global warming and encourages biodiversity.

Smt Sulochana Singhania School Thane - organic farming

The students have sowed a wide variety of vegetables including cucumbers, chillies, lady’s fingers (okra), tomatoes, brinjals, spinach, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, and capsicum, to name a few. The students have also planted paddy, to get hands-on experience of rice farming.

(Photos courtesy Smt Sulochana Singhania School, Thane, Mumbai. Check out more pictures on the school’s Facebook album.)

Malaysia: Deputy Agriculture Minister on Urban Farms


Malaysian deputy agriculture minister Sim Tze Tzin has taken up urban farming in his constituency of Bayan Baru.

The small garden outside the double-storey unit that serves as Sim’s service centre now boasts eggplants, cucumbers and other herbs.

Sim said the country is facing a fundamental problem of food prices being driven up by insufficient supply. Most of the 8 million hectares allocated for agriculture in the country are being used up by commodities such as palm oil and rubber. The deputy minister believes that Malaysians need to change their way of thinking, with so much emphasis already being placed on commodities.

Sim stressed that the land given out in the 1970s for the production of commodities as a poverty eradication measure was the right move, as prices were high.

We have to slowly convert some land for agro-food like the existing Felda schemes, it is time now to diversify to include growing food, like padi, vegetables and fruits,” he added.

Source: Deputy agriculture minister gets hands dirty with urban farming

These Indian farmers are taking a firmer hold on their future with organic farming


Women farmers in the Balaghat region of Madhya Pradesh state in India are moving actively to organic farming with indigenous seeds, so as to earn better and to produce healthier crops. They are actively supported by civic society organisation Pradan as well as farmer groups and government officials.


Ikea Is Working On Urban Farming Products


Ikea wants to sell you more than furniture – it wants to sell sustainable living, and that includes what you need to grow your own food.

Ikea is reported to be developing a new line of products with British industrial designer Tom Dixon, to be formally announced in May 2019 and released in stores in 2021.

The retailer has already introduced a hydroponic system to grow lettuce on your kitchen countertop, and the company’s innovation lab, Space10, experimented with a flatpack urban farm to fit in your backyard.

The collaboration with Tom Dixon would possibly to make it easier to grow plants in small spaces in city homes and to maximize the amount of food production in the smallest possible space.

With this, Ikea is jumping on to the trend of products focused on people farming in an urban environment.

Source: Ikea and Tom Dixon plan to launch urban farming products

Strawberries grown in Dubai


The UAE’s harsh climate is not conducive to farming let alone the cultivation of a fruit like strawberry. But all that is going to change now. By year-end, Dubai residents will be able to enjoy strawberries grown right here in the city.

French start-up Agricool, which is behind the ambitious initiative, said their hydroponic farming method, has already started to bear fruit in Dubai.The first batch of 4,500 strawberries, grown inside a recycled shipping container called ‘cooltainer’ at Sustainable City, was distributed to residents recently.

Georges Beaudoin, head of international operations at Agricool, said he is happy with the outcome. “We planted strawberry saplings in early July and harvested them in September.

“The strawberry plants are planted vertically and watered by a drip system with LED lights mimicking sunshine…the best thing is the strawberries are free from pesticides.”

Beaudoin, who runs successful cooltainer farms in Paris, said he hopes to produce seven tonnes of strawberries annually. “That’s about 530,000 strawberries,” he added.

Beaudoin said they came up with the cooltainer concept to maximise efficiency and overcome urban space constraints.

“The strawberry plants are planted vertically and watered by a drip system, with LED lights mimicking sunshine.

“The red light is for photosynthesis, which helps in the growth of the plant. The purple light helps in flowering while the white one softens exposure to ensure the fruit does not over ripen,” said Beaudoin.

“The best thing about these strawberries is that they are fresh and free from pesticides,” he added.

Source: Coming to a store near you: Strawberries grown in Dubai

Old coal mines could be turned into farms


Abandoned coal mines across the UK could be brought back to life as huge underground farms, according to academics.

Mine shafts and tunnels are seen asthe perfect environmentfor growing food such as vegetables and herbs. Advocates say subterranean farms could yield up to ten times as much as farms above ground.

President of the World Society of Sustainable Energy Technology, Prof Saffa Riffat, believes the scheme would be a cost-effective way of meeting the growing need for food. We have a major issue with food production and supply with the world’s population expected to reach nine billion by 2050,” said Prof. Riffat, of University of Nottingham.

The idea has already gained support from mine owners, including the Land Trust and Coal Authority, while the Chinese government has also expressed an interest. There are an estimated 150,000 abandoned shafts and 25,000km-sq of disused mines and tunnels in the UK.I’m very excited about the enormous potential. Rather than import so much food by air, rail and sea, we could grow a lot of it here and in huge quantities,” said Prof Riffat.

We need to do this for our future. We have a growing demand for food, especially in the cities, but less space to grow it. Tunnels and shafts would need less energy with heating, so are very attractive for food production. They’re almost perfect,” said Prof Riffat.

One 7m-sq shaft can produce 80 tonnes of food per year, according to Prof Riffat, approximately eight to 10 times the amount of food grown on the same area of land above ground.

Any schemes involving former coal mines would inevitably throw up many technical, legal and financial challenges that would need to be overcome.”

Source: Old coal mines can be ‘perfect’ underground food farms – BBC News