First in a Series of Articles on the Urban Farming Conference
The first annual Massachusetts Urban Farming Conference (UFC) took
place on March 9, 2013 at Roxbury Community College.
Designed as a forum to share information on the growth of farming in
urban communities, the ultimate goal of the UFC is to map out a vision
for urban farming in Massachusetts. This includes not only
advancing the opportunities but also addressing the barriers involved
in cultivating a thriving urban farming sector.
Photos are from The Food Project sites in Roxbury.
A History of Urban Farming
Victory gardens were introduced into the lifestyle of Americans (and
other nations as well) during World War I and World War II as a way to
reduce the demand on the public food supply brought on by the war
effort. Also known as war gardens or "food gardens for defense,"
these names have been dropped but original Victory gardens continue to
exist here in Boston in the Fenway. See Best Community Garden Award to Ed Debortoli.
The focus of the Victory garden effort was encouraging vegetable, fruit
and herb gardens at private residences and in public areas. But
they brought a surprise benefit over and above augmenting the "food
supply." Victory gardens were considered a civil "morale booster"
because gardeners felt empowered by their contribution of labor and
rewarded by the produce grown. This made victory gardens a part of
daily life on the home front.
1978, there was such an abundance of community gardens throughout the
City of Boston that the US Department of Agriculture was inspired to
establish an urban county extension service. They also created a
special "urban farmer" designation for Suffolk County food producers.
across the spectrum of participants - Gov. Patrick as the top elected
official, residents (consumers) and urban farmers (food producers) -
everyone is in concert with the same goal - bringing healthy, local
foods to the Commonwealth.
urban farming sector includes many stakeholders: farmers,
composters, planners, landowners, community leaders, investors,
consumers, youth, entrepreneurs and those in the "farming bleachers"
who are enthusiastic about "growing local."
Two Urban Farming Organizations at the Conference
a for-profit urban farming enterprise, is noteworthy in their
accomplishments over the past three years. They have converted
vacant lots into urban farms and successfully achieved their goal of
growing for market. Currently, they are farming about an acre of
land spread over four sites in Roxbury and Dorchester.
The Urban Farming Institute (UFI) was
formed to build successful farm enterprises in Massachusetts urban
communities. They are dedicated to converting urban vacant land to
farms and to training urban residents on how to grow for market.