Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Twyla and I figured out how to put together this germ chamber all on our own, with the help of a hammer and chair of course. I know all it looks like now is a "pre-fab shelf unit," but this baby will be keeping seedlings warm and cozy come spring time. We got a little excited and built it ahead of time.

Check out the Home Depot for steel shelving units. Ours is 72 inches high X 48 inches wide X 24 inches deep, for only $76.97. Any other sturdy shelving unit will do, size just depends on how many trays you want it to hold (usually trays are 2 ft X 4 ft).

Next we'll be heading back to the store to pick up some lights and fixtures, as well as reflective cardboard for the outside of the chamber. I'm also going to post some information compiled by John Biernbaum on choosing lights and fixtures.

Hot Organic Farmers

At the Huffington Post you can vote for hottest organic farmer, or hottest beekeeper. They seem to be delightfully centered around New York urban agriculture projects.

Organic farmers are hot.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Seed Order: Complete!

Today we finished ordering seeds for the coming season, everything from salad greens and juicy heirloom tomatoes, dinosaur kale and sweet red Carmen peppers to a variety of cut flowers with funny and exotic names; Pumpkin-on-a-Stick, Old Mexico Zinnia's and Snow-on-the-Mountain. I can almost picture the garden at full bloom, vines heavy with fruit and beds bursting with color. I can't wait for summer! But until then, we've got a ton of planning to do.

We attended our first Grand Traverse Neighborhood Association meeting, the neighborhood that we and Aldrich Park live in. After presenting a bit about the project, and answering some questions from some very curious neighbors, a group of small business owners, farmers, city officials and lifetime Flint residents, we received unanimous support for the farm on Aldrich. This is awesome, because we'll be submitting this letter of support with the proposal.

Twyla and I took a little trip down to City Hall to meet with Craig from the Department of Transportation to look at some very old aerial maps of water lines all throughout Flint. Some maps were from 1908! It appears there are three main lines that are relatively close to Aldrich; one runs down Hall Street, North of Court, another runs along Fenton and the third on Atwood. We went out to the site with Craig and he measured the approximate distance from the main line at Atwood to the center of the park: give or take 300 feet. With 300 feet of pipe, plus labor and reconstruction, the running total would come to near $30,000.

I've been reading up on city partnerships and collaborations with urban farms and gardens so that we can try to build on what already exists, in terms of policy and regulation. What precedents are there for public-private partnerships and urban agriculture? Check out Growing Power's Chicago projects on Grant Park and Jackson Park, both collaborations with the Chicago Park District. Alemany Farm in San Francisco is also a partnership with Parks and Recreation, city agencies and nonprofits. Real Food Farm is also located on city park land and works in collaboration with Baltimore service corps and city public schools.

I'll leave you with a view from Millennium Park in Chicago,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Quest for Irrigation

I've been digging around for information on existing waterlines underneath Aldrich Park, knowing that come July, with baby plants in the ground, sometimes Michigan can get a little dry and irrigation is critical. I called Miss Dig, a Michigan-based company that promotes "utility damage prevention" by marking out existing gas and electric lines if you plan on excavating or building something big. They directed me to the city, so I called the Department of Public Works and Utilities, who transferred me to the Department of Transportation. I spoke with a super helpful engineer named Craig who asked me to come in to look over some maps with him to find the closest address or parcel with waterlines.

There are some basic assumptions we are going by, the first being that there are existing waterlines that we can tap into. If there are not, there is the possibility of irrigating out of the creek, and/or of putting in cisterns and rain barrels to catch and store rain. While we do plan on having gullies on the hoophouses to catch and direct water to a kind of water catchment system, and also using smaller cisterns, I do not want to rely on these to irrigate over an acre of crops, some of which are very sensitive when young.

Once we find out if there are existing lines, I can measure how many linear feet from the mainline to the park, a pipe would have to be run and a couple of faucets installed. This may get pricey, but it may be the only way to do it.

Thanks Roxanne for all your help with this! And Craig from the DOT!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Applewood Initiative and Cravings for Raw Milk

Today was our second Gardening and Community meeting, a project of Applewood Initiative that involves 15 sessions on everything from soil and composting to local government and grant writing, as well as workshops and volunteering. Sessions are meant to train us to offer technical assistance to neighborhood associations in community gardening and land use. Christina Kelly from the Genesee County Land Bank presented and covered some basic information on vacancy and statistics in Flint, vacancy in relation to race, Land Bank properties, auctions and acquisitions and then we broke out into groups to come up with alternative uses for vacant properties. One great one: raising a flock of sheep for wool, manure, meat (maybe?) and doing some urban shepherding. Sweet deal.

On another note, tomorrow we are going to head south about a half an hour to Linden to check out Westwind Milling Company, a local and sustainable grain farm, mill and bakery to stock up on stone ground flour, cookies and honey. They also sell other Michigan grown products. Next stop will be Dairy Delight Cow Boarding to sign up for a cow share. Unpasteurized, non-homogenized milk is the way to go.

flannel sheets and ginger tea, goodnight.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Welcome to our blog! Crop Planning, Conference Season and Letter Writing

This is Aldrich Park, located less than one mile from downtown Flint, Michigan. This is the future site for Flint River Farm, the new urban farm addition to Genesee County. Welcome to our blog! Here we plan on writing about just what goes into the planning of an urban farm in a post-industrial city, and what is involved in the implementation and management of this kind of a project.

Aldrich Park is a gorgeous 5+ acre city park formerly farmed by a man named John Freeman. For the past 10 years leaves have been dumped on the site, so currently in some places there are five or so feet of leaf mold; earthy, wormy, sweet smelling composting leaves. We plan on incorporating these, encouraging the composting process and planting a nice summer and then winter cover crop. The park runs along Swartz Creek, one of the 18 creeks and smaller watersheds that make up the Flint River Watershed, that ultimately feed into the Flint River. Check out the Flint River Watershed Coalition for history on the watershed as well as projects designed to protect and preserve it.

Twyla and I came to Flint after graduating from the Michigan State University Organic Farming Certificate Program in Lansing. Before that I was working on the educational urban farm in Brooklyn NY, Added Value and also at the non-profit Eat Well Guide, an organization and website with an extensive free online directory of farms, markets, restaurants, etc. involved in sustainable agriculture. I developed a passion for sustainable agriculture and community development after graduating with a degree in Urban Planning and working on projects exploring environmental injustice and the many benefits of urban agriculture and local food production. It just makes so much sense! Environmental conservation, job creation and economic stimulus, neighborhood revitalization, nutrition education, increased
healthy food access and community building,
all wrapped into a neat local food systems package.

So here I am, growing to love another community, another city, learning to communicate with new people, farmers, advocates, educators, life-time residents. I'm learning to think like a farmer, like a business-owner, like an active participant in my local government.

We aim to keep our process transparent, our methods sustainable, and our decisions creative.

Come visit us this summer season at Aldrich Park, east of Swartz Creek, underneath the Court Street overpass! I'll be writing on here as often as I can, in between seed orders and crop plans and letters of inquiry, in our little apartment overlooking a snowy Aldrich Park.