Monday, February 8, 2010

Some Farm Updates

It's snowing today. Big, wet, heavy snowflakes covered my car this morning with about 4 inches. We weren't able to beat the weather yesterday to take some soil samples of a couple of sites on Ann Arbor, but we have the soil corer and some little red flags to mark out a grid whenever we get a day above 32 degrees. Oh, and we've gotten most of our seeds for the season (see above). We'll be heading down to Roger's Mill for buckwheat, clover and winter rye cover crop seeds in the near future.

A lot has happened this past week, so much so that it's been hard to sit down, collect my thoughts and write about them. Here are some basic updates:

1. We met with Rick Foster from MSU and Joe McCarron, a representative from the global social innovation firm REOS. REOS, Transforum and Michigan State University are partnering to conduct a study and to organize a collaboration between six global cities with significant "metropolitan agriculture" projects. The cities involved are London, Amsterdam, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo, Chenai and Detroit/Flint, which are considered together. Detroit and Flint are unique in this group because of the extent of open, vacant land available. The goal of the collaboration would be to explore challenges, resources, similarities and knowledge of global metropolitan agriculture. Whoo hoo! The next meeting is Wednesday, February 10 in Beverly Hills, MI.

2. We took some soil samples in early January on Aldrich Park and the results came back. Phosphorus levels are below average, and one out of six compost samples had high lead. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, accepted levels of lead in soils are 400 ppm, but some states have different regulations. To assure safety of food grown in soils with lead, we are looking for levels below 300 ppm. Our one contaminated sample had somewhere around 380 ppm. We are planning on taking more samples on the site to determine whether this is just a hotspot, or whether there is more extensive contamination elsewhere.

3. We have settled on two Land Bank properties to grow upon this coming summer. They are both running along Ann Arbor street, and we estimate the space totals a little less than an acre. We are planning on 1/2 acre in production. We may put up a spigot on the larger site, and also ask the neighbor living adjacent to the smaller lot if we can hook up a hose to his house.

4. We are going to Part II of the Shiawassee Conservation District beekeeping classes on Saturday February 13. Part I was all about preparing for your first colony, management of hives and bees, feeding, queen care and honey health benefits. Such valuable information. We were so into it that we decided we will most definitely will start a hive or two. Something I couldn't quite wrap my mind around was the preemptive innoculation with antibiotics. In order to prevent and control American Foulbrood, which is a devastating spore forming bacterium, terramycin is given to bees in the spring before honey production, and in the fall after honey production. I've been doing some reading to learn of more natural methods of control of Foulbrood, because I'd like to try to avoid antibiotic residue in food that I eat.

5. Oakland County will no longer be donating the 500 yards of compost to the Land Bank for use in Flint urban food gardens. What this means is we have to find another source of the good stuff! We're looking into Morgan's and MSU Dairy Facility. We also spoke to Greg Gaines from the Mr. Rogers "Just Say No" program about using leaves from Aldrich to start some larger scale composting within Flint.

I'll leave you with a photo from an urban farm in Detroit run by Greg Willerer, "Brother Nature," radical urban farmer, advocate for the people, for the community, for compost. Here are his compost piles, Julie Cotton and myself.