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Real world models of functioning city farms


Joined: Jan 01, 2011
Posts: 40
Location: Berkeley,CA
Hey everyone,

I have been a part of a community farm here in Berkeley, CA for the past 5 years and it is by far the best functioning example I have seen, but I still see the ways it doesn't work very well and the areas where it can improve. We are completely volunteer run which in and of itself creates countless issues. People come into the farm with good intentions and plenty of energy, but don't really know what they are doing, they harvest things way too early, till where they don't need to till, pull what they think are weeds when they are really a cover crop, etc. This is a problem because we don't have "staff" to manage them while they are working. There are only two of us who are full time and we also run a full nursery on site that we use to make money to pay the bills and because it is nice to sell plants that people can grow themselves. We have always had an issue with the distribution of the things we grow as well. Scheduling a workforce to harvest what we have grown at the right time and getting that food to those that are in need is a big challenge and one that seldom goes off without a hitch. We end up having to harvest in the middle of the day when greens wilt as soon as they are picked and/or plants stay in the ground to long and they go to seed making them bitter and tough.

Now that you know a little about what I do I will get to my question. Are there any truly functioning examples of urban farms out there? If anyone has projects that they are a part of I would love to share pictures, stories, ideas, and solutions to problems with you. I really see the need to get together with others doing similar work to iron out the issues we are having so that we can really make things like this work because we all know that our cities need some help.

I will get around to uploading some pics after the holidays to show a better idea of what we are all about. Cheers

Tyler Ludens

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
A few I know of:

Idle dreamer

Lori Crouch

Joined: Sep 26, 2011
Posts: 104
Location: Amarillo, TX.
I have no experience with community farms, but I have many years experience with management. This sounds like what you need.

Even volunteer organizations have a training session. You need to sit down and work out a list that you can go over with all new help. This should be done before they begin any actual work on the farm. Get everyone on the same page and perhaps it will involve a video or two on permaculture techniques to ensure they are working for and not against the big goal.

If they show up at a bad time of day for harvesting, explain the issue and let them know what times really help out the community the most to volunteer. Some will still come at their usual time, while others may make an effort to change their schedule to help harvest when it is best. Make some signs with pictures of cover crops that are simple; perhaps a picture of clover with a caption that says "don't pick me, I'm helpful". Little things like this will help to manage the people's efforts in the right place when you are too busy to give direction.

Enlist the help of others who understand what you are doing to give friendly direction and advice to those who show up occasionally, or have a tendency to hinder rather than help. If someone is doing something wrong, ask them to help you in your work. They'll see how you do it and learn from that. You can also make comments like: when I first started working here I was ripping out all the beans from around the corn stalks and the corn didn't produce so well. I thought they were weeds and man was I wrong. They might laugh at your misfortune with you, but later you'll see they'll start leaving things alone or asking you if they're not sure what a plant is.

It sounds as if you have a really good attitude, just stay easy going with it and it will work out. Good Luck!!
simon wilde

Joined: Jan 08, 2012
Posts: 8
Hello there Mr. Red!
Thought you might find this interesting:

From what I hear, new york is "going off!!!" Roof top/empty lot/back yard/balcony gardens and CSA's gallore!!! Pretty cool. It's going on everywhere and growing by the day. AWSOME!!!


Joined: Jan 01, 2011
Posts: 40
Location: Berkeley,CA
Thanks for all of the links Simon and Ludi, some really neat stuff. Some of those NYC farms looked to be a little flat, straight, and tidy for my liking, but any agriculture in the city is good agriculture right. Other places that seem to be embracing urban gardening are Chicago and Detroit, after the end of Americas industrial "golden" age a lot of land was abandoned, recolonized by nature, then turned into gardens.

I duly apologize for the state of our website as we have our hands full with the garden and are not web designers, but here is the website for our urban garden/nursery.
The pics are extremely outdated, only show the very beginning of its life and are mostly broken and can't be expanded

Spiral Gardens: Community Food Security Project

I'll get around to taking some current pics one of these days.
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subject: Real world models of functioning city farms