Education You Can Eat

The wonderful chef, restaurateur, and leader o...

Leader of the Slow Food Movement, Alice Waters.

Forty years ago in Berkeley, Alice Waters started her restaurant Chez Panisse and brought rise to what is now the Slow Food Movement.

Today, Executive Director Nikki Henderson and author Michael Pollan are collaborating with The Chez Panisse Foundation to offer the first Edible Education course and lecture series at UC Berkeley Extension in the Fall of 2011.

She was inspired by her experience in France at age 18, “where food was woven into everyday life”, she explains. They ate what was in season and everything was fresh. If tomatoes weren’t available, they used what was.

This coursework will build on her Edible Schoolyard Program that’s been teaching children about growing and eating food for the past 16 years. “If they are involved with growing the food, then they will eat it – all of it.”

The Edible Education series examines multiple aspects of the food movement from the perspectives of experts in the field, including Frances Moore Lappe, Marion Nestle, Raj Patel and Eric Schlosser.

Enrollment in the course is closed but, keep tuned to the U.C. Berkeley Extension’s website for upcoming classes.


Video of Alice Waters speaking about her inspirational experiences in France.


Urban Agriculture Becoming Integral to Urban Planning

Edmonton, Alberta, is about to integrate urban agriculture into their urban planning process. Yes, we’re talking Canada people.

And you thought that urban ag was just relegated to cities like Portland, Seattle, Detroit and Santa Cruz. Cheeeeeze!

The Edmonton city council is planning to grow urban agriculture from the ground up, due to a strong demand from its citizens. Areni Kellepan of the Sustainable Food Edmonton, says there is a desire from citizens to get into urban farming.

The natural landscape lends itself to food production because Edmonton contains large areas of rich agricultural lands within its civic boundaries.  Many organizations and initiatives related to food and agriculture are flourishing there. This is partly due to the influence of the University of Alberta and Alberta Research Council which has helped to create a culture that is pro-agriculture.

“The Way We Grow” – The Municipal Development Plan (MDP), is the City’s strategic growth and development plan.

The Way We Grow Goals:

  • Support the establishment of a food policy council
  • Work with the community to create a local food charter
  • Work with the region to develop a regional food policy council and food charter
  • Collaborate with communities, landowners and other organizations to identify potential areas and lands for urban agricultural activities
  • Establish guidelines for integrating urban agriculture into public and private spaces and developments

The city and its people have high aspirations. They hope to explore various forms of food production and urban agricultural activities. They include; market gardening, commercial farming, community gardens, allotment gardens, vertical gardens, backyard gardens, edible landscaping, roof top gardens, fish farming, animal raising (not including stock yards or feedlots) and bee keeping. Some of these activities already occur, others could be considered in the future.

Holistic Approach to Urban Planning

What’s different about Edmonton’s approach is that they aren’t doing what most cities do – trying to change the policies through countless amendments and ballot processes to a city policy that is out of balance with the needs of its people. The City of Edmonton is aligning its strategic planning processes to ensure an integrated and holistic approach toward city building over the next three decades. The purpose of the policy is to guide city planning and community design to support local agriculture and diversify the local economy. This is forward thinking at its best.

“There’s lots of farming communities, and farming families that have moved into the city that would love to have a place to grow food again,” says Kellepan. “I think [urban agriculture] is very important for the citizens of Edmonton. They’ve expressed the interest.”

Challenges of New Urbanism

Even though the people of Edmonton have a sincere interest in growing their own food, a challenge will be finding the time needed to take care of a garden in the city. “People in the city generally have [other] jobs that they have to go to,” he says. “Their time is more limited.”

For some it’s more an issue of not knowing how to grow a garden. Mayor Mandel emphasized the need to teach people, including himself. “I don’t know how to grow things. I wouldn’t mind going to someplace and someone showing me the best way to do this, and how to have the better kinds of crops that you can have in a small garden in your backyard,” says Mandel.

This situation, where the interest in self-reliance, DIY-culture and urban agriculture is high but, the people lack the knowledge is prevalent throughout the United States. Cities like Edmonton have listened to their citizens interest and are changing the way government works to aid this evolution.

This summer the city is looking to get feedback on the initiatives that will help to create a policy that works for everyone and raise awareness for urban agriculture. “If [people] are interested, through their awareness, then they will want to learn more about it and then they can make a decision on whether they want to create an opportunity in their backyard or how they want to get involved on a more broad base.”

I applaud Edmonton’s forward thinking and will be interested to see how an urban policy that embraces the citizen’s desire for local and sustainable practices will serve its people in the years to come.

Urban Farming in New Orleans

Recently, I spent my morning with Maycon Fry – “Garden Guy”. He works as a Mentor Farmer at Hollygrove Market & Farm (HM&F) in New Orleans, La.

Macon Frye Harvesting Arugula at Hollygrove Market & Farm

The day began with Maycon telling me how he came to this organization, while we harvested arugula using scissors and our bare hands. He’s a lefty so we stared on the same drill (row) across from one another.

After being accepted to the University of California at Santa Cruz’s AgroEcology Program,  Macon had an offer to start growing for Hollygrove, which is supported by the New Orleans Farm and Food Network (NOFFN). It’s been 5 years and he’s happy he made the choice to stay in New Orleans. His program allows him to grow such popular crops as arugula and also teach busloads of visiting students twice a week, which he does with a witty southern flair.

The Hollygrove Market and Farm is an innovative combination of urban farm, local produce market, and community garden space located in the heart of New Orleans.  HM&F partners with the Carrollton-Hollygrove Community Development Corporation, New Orleans Food & Farm Network, Tulane City Center, Trinity Christian Community, and the Master Gardeners of New Orleans.

The Hollygrove area of the City has long been described as a “food desert” because of the lack of grocers in the area. The market represents a larger city- wide effort to bring fresh food into grocery-starved neighborhoods without turning to an outside retailer and, instead, teach people to grow their own market-ready food.

The following day Ariel Wallick, Urban Agriculturalist/Educator with the New Orleans Food & Farm Network (NOFFN), Niko and I loaded up their truck and drove out to buy supplies for a backyard garden build.  When we arrived, Lisa the owner of the home, was overjoyed at our arrival. Even the small children next door were interested and watched from over the fence as we worked.

Backyard Garden Build - NOFFN

We took turns taking wheel barrels full of soil and cow manure to the back yard and filling the raised bed. Then, Niko and Ariel put stakes in to hold up the tomato and eggplant starts. We agreed that the siting for the garden was good – lots of direct sunlight.

Finally, we planted, watered and we were off.

The Backyard Garden Project was developed by NOFFN (one of HM&F’s sponsors) to serve the greater New Orleans residents by offering them raised bed gardens, including soil, plants, trellises and consulting, all on a sliding scale.

At NOFFN they also teach such classes as, Water-wise Irrigation and Urban Rainwater Catchment and Home Orchards and Urban Bee-keeping.

So, if you’re living in New Orleans and want to grow your own, give the people at New Orleans Farm and Food Network a call: 504-864-2009.

The Hollygrove Market & Farm sells fresh produce six days a week and on the three-quarter-mile spread that surrounds the store, train budding urban farmers.

The urban farming movement is catching on in the Big Easy. Stay tuned and watch New Orleans grow!

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