A recent Treehugger article alerted me to the fact that the folks at Growing Power are involved in what sounds to be a very exciting new proposed project in Milwaukee, called The Urban Agriculture Center.
The planned center will apparently feature a 150,000-sq ft indoor aquaculture/agriculture facility combined with educational facilities, sustainable farming exhibits, a restaurant and fish market.
As the author of the Treehugger article points out, the Urban Agriculture Center website is somewhat confusing, so it is quite challenging trying to find pertinent information regarding the status of the project. Nevertheless, this is certainly very exciting news, and something I look forward to following as it develops.
Here is a blurb from a press release posted on the site (also included as part of the TH article):
In Milwaukee, the Urban Aquaculture Center is working to expand the industry using an approach that engages the community. The UAC hopes to have the City of Milwaukee lead the growth of urban aquaculture in the United States. To address the problem of the risk involved in start-up operations, the UAC seeks to have all of Milwaukee take on urban aquaculture as a new industry. This project requires the cooperation of all stakeholders — government, academia, and local businesses. What the UAC proposes is a large-scale perch production facility and an education center for the public, oriented to urban agriculture, particularly aquaculture.
Milwaukee is uniquely positioned for this endeavor for two primary reasons: its proximity to fresh water and to Growing Power, an urban teaching farm growing edible plants with fish in the same system. The Great Lakes WATER Institute and Growing Power are conducting tests on the ability of plants, worms and bacteria to remediate water in a perch grow-out system. The results thus far are encouraging. Adult perch have done well in a greenhouse environment with only a pump to move water to gravel beds containing plants and beneficial nitrifying bacteria. This system, which closely mimics nature, shows promise.
I came across an interesting article yesterday, describing a very cool (mini) sustainable floating farm called ‘The Science Barge’.
According to the Science Barge Website (which is part of the New York Sun Works Sustainable Engineering site):
The Science Barge is a prototype, sustainable urban farm and environmental education center. It is the only fully functioning demonstration of renewable energy supporting sustainable food production in New York City. The Science Barge grows tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce with zero net carbon emissions, zero chemical pesticides, and zero runoff.
Here are some more tidbits I gleaned from the site…
The farm is solar, wind and biofuel-powered, and uses rainwater and purified river water for irrigation.
The crops on the Science Barge are grown hydroponically
It uses seven times less land and four times less water than field crops.
Future plans may include designing similar systems for New York City rooftops. Studies suggest that New York could potentially meet its demand for fresh vegetables with via rooftop gardens!
If I lived a little closer to New York City, this is definitely something I’d love to go see! It sounds like a really cool system.
Hopefully demonstration systems like this will actually lead to more ‘real world’ initiatives – but I guess only time will tell.
[tags]science barge, urban farming, sustainable agriculture, sustainable living, hydroponics, solar power, biofuels, wind power, alternative energy, rainwater, rooftop gardens, green roof[/tags]
I first heard about the New Alchemy Institute while learning more about one my all-time my ‘eco-heros’, Dr. John Todd (Ocean Arks International). Dr Todd and his wife Nancy (along with William McLarney) founded the institute in 1969 on a 12 acre former dairy farm in Cape Cod (source: Wikipedia). Their goal was to “do research on behalf of the planet”. They explored organic agriculture, aquaculture, ‘bioshelters’ and waste management – all with a primary focus on sustainability.
As fascinating as the research sounded, I’ve never really read all that much about it – and had no idea, until very recently, that there are quite a few New Alchemy publications available online. Not too long ago I was trying to track down information relating to harnessing the heat energy from (thermophilic) composting, when I came across a website dedicated to the New Alchemy Institute. The site was put together by ‘The Green Center Inc‘. From their website:
The Green Center Inc., is a non-profit educational institute that evolved from the New Alchemy Institute. Green Center is the custodian and distributor of publications of New Alchemy’s ecological research conducted from 1971 to 1991.
The Green Center’s New Alchemy site is a fantastic resource if you are interested in this sort of stuff. Here are a few titles of the publications they have available for free in PDF format:
“A Study of the Energy Efficiency of Intensive Vegetable Production”
“An Integrated Fish Culture Hydroponic Vegetable Production System”
“The Composting Greenhouse at New Alchemy Institute: A Report on Two Years of Operation and Monitoring”
Apart from all the great free info, you can also order New Alchemy publications from the website as well. I highly recommend you check it out!
For a bit more of an overview of the New Alchemy’s purpose, here is an exerpt from the Green Center website (originally found in the Bulletin of the New Alchemists, Fall 1970)
“Among our major tasks is the creation of ecologically derived human support systems – renewable energy, agriculture aquaculture, housing and landscapes. The strategies we research emphasize a minimal reliance on fossil fuels and operate on a scale accessible to individuals, families and small groups. It is our belief that ecological and social transformations must take place at the lowest functional levels of society if humankind is to direct its course towards a greener, saner world.”
“Our programs are geared to produce not riches, but rich and stable lives, independent of world fashion and the vagaries of international economics. The New Alchemists work at the lowest functional level of society on the premise that society, like the planet itself, can be no healthier than the components of which it is constructed. The urgency of our efforts is based on our belief that the industrial societies which now dominate the world are in the process of destroying it.”
[tags]new alchemy institute, organic agriculture, living machines, composting, greenhouse, green house, sustainable agriculture, aquaponics, aquaculture, food production, bioshelter, dr. john todd, ocean arks[/tags]
A short time ago I received an e-mail from a gentleman named Bailey, letting me know about his new backyard farming site. I hate to say it, but given the fact that he was requesting a link exchange without having contacted me before, I suspected I wasn’t going to be all that impressed with his site (I’ve become skeptical in my old age – haha).
I was definitely wrong, and I’m really glad I took the time to check out the site!
When I visited Ecoyardfarming.com, I quickly realized that Bailey and myself have a lot of similar interests! His website covers a wide array of topics – all of them near and dear to my heart! Aside from the overall theme of backyard farming, Bailey writes specifically about vermicomposting, aquaponics and mushroom growing, just to name a few of the topic areas.
Here is a blurb from his Home page:
My purpose in creating this site is to share my experiences and knowledge in growing and cultivating a variety of “backyard” foods in an organic and ecologically friendly manner. I will be introducing some fun and exciting new areas of food production that most folks have never heard of!
Stay tuned as I will be posting regularly on ways to grow a variety of foods that are healthier and tastier, have greater yields in less space, are chemical free, protect and enhance the environment, and are cheap and rewarding to grow. My own Florida backyard will be “the laboratory” to experiment with a variety of exciting new “backyard farming” adventures. Of course, many of these ideas are applicable on a larger farming operation and not just restricted to a backyard “home grown” setting.
I am particularly interested in the idea of permaculture, wherein a number of “inputs” and “outputs” of the farming (and property maintenance) process are utilized in such a way that practically nothing goes to waste. It is imperative that we get back to a sustainable approach to living (if we desire to save both nature and ourselves).
As I think I’ve mentioned previously, one of the great things about blogging is that it’s a great way to meet really interesting, like-minded individuals. Connecting with Bailey is a prime example of this, and I’m certainly glad he got in touch! I’ve added his RSS feed to my reader and am looking forward to becoming a regular reader of his blog!
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you check out EcoYardFarming.com. I think you’ll be glad you did!
I received Patt Moreno‘s latest newsletter this morning, and was really pleased to hear about the progress she has been making with her video/tv work. She has been shooting shows for her Farmers Almanac TV series, and has been busy making online videos as well. Speaking of which, she has a five part series on indoor gardening (which I’ve embedded below). Very interesting stuff! Seeing Patti getting busy with seed planning and planting has reminded me that I really need to start thinking about this myself. I can be pretty bad with leaving things until the last minute, but this year I want to be fully prepared for an outstanding gardening season.
One thing that’s certainly going to help is moving my office down to the basement, where all my worm bins and growing supplies are. My laptop is currently sitting underneath a fluorescent grow stand (on a desk) – I’ll post some pics once I get things looking a little more to my liking (ie. once my mad scientist growth lab is set up). I wish I had made the move a long time ago! Aside from providing a nice quiet place to work, having all my compost/gardening related stuff close at hand seems to be providing extra inspiration. I’m sure it will be even better once I have some plants growing!
But I digress…
Here are Patti’s indoor gardening videos:
Patti plans out and starts setting up her indoor gardening. A great reminder that these set-ups don’t need to cost an arm and a leg – nor do they need to be overly challenging to put together.
Planting seeds. I can’t get over how well organized Patti is. Definitely inspirational for yours truly!
Patti takes over the rest of her sun porch. I’m definitely envious of all that growing space. Wow!
Great tips on using various recycled containers to grow seeds.
Patti sets up a simple water station and talks about seedling maintenance. Some excellent info!
I’m definitely looking forward to following along as Patti continues to get ready for gardening season! While I certainly won’t be able to set up anything remotely like her sunporch grow room, I’ll definitely be getting some plants growing down in my new office. I actually am planning out a small aquaponics system, and hope to set that up soon. I’ll be sure to dedicate a post to that once I’ve wrapped my head around it a little more.
I’d love to hear back from others in terms of what sort of garden planning activities you are currently engaged in (if any).
Needless to say, whenever I read about someone using both vermicomposting and aquaponics as part of a larger integrated system, I get pretty excited!! Growing Power is an organization doing exactly that.
This non-profit organization, based in Milwaukee (with another location in Chicago), was founded in 1998 by Hope Finklestein – but the person most readily associated with Growing Power is Will Allen, a 6′ 7″ former pro-basketball player. After retiring from the American Basketball League and spending a number of years in the corporate world, Allen purchased (in the mid 90′s) a small piece of land zoned for agriculture within Milwaukee’s city limits – land that would eventually become the site for Growing Power.
Allen began growing crops on the land and started a non profit called Farm City Link. When Hope Finklestein toured the operation (shortly after founding Growing Power) and met Allen, the two quickly realized the similarity of their overall vision and decided to merge their efforts. Finkestein has since moved to Alaska, but remains very active in the organization.
Here is Growing Power’s Mission (as stated on the site):
Growing Power, Inc. is a non-profit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds and the environment in which they live by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food. This mission is implemented by providing hands-on training, on-the-ground demonstration, outreach and technical assistance through the development of Community Food Systems that help people grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner.
This is EXACTLY the type of organization I would love to get involved with!
I found this interesting video about Growing Power on Youtube:
The power source for the business is the second greenhouse, which holds the composting operation. Every week it welcomes 8,000 pounds of mash from an organic brewery, a thousand pounds of coffee grounds from local restaurants and tons of fruit and veggies that arrived at local food banks too late to be eaten. The process of composting throws off enough heat to keep the greenhouses warm through Milwaukee’s freezing winters.
And the way the compost is managed at Growing Power turns it into a money-maker. Huge bins made from scrap lumber are breeding grounds for tens of thousands of worms that break down the food scraps and produce castings that make top-grade fertilizer and compost every eight weeks.
“I couldn’t farm without these worms,” says Allen, a gentle giant of 6 feet, 7 inches, who refers to the little critters he holds lovingly in his oversized hands as his livestock. One bin of vermi-(worm)compost sells for $36,000 when wrapped into 2-ounce compost tea bags called Milwaukee Black Gold and sold to gardeners or in bulk to high-end growers. “It would take a rancher 300 steers to equal the value of my worm livestock,” he says.
His other livestock dominate the fourth greenhouse, where a 4,400-gallon fishing hole is alive with 4,000 tilapia, a small fish that evolved in Africa and Asia to withstand shallow, still waterways. The tilapia take eight months to reach their final weight, about a pound and a half, and live off algae, water lettuce, duckweed (39 per cent protein) and worms, all grown in the complex. When the tilapia do their business, they provide another business opportunity in another greenhouse, where the water with fish manure is mixed with compost tea to fill hydroponic canals and trays that feed a wide range of herbs and greens, including watercress, cilantro, basil, eddo and baby bok choy.
Some 5,000 pots of herbs grow in the enriched water, ready to be sent weekly to local chefs who lease their pots of herbs for $50 a month. “I can teach any group how to do this in a five-hour workshop,” says Allen.
This is an amazing model for urban agriculture – one that should be adopted in every major city as far as I’m concerned! Not only would it provide an incredible amount of additional healthy food, but it would help city dwellers to maintain a connection with with the earth. I’m hopeful that through the inspirational work of Growing Power and other similar organizations this can eventually become a reality!
I’ve written a fair amount about Patti “The Garden Girl” Moreno on the EcoSherpa blog, but she definitely deserves some mention here as well. Patti has been a real inspiration ever since she burst onto the green scene with her ‘Urban Sustainable Living’ videos last year. She seemed to vanish for awhile (I think she was busy with her film production company), but I was very pleased to see her resurface quite recently – this time with some great news to share.
Apparently she has partnered with FarmersAlmanac.com and will be creating lots of new videos in her series!
In her latest newsletter she provided a sneak peak of her new website (looks like it’s going to be very nicely done!) and also shared some links for a few of her videos. I’ve included them here.
Who is Garden Girl? What is Urban Sustainable Living? Raised Beds in the City and Hoophouses Kifo the Garden Gnome
It sounds as though there will be plenty more videos on the way, along with a completely revamped website! I will continue to share new videos and updates here on the blog.