Alternative Community Farmer/WPB.FL

  (WPB, Florida)
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S.Florida elementary school organic vegetable gardens .How professional,safe and challenging.??? Afield trip observation of a sample school X.

It was my first field trip today to offer observations and ideas from the point of view of an urban farmer with educational and experiential background.

My tour guide was a garden enthusiast mom who have a passion to help start productive gardens at schools .To start with she initiated a pilot program a year ago and tried in vain to gather support from local sources and resources .She contacted me and today we were at the school garden .

My observatuion at the first instance was spotting her child of six years old bear foot walking towards a red mulched terrain.I stopped to comment about how dangerous it is to expose children to chemuicals and syntheic dyes .Red dyed mulch has been studied exposing animals to tread on it and the results were a myriad cases of cancers etc..

I was told that there are no support from school districts that struggle with limited resources and cut budgets.Also it is haRD TO GATHER VOLUNTEERS WHO HAVE EXPERIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE IN THE tropical FIELD OF ORGANIC GARDENING IN S.FLORIDA .SCIENCE tEACHERS OR VOLUNTEERS FROM ENVIRONMENT SCHOOL CLUBS OROM SCIENCE usually fill in the vaccant positions and classes tend to focus on indoor and scientific aspects of gardening while the REAL GARDEN is set to look nice with the help of landscaping companies that rush to use fertilizers and dyed mulch and ornamentals and lawns etc..

That garden looked tiny and the only garden  "plants" were  a struggling tomato next to a cactus and papaya tree  .The horticultural laws of XERISCAPING was so obviously violated.Cactus with SPIKES and THORNS planted in an elementary  school garden next to each others !!!!!

Do not ask me more about the raised beds that were at the same level with the lawn grass !!"I H ave tried to grow and nothing comes out" was my tour guide comment."I want your help", she continued.

My heart jumped at the sincere passion expressed.I remembered all those years I have spent tending to a series of community gardens that went dormant one after another due to lack of funds,support from both local public and private entities.Politics ,opportunists ,job seekers who are not experienced enough or educated enough to maintain or manage a school organic garden and many other reasons yet to be discovered  ...usually  take hold of and the result a failed garden and loss of funds and resources.Who is to blame? I beleive those who are at the recruitment posts should be held accountable because their IGNORANCE or LACK of PRODUCTIVE GARDENNING education or experience is the culprit.So we end up with GREEN WASH culture.

 

Hopefullyh someone there who reads articles of feedback about our school gardens might notice that there must be a different approach to educate our children how to grow food by EXPERIENCED and EDUCATED organic HORTICULTURIST.

There are so much rules and regulations and red tape that will take so long to move on a school productive garden.There so much lack of experiencd LOCAL horticulturists or organic urban farmers to be found.Most quit and give up after so many VOLUNTEERING years while those OFFICE STAFF who hire them remain for years and years reaping high profile salaries and suck out the budget funds on administration overheads while productive school gardens keep on shrinking in size and productivity to say the least...or shall we say desist to exist??

 

I am positive that there are successful school gardens out there but we need more sources,support and more volunteers with passion like my garden friend who also should be rewarded with pay.

 
 

Top TEN TIPS/Benefits of Hands On Backyard Organic Urban Farming Classes !

I have been fascilitating Organic Urban Farming classes here in S.Florida for a decade .So far I have collected some Hands On Tips and observations and would like to share my experiences with you in case you are interested in starting a backyard Urban Garden .

1-Be Prepared:Come with an OPEN MIND and Heart to learn .

Bring A note book-Dress in a garden gear-Write down a list of questions.Hydrate.Bring along a friend or a family member as it usually costs less for couples!

2-Be Patient .Urban Farming is a PROCESS that requires:Time.Efforts . Hands on Work.Budget.Knowledge.No Experience Required!!

3-Be Grounded:Learn how to connect with Nature through :Breathing Exercises.Touching the EARTH.Identifying and understanding plants and soil inhabitants.

4-Be Aware:Read local Horticultural blogs.newsletters,magazines and literature of Tropical Urban Farming of S.Florida.Check out internet gardening links like you tube and blogs example: localharvwest.org/farms/M20618

5-Start small:local heirloum seeds and start a mini nursery in small containers .It is less costly and more fun to manage and maintain a SMALL Container Garden than a Nemitode infested Sandy soil PLOT.. 

6-Take a class on HANDS ON URBAN FARMING :ONE ON ONE for better results if you are a begginer!

7-Prepare your own soil if you live in S.Florida.Much of the soil here is Sandy and Acidic especially if you live close to the coastal areas!

8-Learn how to COMPOST FIRST!Get a Compost Bin .

9-Harvest the RAIN:Conserve water by using a RAIN BARRL!

10-Take as MANY CLASSES AS POSSIBLE.ASK MANY QUESTIONS...Be POSITIVE!

 

 
 

The Future Back To School will be instead:Back to the FARM!

I was not dreaming when:

A major local newspaper columnist gave me an interview to spread the awareness of Urban Farming ,and published it on the front pages of the local section back in 2008 .

A local city offered me a job to teach a Composting class for its residents to help reduce the cost of its recycling department, back in 2010-11.

A local college invited me to fascilitate a Composting class at their campus in 2011 to boost the Organic gardening awareness among  its college students.

 Urban Farming will enter from the FRONT DOOR to the class rooms , backyards ,hearts and minds of this generation and the ones to come to make the connection with the source of our HUMAN SUSTAINABILTY:SOIL!

Our food and water have been squeezed into  bottles , pills and capsules.

Our LIVING food nutrients have  been reduced into a  G M ZERO a lab bi product of  GMOs("G"enetically "M"ortified .."O"  !)

Common "Science" is be-coming  common "Sense" for a lot of college and school graduates who are seeking a different kind of DEGREE :BA (Basic Agriculture) as bestowed by Mother Earth through a hands on the soil courses!!!!

I have witnessed and seen the hardships of making a living for Urban farmers here in S.Florida.I have lost a half an acre community garden for a land fill.I have retreated to farm at backyards of home owners,churches,community gardens  and never stopped spreading the Urban farming awareness through workshops , even after losing my gardens and non stop relocations.People now a re waking up to the importance of LOCALLY GROWN UNADULTERATED FOODS(By Manufactured processed food ,packaging,chemical additives,pesicides,GMO,herbicides,fungicides, you name it   etc..) .

More and more of people are getting sick,obese by adulterated food.So it makes sense to grow our own!!!

Here is an article by the NYT to back up the new trend of " back to farming  "  new found  soil-'gold'en  rush of  college  graduates:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/nyregion/the-farm-life-draws-some-students-for-post-graduate-work.html?_r=0

 

 

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The demographic changes vis a vis the climate change and the new paradigm of Urban Farming.

Next week there will be new rules to define the status of the Migrant Farmers .Capitol hill legislatures will pass a NEW LAW earmarked as  an "E-VERIFY  Immigration  LAW"to determine and define the status of the MIGRANT FARMERS in US.

Here in Florida where the state is second to California in Agriculture is embracing for a massive exodus of migrant farmers once their status become challenged by the E-VERIFY .Big Agri-Business is sounding the ALARM as per an article today by the local PBPOST:

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/money/e-verify-anxiety-local-growers-fear-u-s-1869630.html?showComments=true

The USA today had another article ,yesterday ,on Urban Farming or CITY FARMING in Chicago and other states.There is now a sudden AWAKENING for growing your own food .I have been crying in the wilderness for the last TWENTY years here about GROWING YOUR OWN and I contributed in establishing SWEVEN community gardens and FASILITATED HUNDREDS of Organic Gardening CLasses not to mention the help I provided to hundreds of home owners to start their own BACKYARD VEGETABLE GARDENS. Guess what? Now the wave is being stolen buy the PROFIT OR THE NON PROFIT  OPPORTUNISTS who $uddenly woke up to the DREAM of "GROWING YOUR OWN"..

Remember the pioneers who started the Organic Gardening and the Nutritional Supplement wave of the seventies and eighties, or the so called "HIPPIES"??? Where are they now? THeir companies and ideas were taken over by the GIANT COMPANIES!(Shall we say pharmaceutical or nuetracitical??)

The same people who wrote the books on CHEMICAL FERTILIZERS AGRICULTURE a re now writing the books and rules of the Organic Urban Farming! It is business as usual..unless you step in and hold on to your little gfamily farms or lands that you have converted into Urban Farms ..right next to the city sky scrapers:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/09/chicago-urban-farming-cit_n_956032.html

We nee3d to send messages to the younger generation through ORGANIC GARDENING classes at schools and churches and community gardens.There is a lack of AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION in the US as this kind of work is looked down at as MENIAL and PHYSICALLY HARD!

The climate changes are drawing new borders for the future farm:CIties and Suburbs!Rural America has failed continuasouly sine the secon WWW because the land was taken away from the Family Farmer and instead the BIG AGRI FERTILIZER BUSINESS took over.Now it is time to REVERSE na d GO BACK to BASICS!

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Seek Basic Backyard Farming Awareness prior to starting an organic vegetable/herb/fruit garden in S.Florida.

There is a growing demand to start a backyard organic garden in an ecconomy that is driving us all down financially.People come to me and ask me to help them but they themselves are not ready to cope with the idea of a productive garden that needs resources to happen. The basic requirements to be ready can be summarized in the following.

A) Structural awareness and preparedness:

 0-Make a plan a) and b)for the garden process .Consult a local professional horticulturist prior to mobilizing for the garden project.Choose the most affordable and workqable plan first.

1-LOCATION:Make your mind which location you want the garden be set up at.Always consider sunny space that is not accessible to pets or animals .Check out the topography and avoid slopes.Choose areas that are not in proximity to trees , poor drainage and traffic .

2-Budget: Structure a budget before you start building a structure .Consult with your partners and accountant prior to summoning a professional gardner to help you set up.

3-Design:Determine what shape and size and kind of garden suits you best: a)Single family,extended family etc. b).Rectangular ,circular shape etc.. c)Large,medium or small size.. d)What type of garden :Raised bed,trenches etc..

4)Materials:What type of wood,seeds,seedlings,mulch,soil,plants,irrigation system etc..

B) Functional awareness and preparedness:

1-Determine who is going to be in charge of setting up,growing,maintaing ,harvesting your organic garden.

2-Be prepared to have the necessary garden tools , equipent,shed etc.. on hand prior to starting the garden.

3-allocate time to work,maintain,manage etc.. the garden.

4-Make sure that the human resources allocated to set up ,build,maintain ,harvest ,water etc.. are available and able physically to function as per planned ahead.

5-Set a timetable to start and finish the garden process.Allocate phases for construction,beautification,completion,improvement etc..

 6-Establish a log book, organizational and follow up procedures to implement what is planned.

C)Execute and proceed accordingly in building the garden. There are always challengs and obstacles .Meet them with a positive attitude and mind set to resolve and find solutions.

Treat your human resources with dignity and respect.Do not trick,abuse or take advantage especially of the people who come to offer you help.Be generous ,patient,cheerful and supportive.

The spirit of community is not that much practiced in the cities where people live their lives behind closed and gated communities.Indulge in building relations with the people who come to help you by sharing what you have in exchange for their sharing what services,skills and work they offer.

If you are not comfortable with strangers stepping into your sacred space and property :Take time to train your heart ,mind and spirit ahead of time prior to summoning those strangers to help you start your backyard garden .How can you do that?

Your turn to come up with a way that suits your personality and communication skills.Accepting others as they are is not a bad idea to start with.Good luck.

Tony Dagher BA,CFMG,CFMT

Florida Master Gardener

 
 

Top ten tips on Intensive organic urban farming in S.Florida!

The French were the pioneers in intensive gardening during the WW-I and WW-II.To be honest to history we might summon the Chinese ,Greek,Babylonian and Mayans ancient biointensive farming methods 4000 years ago.Whether you want to call it French fries or freedom fries it  is up to you, but we are interested in results.If you live in S.Florida you must know that sand is the rule of the land.So , when the growing season pops up and the hurricane season goes down..You better be prepared to work your front/backyard no matter how small the space to grow your own organic fruits and veggies in an ecconomy that is stripping us all of our jobs,homes,cars and not to say more

What you need to start with is a class from a local urban  farmer who lives near by.Check out the localharvest.org to find one by you your zip area.

Next, you need to understand that organic gardening does not compromise .So get educated by reading a book or ask questions.Urban farming in S.Florida is a challenge.Start with a plan for the location of your future garden that is exposed to ample sun light.Then start to dig and double dig not to look out for weapons of mass destruction but in case to extract any debris that are toxic like pcb,plastic,petroleum products etc..The land here was filled to raise the level of the home structures for avoiding flooding.You have heard about the land fills in the Acreage lately and you might have an idea what did they contain !

Here are some suggestions to follow:

1-Prepare your own organic soil and compost.

2-Mimmick the natural flow of growing that is let the plants grow close to each others without the extra empty spaces allocated to a path for example.

3-Plant heirloum locally obtained organic seeds and avoid Genetically engineered ones.

4_Use raised bed in flood prone area and trench dug beds in high grounds.Dig and double dig always .

5-Make use of vertical gardening and introduce trellis wherever needed.

7-Be sustainable.Avoid loss of nutrients and humus and keep adding nutrients every growing season through organic composted manure and organic fertilisers and ammendments like blood and bone meal.

8-Follow the phases of the moon in your planting and harvesting.Educate yourself by reading the Farmers Almanac which has a lot of tips to guide you.

9-Be conservative in using water for irrigation.I find that growing intensive wise in containers saves you a lot .Plus you do not have to worry about being fined for watering and breaking the current draught watering rules.Use mulch to keep the texture of the soil moist and avoid burning the roots during the zesty summer .

10-Use Xeroscaping as a rule of thumb.Meaning , plant the right plant in the right place.Do not plant a water loving plant next to a draught tolerant plant.

It is good to always join a network of local urban farmers to exchange ideas and seeds.Urban and community farming is becoming more popular in Florida as more big agri business exit the farms .The future is for the ones who can live off the land and keep the land a living place for the living.

Happy urban farming.

We can help you get started .Join our  on going classes on organic gardening.Visit our web link at:

http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M20618

 
 

Urban Farming 101 in TROPICAL Florida.Basics to start with:Organic Seed sources,composting and container gardening

It was back in 2008 when a local newspaper published a two page report on my urban farming practice at a local communirty garden that is now history.This is a narrative for the daring urban farmer who wants to explore more on the subject of Urban Farming in the TROPICS.There are tons of information available in books and in the web.I find it more practical to learn as I PRACTICE HANDS ON approach.Gardening and farming after all is the only science that dates back into ancient times before books were written or records kept.

Here is where one want to start:Finding a good source for seeds.I find it helpful to check out the following seed sources from the web:

http://gurneys.com

http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/altseed.html

http://www.omri.org

Also the following could be of extra help to research:

enzaen.nl,fedcoseeds.com,harrisseeds.com,heinzseed.com,heightmowingseeds.com,jlhudsonseeds.net,johnnyseeds.com,mountainvalleygrowers.com,groworganic.com,seedstrust.com,seedway.com

The best way is to locate LOCAL ORGANIC FARMERS who harvest seeds and do exchange.I personally harvest my own as much as I

 can.It is better to grow from locally harvest seeds that have their DNA map is crafted and evolved by the local climate .

 

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Urban Farming Challenges and Benefits in the Hot South Zone of Sub-tropical Florida.

Urban Agriculture as defined by Wikipedia is :"The practice of cultivating ,processing and distributing food in or around a village,town or city...It contributes to food security and safety in two ways:

-It increases the amount of food available to people in the cities.

-It allows fresh vegetables to be made more available to urban consumers through the bio-intensive method ..and is seen as susatainable practice."

Urban farming in history was predominant in ancient cultures of :Mesopotemia, the  Incas, Persians  and Egyptians .

Urban Farming is now making it  to the headline news with the decline of the economy .Income loss is forcing many middle class households to revisit their back yards /front yards and transform them -from the lawn  inefficient , unproductive and expensive water bill , not to mention  the draught and dwindling water resources side effects-to flourishing vegetable gardens .

Here in the Sub-Tropical Florida hot zone frontier , those are few of the felt impressions by some URBAN FARMERS :

A) CHALLANGES:


1-Ecconomic incentives: With the budget cuts that are prevailing now, no or less  financial aid/incentives are made available or accesible by local  public authorities or and private  organizations to small urban farmers. Green markets mostly are run to attract tourists like the snow birds during the season and they are shut down during the summer, for example.Green markets offer no affordable or subsidized stands to small urban farmers.Grocery produce stores like extensions stands are mostly invited to sell produce that is mostly conventional that has been shipped from abroad or  travelled the  road of the 1500 miles!

2-Available agriculural land:Developers and Big Agri-Business have the lion share of the land here.  Farms (mostly conventional)have been dwindling in size tremendously and losing the battle to the developers.No programs are available for urban farming such as the ones in neighboring Cuba.There are a population of hispanics and Caribean Islanders who are experienced in urban farming but have no access to agricultural land.Lots stand idle and neglected after the shrinking of real estate market .

3-Lack of Sustainable and Permaculture  Education:Even though the talk of the town is about GREEN ENERGY the reality is still :Agri-business as usual!

B) BENEFITS of  Urban Farming:


1-Stimulates the local economy:It helps in generating and creating more businesses opportunities , job opportunities and contributes in reducing local unemployment.It boosts and diversifies the green markets to include other than merchants : Local enterpreneurs and  small farmers.

2-Provides a beautification touch to urban neighborhood landscapes through the addition of more green settings.

3-Contributes in providing more affordable locally grown ORGANIC produce to lower income families.

4-Socially , it helps in reducing the crime rate and increases the level of community interaction,awareness,diversity and racial tolerance.

5-Helps in transforming neglected and crime infested arenas and lands used to dumpdebries into flourshing beautiful vegetable and flower gardens.

6-Saves energy by reducing the carbon foot print of the average 1500 miles travelled by produce shipments by offering a locally grown produce harvested from a neighborhood near you.

This is to be more on the GREENY positive side and less on the GREEDY negative one!

New beginings awaits those who venture to embrace new GREEN PRODUCTIVE opportunities even in the city .

Help out in stimulating the economy on a smaller local scale: Be an urban farmer!

 Tony

Alternative Community Farmer

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