Dig Into MUJ 28.1 With A Look at Urban Farms and Gardens

Urban food systems are complicated. Impacted by social, cultural, economic, political, and even technological factors, the ability for individuals to access food is an increasing challenge that many urban colleges and universities have taken on to ensure greater outcomes for their students and larger urban and metropolitan communities. Different approaches to food networks were chronicled in the latest issue of Metropolitan Universities journal, “Urban Food Networks.”

One way urban universities are addressing the need for fresh, available food for their communities is through urban farms and gardens, which provide healthy, local food and learning and economic opportunities for residents. We took a closer look at three urban farms and gardens to understand the different ways these gardens develop and to see for ourselves the variety of ways these spaces serve their communities.

Ohio City Farm, Cleveland, OH

Julie Fox, guest editor of this issue, writes in her article “Collective Approach to Complex Food System Issues, the Case of The Ohio State University” that “despite many hunger-fighting efforts and the Ohio agricultural industry worth $100 billion, food security remains a significant issue in the state.” She documents the varied approaches OSU is using to address food insecurity in her article, noting the role of a 261-acre urban farm, Waterman Farm, located on the Columbus campus, which provides the OSU community with learning and research opportunities.

Another urban farm in Ohio located in Cleveland, the Ohio City Farm, provides residents with fresh, healthy food, and educate the community about the food system. The six-acre farm is one of the largest contiguous urban farms in the country. Community members can reap the benefits of the farm from June to November by visiting the on-site farm stand and purchasing products grown on site.

Learn more about the Ohio City Farm here, or read about the multifaceted approaches CUMU member Ohio State University takes to address food insecurity.

Photos used with permission of Julie Fox and the Ohio State University

Urban Food Hubs, Washington D.C.

While some urban and metropolitan areas can take advantage of abandoned spaces to create urban gardens or farms, Washington D.C. is a growing city that is lacking the available space for larger farming projects. However, that challenge ha provided the ideal environment for the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) to test if their urban food system can be competitive in a city with less free space.

Sabine O’Hara explains the plan for the Food Hubs in her article “The Urban Food Hubs Solution: Building Capacity in Urban Communities,” “The four components of the UDC Urban Food Hubs—food production, food preparation, food distribution, and waste and water recovery—are designed to establish: (a) high-efficiency urban food production sites; (b) commercial kitchens to improve nutritional health and add value by turning produce into food products; and (c) green infrastructure that remediates urban soils and improves water use efficiency. Each Urban Food Hub is a business incubator to create jobs and address health disparities.” From green roofs to hydroponics, raised bed gardens and rice fields, you can view some of UDC’s strategies in action below:

Learn more about the UDC Food Hubs and their numerous approaches to food production, preparation, distribution, and waste and water management in O’Hara’s article.

Photos used with permission of Sabine O’Hara and the University of the District of Columbia Photos used with permission of Julie Fox and the Ohio State University

Monroe Park Campus Learning Garden, Richmond, VA

The Monroe Park Campus Learning Garden at CUMU member institution Virginia Commonwealth University is a garden on a mission. The townhouse-sized plot is used to teach the community about gardening, food preparation, and food access through hands-on learning opportunities. Produce is also grown to donate to underserved populations in Richmond and the university community, such as the RamPantry and Center for High Blood Pressure. They donated more than 500 pounds of fresh produce during the first growing season in April 2016.

A partial internal grant from the Council for Community Engagement in 2015 and the donation of a space from the VCU Parking and Transportation Office made the Monroe Park Learning Garden possible. The garden is managed by the VCU Office of Sustainability and contains raised beds constructed from repurposed wood pallets, furniture and planters furnished from burlap coffee bags. In an effort to increase access and food equity, the Office of Sustainability also manages a community garden located on the medical campus.  VCU community members can rent these plots each term; all excess produce grown at the MCV Community Garden is donated to the VCU RamPantry.

Learn more about VCU’s Monroe Park Learning Garden, or view more photos here.

Photos used with permission from Steven Casanova Photography and Virginia Commonwealth University Monroe Park Campus Garden  Photos used with permission of Julie Fox and the Ohio State University