Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

From the Desk of Jac Smit - "Urban Agriculture"

On this page, Jac Smit, the world's authority on Urban Agriculture, will share his thoughts with our readers.

Who is Jac?

Jac Smit is the President of The Urban Agriculture Network [TUAN]. This information and consulting organization was founded in 1992. It has visited over 30 countries in its advocacy. The urban agriculture book they wrote for the United Nations is the 2nd best selling book ever published by the UNDP. TUAN operates in all media. It is engaged frequently in workshops and conferences.

Jac's first urban agriculture study was written as a term paper at Harvard. It defined how agriculture and suburban residential and commercial development could coexist in the SuASCo watershed [Sudbury, Assabet and Concord rivers].

As director of the Chicago Regional Plan project for NIPC he led the team that promoted agriculture in the green wedges between the urban corridors in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

As a Ford Foundation advisor he contributed to plans for agriculture in the core and at the edge of eastern India's new industrial and port cities. The United Nations' Suez Canal Planning project [the largest it ever undertook] that he led included a new type of more productive agriculture in the three Suez Canal Cities. The survival of Baghdad's population during the 1990s United Nations' blockade was due in part to the urban agriculture component of the city and regional plans for which he was the technical director in the 1980s.

Jac has contributed to plans for agriculture in cities as diverse as: Abidjan, Asmera, Bogota, Dar es Salaam, Karachi, Philadelphia, Vancouver and Washington DC. Some of his most satisfying urban agriculture effort was in refugee camps in India, Bangladesh and the Ivory Coast.

Today he is learning to write and speak for the Information Age.
Phone: 301 565 3131

JAC SMIT, President
The Urban Agriculture Network, 501c.3
4701 Conn. Av suite 304
W-DC, 20008-5671

202 362 6234

Late Report on Russian Urban Agriculture

Jac Smit July 2009

In 2006 the Russian Agriculture agency reports that 50 percent of all farm product is produced in home and garden plots.

A decade ago [1996] a study by a Scotch University found that 70 percent of all urban households in Russia were producing food including poultry, vegetables, fruit, and grain.

There is a conversation going on in 2009 on both the Web and in the Press, which says that urban agriculture is booming due to an economic downturn.  That finding is rather poorly researched. 

In 1975 Gorbechev and Yelitzen established a National action policy enabling all Russians to return to or begin food production.  The collective farms were failing.  Thirty years later their policy and program are working pretty well.

In 2009 a survey found that 80 percent of Russian households with access to a farm plot ranked it as an important source of family food security.

Is Russia, as an early starter, setting the trend? Can we learn? 

Principles for Agriculture/Food Security

Jac Smit March 2009

The world has changed dramatically since the Foreign Assistance Act's inception in 1961, PARTICULARLY RAPID URBANIZATION IN THE POOREST COUNTRIES and it is a widely accepted fact that the current state of US foreign assistance is in need of restructuring.  The U.S. Government's system for allocating, managing, delivering and monitoring foreign assistance is fragmented and lacks strategic direction.  There is no centralized management or oversight of U.S. government programs.  The proliferation of Presidential Directives, Congressional earmarks, new assistance structures and funding streams, stymies the achievements of America's foreign assistance goals of peace and stability.  An important first step to fixing foreign assistance is the development of a national development strategy that sets forth the framework for foreign assistance, defining goals and harmonizing agencies.

Call for a Comprehensive Approach to Food Security

Effective food security REQUIRES IMPROVED PRODUCTION ANDTRANSPORT CAPACITY IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AND effective and efficient foreign assistance.  Long term food security depends on: increasing sustainable agricultural productivity; raising the earning potential of poor people; preparing for future hunger-related emergencies by developing disaster risk reduction capabilities and early warning systems; and boosting resiliency by investing in social protection, safety nets, and nutrition and health delivery systems.  Nonetheless, the existing framework stovepipes food security into separate issues, isolating each from beneficial partnerships and sometimes forcing programs to have conflicting goals.

The time has come to create a comprehensive approach to food security within the foreign assistance act. 

The Consequences of Inaction

More than 960 million people around the globe suffer from hunger and another 2 billion are malnourished.  Between 2005 and 2008 food prices rose dramatically, at an increasing rate - nine percent in 2006 and 23 percent in 2007.  These rising food prices erode the purchasing power of poor people, ESPECIALLY WOMEN LIVING IN URBAN PLACES who already spend most of their income on food.  Poor people have been forced to cut or alter food consumption, with a consequent rise in malnutrition.  Today, hunger and malnutrition are the underlying cause of one-third of all deaths of children under the age of five and accounting for roughly 3.5 million preventable deaths each year.  In addition, there has been a sharp decrease in U.S. support for agricultural development. IT IS WELL DOCUMENTED that GDP growth IN AMERICA AND ELSEWHERE originating in agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as GDP growth originating outside agriculture. 

Core Principles that Should Guide FAA Reform as it Relates to Food Security Please fill in the blanks or add any bullets that you feel are imporant

" Comprehensive: The US should develop a comprehensive strategy that integrates policies and programs.  Because US programs to address hunger are currently spread over many agencies, a strong mandate to integrate these efforts requires White House leadership. 

" Results-based approach:  The FAA must adopt a results-based approach that includes appropriate levels of flexibility for country specific action.



Cantaloupe Capital Of The World And Urban Agriculture In 2009

Jac Smit Feb. 24, 2009

On February 10th 2009 Mayor Robert Silva of Mendota California said; "- my community is dying on the vine". Mendota is in the center of California's Central Valley, one of the worlds most productive agricultural places and called by some the "cantaloupe capital of the world".

The Mendota district is America's prime source for cantaloupe and lettuce. An optimistic forecast is that crop yields will be reduced by half in 2009, over the previous decade.  The California State Department of Water Resources says that irrigation water this year will be at 15 percent of average. The Federal "Central Valley Project" anticipates zero allocation from its resources. At the University of California Professor Richard Howitt estimates a crop loss of over $ 2 billion and a job loss of over 60,000.

This reduction in the production of lettuce and melons creates an opportunity for urban agriculture or "locally -based food systems". Their price is going up. The demand for fresh fruit and vegetables is going up. And obviously metropolitan farmers are empowered to move into the market.

I had cantaloupe at breakfast today. It was half colored orange and half green. It was so tasteless it required salt or sugar.  It was not ripe. A local farmer can and does deliver a ripe cantaloupe.

In 1933 the U. S. National Government's stimulus plan was looking for "shovel ready" projects.  They found a big one in California.  During the 1920s the Army Corps of Engineers had designed a huge irrigation project for the Central Valley.  That 'national recovery project' is still operating on those 1920s engineering standards today, with more or less good maintenance.

Three factors have merged to cause this unanticipated crisis of lack of water. A. Snow melt from the Sierra Mountains has been reduced  by 40 percent due to global warming; B. With urbanization, and its green lawns, water has been allocated to towns and cities which used to grow food; C. California and its neighbors have been going through a multi-year 'climate-change' drought';

The Mendota district farmers refer to the crisis as "-a man-made drought." Are they right? The answer seems to me to be 'Yes'! Now we are called to anticipate and act on where (climate zone) this 'drought' will hit next and what to do about it.

There is a lesson to be learned, "shovel ready" projects may be obsolete and dangerous to our future. Urban agriculture must take on the challenge of replacing a substantial share of rural agriculture's production. And it can be done in Mendota, as well as everywhere, but not with super thirsty Cantaloupes.

Multi-cropping: Producing two or more crops/products in the same space as one

Jac Smit MCP, AICP
February 4, 2009

In the 21st Century we are reading and hearing more and more about high yield small-scale urban-metropolitan agriculture production. One method I have not been seeing, perhaps I look in the wrong places, is multi-cropping.

A well known historic method from pre-Columbian time, which also projects to the future, is the "Three Sisters". Three sets of seeds are planted at the same time, Corn, Squash and Beans. The beans climb the corn stalk and the squash covers the ground. The squash reduces weeding and reduces evaporation of soil moisture. The beans have relatively deep roots and return nitrogen as well as carbon the soil. The corn stalks are particularly good as a source of litter and compost. A recent experiment at Cornell University found that this combination produced as many calories per acre as the latest monocropping in Iowa.

For the small-scale operator three crops are better than one for the dinner plate or Main Street.

For hundreds of years farmers in Vietnam have been producing rice and fish in the same field. This requires a bit more precision than the Three Sisters. Planting feeding and harvesting have narrow time windows. The benefits of carbohydrate and protein are worth the effort. And the fish offal enriches the soil. Recent studies find that this practice is dominantly in peri-urban areas, close to market. As would be the case in a small-scale urban site in Europe or America the water is grey water.

A similar method is common in Thailand's cities and in other countries including Taiwan. Here I refer to "Poultry over Fish Tank to Vegetable Raised Bed". Simply, chicken cages are built over fish tanks. The fish consume chicken waste; not their only nutrition. And the bottom of the fish tanks is cleared as compost-fertilizer for the vegetable beds. With the rice and fish it produces carbs and protein. It is better suited to the quarter-acre backyard farm.

A common method in more temperate climates is "Chicken and Vegetable". This simple 'Lazy Man' method uses the chickens to create compost and fertilizer. Season by season the poultry area and the vegetable area are switched, vegetable area is usually larger. The start of the process is known as "Chicken-Powered Composting".

Organic waste of many sorts is piled, as it becomes biologically active crickets, worms, microbes the birds scratch and feed, which accelerates and enriches the compost. Chicken offal can usefully be added. The next season compost is distributed or the chicken-compost space is taken over by the veggies.

In my own background I worked for a farmer who raised goats. At night we corralled them. At the end of two years the corral was moved and the former space became a vegetable plot.

At simpler method is known as "Oats & Peas". Somewhat like the "Three Sisters", short climbing peas are planted with oats and two crops are produced in the same space. The harvests are at different times and the solid benefits from the carbon sequestering of the peas are more than the oats.

And some folks say you can't sensibly grow grains in the city. Does any reader have good photos?

Income from Your Backyard: Farm to Main Street

Jac Smit MCP, AICP
January 16, 2009

Backyard gardening, poultry or small livestock is today mostly presented as supplementing household nutrition and/or income. A lot of the media presents it as a hobby, which has some health and economic sideline benefits.

My personal history began as a teenager. My brother and I grew vegetables on a half acre, with USDA 4-H advice. We sold to two markets; retail at a roadside/intersection stand and wholesale to a girl’s summer camp. My father delivered.

At about the same time my ‘uncle Ben’ supported his family by growing tobacco in his small backyard in Amsterdam during the German occupation. He sold to German soldiers for cash. And he kept a few chickens for family protein.

SPIN [small plot intensive] claims US$50,000 per half acre is not exceptional. There is an experiment in Sydney Australia that says it can do $75,000. And yes, greenhouse, fish pond and “Roof-Wall-Fence-Canopy” can do $50,000 on one quarter acre and contribute more environmental benefits per crop yield.

Worldwide there are a hundred inspirational and duplicatable cases.

• Women in Delhi, India raise silk worms and spin their silk in upper story porches
• Women in Douala, Cameroon raise backyard guinea pigs. Guinea Pig meat has the highest meat price in the market.
• Women in Lima Peru raise quail and sell a quail lunch plate in a cooperative restaurant, one quail for one dollar.
• Women in Durban, South Africa grow medicinal herbs, for which there is a good market.
• Women in Kabul, Afghanistan are raising mint individually and processing for market in a cooperative.
• Teenage girls in Cairo, Egypt are raising vegetables Hydroponicly on their home roofs and saving for college.

My personal best dollar per hour was maple syrup from street and yard maples. I hung the buckets on the trees before school, collected sap before dinner and after dinner boiled the sap in the backyard to second-best quality syrup. Sadly I had to sell at wholesale. Homework did not get done.

For small backyards and for those committed to reducing their home’s heating and cooling bills the roof-wall-fence-and canopy [or arbor] residential farm may be a ‘best bet’. In addition to what the teenagers are doing in Cairo, every fence offers the opportunity to grow vines [tomato, peas, zucchini, etc.].

A productive wall requires a larger investment and has greater ecological benefits. The canopy is installed over a driveway, patio, or many other options. Essentially with roof-wall-fence-canopy no ground space is required, so a three dimension quarter-acre backyard yields more than a one dimension half acre one.

My father’ backyard success, with the help of teenagers, was selling meat poultry to institutions, college and hospital. Dad and teenagers raised capettes [desexed], slaughtered and dressed them, froze them, and delivered on a pre-agreed schedule. We all got direct benefits. Yes! all in a more or less half acre.

Yes, if you are good at marketing, you can earn real money in your backyard. And it’s being done all over the world. Please send in your cases.

"Food As An Element Of Urban Planning"
            '1960 to 1990', in six countries

Jac Smit MCP, AICP
January 28, 2009

Food production within an urban geographic zone, metropolitan district or urban region has been a regular element in the urban plans for which I have been the project director or senior technical director during a 30-year time span.  Considering the seven plans, five have definitely been successful in this element and two remain to be assessed.

My first venture into this arena was a semester paper while working on my Masters Degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. My Master's Thesis included it. This memo merely lists the projects.  A write-up is being considered.

1. 1960        "SuAsCo River Valley Development Concept": The Sudbury, Assebet and Concord urban river valley, feeds the larger Merrimack River. This river valley lies within the 'outer belt' highway surrounding Boston. Emphasis was green valleys with build-out on the hills.

2. 1968- Master Plans for the industrial city of Durgapur and port city of Haldia in West Bengal India:     1969       Key elements       were productive green center and the periphery and reuse of manufacturing water.

3. 1970        Metropolitan 'year 2000' Master Plan for Karachi Pakistan: Key element was use of the water of a river which existed most of the year underground [dry climate].

4. 1977        Suez Canal Zone, Egypt: this was a regional plan which included three cities and one 'New town. The key element was use of Nile Valley agricultural waste water and green belts.

5. 1979        Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: The project was the 'Rufigi River Basin'; the river terminates in the coastal city. The key concepts were green corridors, green spaces and integrated land and water crops.

6. 1981        Sinai Peninsula, Egypt: Key concepts, green urban valleys, waste water reuse [less Nile to Sinai].

7. 1987        Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area. Key concepts; productive idle land, green river corridors,        solid waste reuse and farm to 'Main Street'. [Board member not chief of party]

8. 1990        Baghdad Iraq: City, Metro and Regional plans: Key concepts; green corridors [Tigris River], green new towns, continuing the existing intensive food production.


1. Su-As-Co; Needs assessment.
2. Durgapur; A success, Haldia; Needs assessment.
3. Karachi; needs assessment, it is likely.
4. Two cities successful [Ismalia & Port Said not Suez].
5. Dar es Salaam; Now a very good World example.
6. Sinai; Needs assessment.
7. Bal-Wash; A minor success.
8. Baghdad; Significant success, to be measured.

A Google Earth mapping compared to the paper plans will provide and interesting and significant report.

Urban Vineyards: Multiplying with multiple benefits

The Wine-Town Nexus of Urban Agriculture: in the Baltimore-Washington DC Metropolitan Area

November 21, 2008 Jac Smit, AICP 301 565 3131

Production of wine within the modern city is increasing from Vienna, Austria to Vienna, Virginia.  This form of urban agriculture includes tourism, recreation, gourmet meals and picnics as well as diverse wines.

In 2007 Virginia was declared one of the Top Five new wine travel destinations in the world by Travel & Leisure magazine, the only one in the USA. In urban northern Virginia [Washington DC commuter zone], Loudoun County from 1986 to 2005 was either first or second in population growth amongst all American counties, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In 1985 there were six vineyards in Loudoun County. In 2007 Loudoun had 17, producing from over 20 varieties of grapes, and two more will be in operation in the fall of 2008. Urbanization and 'vineyardization' are happening in 'lock-step'.

This is Urban Agriculture at its fullest expression. Loudoun's vintners plant twice as many vines per yard [meter] of trellis as California vineyards. Thus they sequester more carbon as they produce more per acre [hectare], and they are re-greening the urban landscape.

Loudoun vineyards are predominantly small-scale operator owned and managed. Loudoun vineyards contribute to the local economy through tourism, education and recreation as well as through production.  And Loudoun vineyards conserve historic buildings. Tourists stay at historic inns and attend music and theater festivals and relax in a historic civil war hill-and-dale landscape. In 2006 Loudoun County launched a subsidized winery and distribution company which keeps the value-added within the local economy.

As the vineyards activity in Loudoun continues to expand, neighboring counties are joining the trend. Within the withering tobacco farmlands in southern Maryland a 17 member vineyard cooperative became operational in 2005. Its establishment is supported by a tri-county grant program, which splits the cost of new vines with the vintners.

One of the three, St. Mary's, has established a winery on an abandoned wharf on Chesapeake Bay. In 1980 Maryland and Virginia each had a dozen vineyards. Today Virginia has 94 and Maryland has 30.

There is new knowledge and technology supporting the rush of vineyards coming from the Universities of Virginia and Maryland.  One innovation is 'Vineyard Electronics' a trellis-tension-measuring technology", based on a laptop computer being connected to the trellis. It informs the small-scale vintner as to when to irrigate or thin a crop, schedule a harvest time, and know the number of oak barrels and empty labeled bottles needed for processing.

When planning your vineyard tour consider that Loudoun County has four "Tour Clusters",

Mosby, Southwest:
1. Willowcroft Farm; 2. Chrysalis [Jazz]; 3., Swedenburg Estate; 4., Boxwood [concerts]; 5. Zephaniah Farm.

Potomac, Northeast:
1. Tarara; 2., Hidden Brook; 3. Lost Creek; 4. Fabbioli Cellars:

Waterford, West-Valley:
1. Corcoran [1750s log cabin], 2. Loudoun Valley., 3. Village. 4. Hiddencroft, 5. Sunset Hills

Loudoun Heights, West-Hills:
1. Doukenie, 2. Hillsborough, 3. Breaux, 4. Notavia, 5. Bluemont,


¢ "Loudoun Food + Wine", 2007,
¢ Loudoun Convention and Visitors Assoc.
¢ Julie Tarara, Washington State Univ.
       [The vineyard electronics software developer]
       [Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments = mwcog]
¢ Washington Post, Metro, November 19, 2008 []

Obama is America's First Metropolitan President

This is the time for the Secretary of Agriculture to represent the majority of America's farmers: [family, small and middle farms].

Jac Smit, Prez TUAN
Phone: 301 565 3131
4701 Conn. Av. NW
W-DC 20008-5617

The vast majority, over three-quarters, of American farmers produce our food in metropolitan and metropolitan adjacent counties, defined as Urban Agriculture, Metropolitan Farming and Metropolitan Agriculture. Three quarters of our Representatives on Capitol Hill are elected by the residents of the same urban counties. The farm and farm jobs data is at USDA and at County data [see NACO, national assoc. of counties].

On the East Coast in 2002 there were only four rural counties between Portland Maine and Miami Florida. Similar mega-urban geographic patterns exist in other parts of the country.

We are facing a nexus of; a) food price and quality, b) energy price and security, c) climate change and environment deterioration. Each of these three related crises is being ameliorated by urban agriculture. And it can be accelerated by support from the White House and Capitol Hill. This election presents an exceptional opportunity for action.

Urban Agriculture, worldwide and in America, is already; a) Improving
food quality and security,
b) Generating 'Main Street' jobs;  
c)Reducing the energy consumed for food production, shipping and storage; and
d) Creating a greener and healthier 'Landscape for Living'.

Obama's hometown, Chicago, has a vibrant, expanding MetroAg industry from the green roof of City Hall to the urban-rural edge in four states; Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan; [US Census data].

Many government and non-government organizations already support MetroAg [Google has four million entries at Urban Agriculture] and provide a potential support alliance for the new secretary of agriculture. The range of private organizations stretch from; environment, to nutrition, health, poultry, livestock, forestry, landscape, city planning, food security, and community development. Universities, from Cornell to Berkeley, include it in their curriculum

The new metropolitan-oriented Secretary will also have support from other government departments including; Housing and Urban Development [healthy communities]; Commerce, [Main Street business]; Environmental Protection Agency, [reducing negative climate change impact]; Interior Department, [conserving our natural resources].

The time has come for the urban agriculture advocates to be heard at high levels of government. We have a strong and growing constituency. Our prime target may be Secretary of Agriculture. We can also advocate for deputy secretaries in each of the previously mentioned departments.

It is also the right time to remind our Representatives and Senators of where the farms are and farmers vote, in the 21st century: e.g. metropolitan and metropolitan adjacent counties nationwide.

The New Localism

Jac Smit © Oct 26, 2008

Joel Kotkin [Selected Quotes followed by a comment] (Washington Post 10/19/8)

"Higher energy prices may - refocus local economies in unexpected ways. For generations most Americans have been buying their food from distant corporate providers.  But with shipping costs -- and our food-safety concerns -- the trend to buying local is moving into the mainstream." "A decade ago, California had four farmers markets; today there are more than 500."

The Localist trend is driven by technology [internet ++] which has led to a rapid expaocalistnsion of 'home-based' enterprises, more than 22 million now run home-based businesses, up 16 percent from 2004, and the trends is accelerating. And 13 million are Telecommuting at least one day a week.  A recent study suggests that more than one-quarter of the US workforce will in a decade or two participate full or part-time in this new work pattern.

Today's localist revival - with the benefit of great access to the larger world that technology provides -- offers the prospect of an America that, rather than being a "Nation of Strangers", can aspire again to be 'A Nation of Neighbors' -- in places that we choose for ourselves.


What Kotkin brings out in this article is that locally-based food systems are part-and-parcel of a larger trend in the USA and Europe of "decentralization", not to be confused with "Sprawl". Sprawl was an element in a "hub-and spoke" metropolis [center city + radial rail & highway]. In the 21st century [beginning in the 1990s] we urbanites live in a "Lattice" multiple centers connected more in a checkerboard pattern without a central focus.

Urban Agriculture is a natural [no brainier] for the emerging urbanism. We can now and in the future farm everywhere in the city. Responding to market and to the need to respond to 'global warming' with a green sustainable metropolis.  One way of expressing this is "Continuous Productive Urban Landscape"; another is "Green Metropolis", two recent publications.

Church, Mosque, Synagogue, and Temple Gardens

Urban Agriculture is Supporting Faith the Environment and Community

Jac Smit © Sept 13, 2008

It is fair to say that faith-based groups have been leading urban agriculture for 25 or more years. Something has changed this movement in the 21st century. It is the merger of religion, social science and natural science. (1.) We now see faith based groups working with groups concerned with our civilization's environmental survival as well as community building organizations.  There may well be a new leadership for farming the city.

Church and other religious property is a major land use in urban areas. In general religious property does not pay taxes. Often it is a purposed gift not a purchase. Commonly the place of worship is centrally located within a community, town or city. This 'idle' land has a substantial potential to contribute to locally-based food systems.

Church property in a majority of cases can be considered as "the commons". It's purpose being to serve its community and may be owned by a community service not-for-profit organization.

Church grounds with vegetable gardening, plus some poultry and small livestock, have been in existence since medieval times.  They were also a part of 18th and 19th century colonial development programs, used to feed the church and related school culinary needs and to introduce the colonial population to "modern" food practices.

It is a surprise to some of us that the church garden in the 21st century is increasing its popularity. I don't remember a single church garden in my youth, despite attending at least a dozen churches in six American states. 

However when I converted to being a world traveler, I found a few. A decade ago I studied a farmer's cooperative operating on Mosque land, near the center of Dar es Salaam Tanzania.  In Beirut, my friend Joe Nasr, reports that there are a dozen or more church grounds being farmed for home and market, and they are part of the future plan for the city. My work in Port au Prince Haiti included a church with intensive food production on the grounds and in a large greenhouse. (2.)

In the 1980s New York City, at a time that vacant lot and community gardening was flourishing, Saint John's Cathedral took a leading role in vegetable gardening education and feeding the poor, on site.  At about the same time religious leaders of diverse faiths came together to initiate and support community gardens in Washington DC and Detroit Michigan.

Twenty five years later, in 2008, Los Angeles has a new Church Garden.  [Westchester Holy Nativity] It is founded by parishioners group called "Environmental Change-Makers". Concerned with climate change, at a time of rising costs of food and fuel, they initiated a process defined as "repurposing the church property. This process was assisted by Detroit's "Urban Farming" organization. This project is basically a "lawn to garden" project which has applicability at hundreds of churches. (3.)

In Dallas Texas there was an interesting ceremony last fall at which Bishop Katharine Jeffers Schori walked in a 'well vestmented' procession around the four boundaries of the new garden at the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle. She asked for soil rich and free from pollution and seasonable weather with gentle rain. In this case there was an element of returning to the churches historical values [the website]. (4.)

The Washington Post last week reported that Catholics in Michigan, Congregationalists in Massachusetts and Methodists in Virginia are currently starting-up organic gardens on their properties. (5.)

We may ask the question has the religious leadership in the urban agriculture renaissance reached a Tipping Point?  What appears to be happening is that the Consilience of concerns with global warming, loss of community and the cost of food occurring worldwide have generated a new energy in religion. And this Consilience has both the land and the membership to make it work.

I have identified a few cases.  There are hundreds. Please add and comment.


1. Consilience, 2006, E. O. Wilson

2. Descriptions and photos of these projects are on file at the     Urban Agriculture Network



5. WashPost, September 6, 2008, G. J. MacDonald

The Commons And Farming The City:

Desk of Jac Smit August 21 2008

Prior to the industrial revolution every village town and city had a commons for food production and marketing. In the 21st century the commons is regaining popularity and applications. My personal experience of the spatial commons is the Boston Common and Garden, a both glorious and cordial public space. My second is the Calcutta Maidan, from Hooghly River to the New Market. It incorporates fishing, goat grazing, horse racing, religious festivals and much more.

As a teenager my good commons experience was three or four girl-boy dates. We rented a station wagon taxi to and from the movies in a town eight miles away. The couple that got the back seat typically did the most necking on the drive home.

Last week Washington DC saw the launch of bicycle-share, [SmartBike].  We have had car-share for four years [ZipCar]. Also last week the Vancouver Sun newspaper reported on the City's fruit tree-share project. BikeShare has a long history in Europe and Latin America. I have visited street fruit tree share projects in Argentina and Chile supporting the aged and orphans.

In the USA over the past few decades home owner associations [commons] have been taking over several of the civic functions previously administered by local government. Here in Washington house-share is common amongst grad-students and government interns.

Ride share is becoming more popular as both congestion and the cost of commuting increase. And that’s where I started with my teenage movie date.

A principal author of the American Constitution Thomas Jefferson is frequently quoted: "Although the farmer owns the land the soil belongs to all of us, because civilization itself depends on the soil."

Urban agriculture exploits the commons more than rural agriculture, and is increasingly doing so, in some places. The best known application is Community and Allotment Gardens. Community or Cooperative aquaculture is significant in ponds, and bays.  Less well known is aquaculture in urban waste water lagoons. Community Forest Gardens in Nepal and Kenya are deservedly receiving attention as women's cooperative ventures. Community irrigation, neighbors deciding who gets how much water when, is well documented in Spain and Taiwan. Urban farmers' collaboration in production within utility rights-of-way is worldwide and particularly noted in Brazil and the Ivory Coast. In African towns cow share is widespread.

Heifer International operates from the principle, "Not a cup but a cow". Heifer is operating in over 50 countries.  Its core program is cow-share. It gives one female livestock, cow, goat, sheep, pig, to a family with the agreement that the first heifer or kid will be given freely to another member of the community.  The program is titled "Pass on the Gift".  It has been a remarkably successful program for over 50 years.

There is a long history of the fence as common property, farming the fence along the road and around the library is a common practice is some countries. Laws going back to the middle ages in Europe permit us to farm our neighbor's fence and our church's and prison's.

It is becoming more and more common that idle/vacant land in the city is accepted as available for cultivation. In many countries, from Canada to Kenya, the green space along streets and highways are the space for you and I to raise vegetables and graze livestock.

In the 21st Century the biennial meetings of the "International Association for the Study of the Commons is drawing more attendance and attention.  It has extended the concept from classical, as expressed by Jefferson, natural resources to medicine, the Internet, idle land and Antarctica.

Many of us read or heard about in the 1970s Garrett Hardin's article in the Journal "Science" titled; "Tragedy of the Commons". In which he concluded that we all suffer if one of us over consumes his or her share of the commons.  Significantly Dr. Hardin, in the 1990s, famously issued a formal regret and offered an improved title "Tragedy of the Unmanaged Commons". A decade later we are learning better commons management.

Historically it was the case that the commons in the village was well managed. The introduction of agribusiness and global Agrifood corporations, temporarily it now seems to be the case, reduced the significance and the recognition of the commons in our food and ecological practice.

The worm has turned and today the urban poor, the scientific and economic scholars and the locally-based food system entrepreneurs are reinventing the commons from bicycles to forests. The opportunity is clear for city planners and urban designers to map, qualify and inform the public of the space available for building community by farming the urban commons.


1.   'Commons' = 1. shared by all alike, 2. community as a whole, 3. land belonging to or used by a community as a whole, 4. the right of a person to use the lands or water of another:  Webster, 1975
2. International Association for the Study of the Commons
3." target="_blank">
[makes available a wide range of free goods to nonprofits & anyone]
6., contact Ray White @ 1 800 422 1311

Jac Smit ©

Does Rural America Need Urban Agriculture? [and rural Canada, Europe, ++++++++]

Desk of Jac Smit August 13 2009

Some rural areas have many urban characteristics.  Karl Stauber at the Danville Regional Foundation in southern Virginia says it loud and clear,

" - only 4 percent of rural residents make their living farming --. If policy is based on the assumption that rural is about agriculture, then the vast majority of rural America is left out."

The Carsey Institute at University of New Hampshire fiinds that rural places similar to and including Aspen Colorado and Asheville North Carolina

"-- face challenges such as affordable housing for workers -- as well as [urban] sprawl that threatens the environment."

I interpret these reports as clearly asserting the over 90 percent of rural residents, as defined by the US Census, can benefit from urban agriculture.

Reference:   El Nasser, haya. "Rural America Outgrows its Label" USA today 8/5/8

Small-Scale Vegetable Growers Rejoice

DESK OF JAC  8  6  8

There are 110 million Small-Scale Vegetable Growers in the USA in 2008: 95 million of them are urban and peri-urban.

The National Gardening Association [NGA], with inputs from a Roper survey and the USDA, finds that 40 percent of America's 275 million households are growing vegetables and culinary herbs, approximately 110 million households.  The US Census tells us that the country is 80 percent urban. In rural communities the share raising veggies is about 2 of 3 and in urban neighborhoods, from Boston to Fargo, it's about 1 in 3. Arithmetic says 15 rural and 95 million urban healthy food producers.

The last peak in our file cabinet is 1975 when the NGA reported 49 percent growing vegetables. Are we catching up?

There has been a remarkable jump in the past year Atlee-Burpee Seeds, our largest seller,  reports a doubling of vegetable seed sales in 2008 over 2007. In London it is reported that vegetable seed sales have surpassed flowers for the first time since WW II.  Organic Gardening Magazine repots that for the first time in a generation we are growing more vegetables than flowers.  A similar finding has been reported in the United Kingdom.  Mother Earth Gardens in Minneapolis reports sales of three times as many fruit trees as ever in their history.

Since 1975 there has been a revolution in the productivity of small-scale vegetable production. Thirty years later a packet of seeds produces twice as much per square foot and close to that per hour of labor.  The breakthroughs include: hydroponic methods, drip irrigation, plastic greenhouse, roof and wall production, improved seeds, composting, fertilizers, insecticides. 

In much of the USA and Europe the growing season has stretched.  In London UK and Washington DC we have two more weeks per year, and closing in on a ten percent increase.

Perhaps we are arriving in a new food system era with urban agriculture at its core.  The coincidence and merger of the Food, Energy and Climate crises, in a not yet well understood way, is causing a "tipping point" and the end of the global corporate dominance of our nutrition and food security is tapering down.


Bruce Butterfield, National Gardening Association
Scott Meyer, Organic Gardening Magazine
Robert LaGasse, Garden Writers Association

The Bright Side of: United Nations High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis; Rome, July 2008

Desk Of Jac Smit @ August 1st 2008

Comprehensive Framework for Action

Yes!  Yes!! The reports have been almost universally negative. And, it's not all bad for Urban Agriculture.

A. Both the short-term and longer-run objectives emphasize "smallholder"     
   a. Immediate: Smallholder production boosted,
b. Longer-term: Smallholder growth sustained,

It's true; the higher yield urban farms are on average smaller than their rural counterparts.

B. Paragraph 3. of the Executive Summary finds that risks of hunger and poverty   may be more pronounced in urban areas.  And that in an urban world, rising food  prices bring the threat of unrest and political instability, more than the rural starvation crises of history.

C. Paragraph 4. [following the urban finding in 3.], suggests; "- agricultural investments focused on smallholder farmers - could turn agriculture into a vibrant economic sector-" [emphasis added]

D. Having concluded that urban agriculture should be given greater support the 'UN Task Force' in Paragraphs 12. and 13. urges action at a scale.

a. 12. "immediately  scale up public spending and private investment -"towards  the "recovery of agriculture [rural & urban] as a viable sector of a  country's economy."

b. 13. " increase the percentage of development assistance invested in food and agriculture from 3 percent to 10 percent within five years -".

There is a corollary positive in these UN findings and recommendations.  Investments in urban agriculture development are by and large easier to deliver and generate a return on the investment dollar more quickly.

Beyond Urban Carbon Farming Is "Urban Bio-Forestry"

Desk of Jac Smit, 7 11 2008

As a child I grew up in Rhode Island with the last and final death of all American Chestnut trees east of the Mississippi River.  By the time I entered College the American Elm was following the Chestnut's lead.

Today I read and observe the slow demise of some varieties of oaks, hemlocks and pines in North America.

Eighty percent of Americans and Canadians live in urban counties and districts.  Bio-Forestry, operating from a future view, rather than past best practice, seems to be a critical method to move a season at a time towards the "sustainable human settlement", think metropolis.

The Palace of Versailles near Paris has one of the world's most marvelous gardens.  It is today a leader in the practice of Bio-Forestry [Reference 1.]. Season by season the horticulture of the Palace landscape is being transformed to a mix which is sturdy within the rapidly changing climate [think warmer and wetter].

Urban Bio-Forestry may begin with a rule of "never a straight row of more than ten identical street trees", [elm, gingko, oak, palm, pear, maple, +]. A similar rule may apply to grass, shrub & vine. [Reference2.

The goal of urban Bio-Forestry, as with Urban Carbon Farming, is logically to optimize the ecological return to our investment and care of the urban landscape, [rooftop to hilltop and wetland to desert].

Next year's measures of a 'Productive Urban Landscape' [Reference 3.] will go beyond dollar, calorie, cool and aesthetic to include 1,000 year sustainability, carbon and nitrogen sequestration, minimization of fertilizer, insecticide and irrigation and so forth.

And achieving these objectives of Bio-Forestry will greatly benefit from the dollar returns of its integration within Urban Agriculture.


1. "Gardens at Versailles", C.T. Downey, 2004; & MSNBC reports,++

2. Los Angeles has a program underway to replace one million palm trees. UC Berkeley Livermore Laboratories report.

3. "Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes", 2005, Elsevier, Andre Viljoen Editor, Jac Smit Foreword.

Food Price: New Window of Opportunity for Urban Agriculture:

Desk of Jac July 3, 2008                               

With basic food items rising in price worldwide from Dhaka to Dallas the market for locally produced food is improved, that is to say, the small-scale producer can more often succeed in competition with globally produced food products.  Today farmers that are not reliant on expensive fertilizer and petroleum-based fuel can sell at higher prices than last season without incurring higher costs.

This opens an opportunity for the urban agriculturist and for all those that support her; technical advisors [extension], input providers [seeds, tools, small-scale irrigation], food processors, market operators, and educators.  We all need to increase our efforts to address the crisis and to seize the opportunity while it's hot.

One particular opportunity to support the urban farmer is mobile food processing.  Senator Lugar [chair of the agriculture committee] reported this week that 30 percent of Indian food product never reaches the market.

So, the market is hot but I can't get one third of my product to market. The mobile processing plant can connect the small-producer to the market with value added.  The Michigan organic Food & Farm Alliance offers a good model: a trailer with stove, oven, freezer, packaging and cold storage. Other mobile processing facilities include poultry slaughter, fish processing, cheese making, and vegetable cleaning and chilling.

Two questions challenge us:

1. How to get these relatively new items of equipment to those who need them and 2. How to get government approval of their operations and

Refs. Washington Post, 7,3,2008, Op Ed, Josh Ruxin     7,2,2007

  Urban Meat Farming - Needs, Possibilities, Trends

Desk Of Jac June 26 2008

The UNFAO 2006 [United Nations] 2006 and PCIFAP 2008 [Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production] 2008 reports have been a major source of fear and dread. 

UNFAO "Livestock's Long Shadow" ¢ PEW "Putting Meat on the Table: "

The solutions being discussed in the press and at conferences mostly overlook urban meat production.  And we need to speak up!

There are goods and bads occurring in urban livestock, poultry and fish production.  And in numbers the bads are not as bad as in the rural.

The UN found that livestock produced more negative climate impacts than automobiles. Cattle are particularly effective in the direct production of Methane and Nitrous Oxide which have a multiple of the impact per unit than the more commonly reported CO-2.

One easily digestible data item is from Dr. M.E. Ensminger, Washington State University. He found that it requires 2,000 pounds of grain [in the USA] to be fed to cattle to support one adult for a year, whereas 400 pounds of grain will directly support the same person for a year.

Livestock production is a major factor in deforestation, soil degradation, and water pollution in addition to its direct climate damage.

Urban meat and fish farming, which into which I was initiated in second grade, includes poultry, fish, micro- livestock, small-livestock and large livestock, [the case of micro can be envisioned as 'rabbit' and small as 'goat'].


Consider the "Chicken Underground" in New York City and the "Eggloo" in London.  In Lima Peru the poultry boom is Quail raised in bookcase type cages on exterior walls. Pigeons are increasing their population in Cairo, New York and 100+ other cities.  Ducks are commonly raised in a multi-product farming method with fish and rice. Where I live and work restaurants [fast and slow] and some food stores buy local [Chinatown to TexMex].


Aquaculture for a decade or more in the 1990s was the fastest growing global industry after Silicon Valley.  It is still booming and silicon isn't.  Half or more of aquaculture production sites are within urban regions. It's not downtown as much as the chickens but it's within the one-day delivery zone.  It's true that urban poultry and fish production are complimentary although that's not pretty.


The rabbits, guinea pigs and other small meat producers are less visible than the birds and the fish. They are also more efficient in converting urban waste to meat.  A rabbit can produce three times a much meat per calorie consumed as a cow.  So should I introduce my grandchild to rabbit stew or sirloin steak?

Similar to quail these animals can be raised on close to zero land space, e.g. hung on a wall or stacked on the roof with the pigeons and honey bees.

Small Livestock:

During a recent trip to Rome [UNFAO] I visited the Coliseum and was surrounded by grazing sheep. Another conference visit put me on the Calcutta Maidan [central park] where I met with the goat herd and his goats. This year the Montgomery County Maryland park department is renting goats to control "invasive plant species" as well as supporting kabobs and goat cheese markets and supporting the kabob and cheese markets.

Sheep, goats and pigs are easy to keep at small scale [see Mexico City for pigs], can be low-cost landscape maintainers and are  delighted to feed on our urban food system's organic waste.

Large Livestock:

Some urban landscapes are friendly to cows, buffalos and other large meat producers.  Broadly one can consider the urban fringe and hilly.  A nearby site is the Annapolis Naval Academy. In many urban scenes they will be interim occupants.

What I am suggesting is that we in the urban agriculture field need to speak up to say that we have a good alternative to the negative global warming being produced by rural meat production. The Netherlands and Belgium have developed 21st century intensive urban environmentally sustainable cattle management technology.

Let's stop complaining and commit to a better way.  Support may not be that hard to attract.

United Nations: pdf

Pew: 866 730-FARM

Mayor's Meeting and Urban Agriculture

Desk Of Jac Smit
June 26, 2008

The 8th Mayors' Innovation Project Meetng July 30 to Agust 2nd 2008 includes Urban Agriculture.


over 90 cities representing over 30 million of us

Contact: Satya Rhodes-Conway  

Venue is beautiful Madison Wisconsin

Is this another indicator of the UA 'tipping point'?


Green Food-Secure Community Planning

Desk Of Jac Smit
June 18, 2008

Hawaii State's planning law is the tops.  It requires that all agricultural land continue in commercial production when it is developed for residence.

Every one of new 190 owners of half-million dollar [US$ 500,000.00] lots in the 2,000 acre 'Kealanani' residential development project on the island of Kauai have agreed to continue their land in commercial agriculture.

Half of more will continue in cacao and fruit tree orchards, others are going into vegetables and micro-livestock.  Most will be family farms, some are share cropping and others have hired managers.

       WHY? Is this community planning practice not more common?

       Is this example included in City and Regional Planning curriculums?

Ref:  the project manager Andy Friend  @


College Hunks Proving,  Waste Is Food

Desk Of Jac Smit
June 17, 2008

Andrew Ehrman and Joseph Adamji, at the end of their sophomore year at Macalister College in St Paul Minnesota, moved out of their dormitory and said goodbye to the cafeteria.

With the advice of Chris Allison at Sisters Camelot they established their prime nutrition source as "the dumpster" and embraced the label of "freeganism".

Their scavenging of food store and restaurant waste took a few weeks of learning, not over night.  And now regularly/reliably provides more than enough fruit, vegetable, bread, cereal, processed meat, cheese and so forth.

For fresh protein the two young men raise a few laying hens [eggs] [i].  The birds are also fed from the dumpsters [ii]. For micronutrients and flavor they raise herbs and salad greens in scavenged containers, filled with humus and compost.

I wish I had been this smart when I was in college.  Do you?

[i] and [ii] 75 neighbors signed a petition supporting their poultry permit.



©  Jac Smit May 8, 2008

What is the Tipping Point? A historic case is the FAX.  In 1984 there were 80,000 sold and in 1987 one million plus. See the Book for other cases.

In 1994 I was authoring a book on Urban Agriculture and visited the largest library in the world [Library of Congress]. I inquired via one mode after another and found zero entries for "Urban Agriculture". The same was true at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization library in Rome.

Today, May 6th 2008, Google lists 1,740,000, yes, a million and three-quarters.

There are of course many equally significant indicators to Google; < Number of vegetable producing vacant lots, < Number of municipal pro-agriculture policies, < number of Master's Thesises < and more.

I take this opportunity to nominate the Urban Agriculture "Tipping Point Event":

In December of 2007 the United States House of Representatives kitchen and cafeterias transformed to an 85 percent urban & peri-urban cuisine **. The criterion being applied is "same day delivery" which, in the case of Washington DC with limited access highways and rail access in all directions, is 150 miles.

As a sidebar it is noteworthy that the Capitol kitchens use an onsite food pulper to advance composting of all food waste. 

"The  Tipping Point", 2000, Malcolm Gladwell, Back Bay, (301 pages) "* Green the Capitol @



© Jac Smit May 2nd 2008

It's a Topsy Turvy World.  In the past year the World has flipped from a global currency economy [US$] to a global commodity economy, same players with a different ball to kick around. 

Steve Perls in his Washington Post column [4/30/8] reports that the surge in food price is "-creating vast new wealth for - brokers, traders, and investment houses."

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warns us that the food crisis could "-touch off a cascade of related crises around the world."  Thirty three countries have already reported riots, protests and political disintegration.

There is a previously unforeseen urgency to establishing and improving place-based and community-based food systems worldwide.  There is a much greater need than we ever imagined during the 20th century.

Urban Agriculture [place-based] technology has been improving rapidly since the 1970s.  This improvement occurred parallel to the slow down and virtual standstill in the improvements in rural agriculture resulting from the 'Green Revolution of the 60s and 70s.

Bigger is no longer better in agriculture.  We can build a food secure urban world with the tools now coming on line for small-scale intensive production and getting the word out on the Internet.

Our time has come!




((Herewith an Outline for Discussion, from Jac))
             Can Urban Agriculture Reduce Cost of Food ?

Jac Smit @ April 22, PM 2008

A three year UNESCO study with 400 professional contributors concludes that; -- Change agricultural policy now to avoid a global social explosion in reaction to rising food prices - Salvatore Arico, UNESCO spokesperson:

This month there were "uprising/riots" in 33 countries from Italy to Haiti to Indonesia.  Presidents Zoellick at the World Bank and Bush at the White House have suggested;

- send emergency rations --!

Who considers that such a one-time action is appropriate?

The Economist [April 19] concludes

"Ideally, a big part of the supply response would come from the World's 450 million small-holders in developing countries."

My perspective suggests another way.

Urban Agriculture is a core solution to the crisis.

1. Space;

a. 21st Century UrbAg technology can produce 6 to 12 times as much per acre as 20th century rural agriculture.

2. Water:

a. 21st Century UrbAg irrigation methods can produce ten times as much per gallon as 20th century rural agriculture, and it reuses water.

3. Economics:

a. UrbAg builds stable community economies which provide a foundation for city, state and national economies.

What caused the surge in food prices?

1. Space:
a. Rural agricultural
land is ending its most productive lifespan [1970 to 2000] in too many places. Long term drought form Australia to Sudan, western China and SW USA has cut production from one third to zero, place to place.  Since 2000 population growth has been faster than agricultural productivity or product

2. Water:
Three factors seem to dominate the issue:

a) Loss of snow as a storage mode,

b) Obsolete and failing irrigation systems,

c) Shrinking surface and pumped out ground water reservoirs.  Hope is being placed on desalinization of ocean water. This is fine for the Persian Gulf but does not seem feasible for Africa.

3. Economics:
   The tumble of the US dollar from being the foundation of the global economy has opened the door to the new global commodity economy. Core commodities today are oil, weapons, and food. Guess who is manipulating global food prices.  It's not likely to be the consumer, is it?

  The Economist concludes:   -- , more febrile behavior seems to be influencing markets - rumors of panic buying by - importers,   (and) hedge funds looking for new markets."

To Dos

1. Establish and support food systems within 50 to 100 miles of small and large urban places [Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes, CPULs]. The 2008 crisis is more dominated by urban markets than ever before in history.

2. Restore, do not deplete, ground water. Retire obsolete, wasteful irrigation systems [year by year] and replace them with small efficient systems. Reuse all water again and again.

3. Build community, municipal and state economies from the bottom up, with food at the core. And step-by-step take over from the failed global Agri-business industry.

GLOCAL SMALL-SCALE URBAN FARMERS Internet Enabled Small Scale Producers Marketing to Both Global and Local Markets: [The World Bank refers to this as "Glocal"]

Desk of Jac Smit April 18 2008

Kenya Case in Point:

The UK Department of International Development [DFID] reports that 500,000 smallholder farms are producing for the world developed country market. And that at the same time, on the same farms, they produce for their households and community. 

In many cases the small scale farmers have succeeded in the International fresh produce market when and where the large scale operators have failed.

Lydia Njuguna of the Kenya Horticultural Development Programme reports that 200 small scale farmers have established a 'growers group' in Kinangop Kenya.  Each farm, often of less than an acre, grows more than a dozen crops.  The export portions of the farm are rotated with crops for local consumption [export, French beans family, yams].

Edwin Mgenge, the exporter's representative, visits the field and selects the crop for the next day's shipment. Next morning bicycle bearers pedal crates of just-picked to the 'growers group warehouse' for sorting and packaging. A short time later the exporter's truck shuttles the fresh produce to the airport for same day delivery to London, New York and Tokyo.

These small-scale producers live with little or no electricity.  They work their fields with hand tools and apply a small fraction of the fertilizer and insecticide used by large-scale so-called modern large farms. Studies find that their net negative footprint despite the 'food miles' is less than that of the most advanced North American mono-crop practice.

The Glocal produce production model, enabled by the Internet, offers a new horizon for urban agriculture

Reference:   Issue 41 2008 Susie Emmet,

This is key bit of information on a National and Global Uban Agricuilture 'Surge '

Jac Smit, AICP, MCP

Leesburg, Loudoun County VA has been one of the three fastest population surging in the USA during the past 20 years.  Its farming industry has surged at the same time. Agriculture has shifted from cow to mushroom [Shitake] to grape +++. [# of farms, # of jobs, # of $s]

Case in point:

Yesterday marked the launch of a State subsidized distribution company designed to help small winemakers grow their business.

The new marketing corporation was promoted by: the County Exec. Board, the County Plng Comish., VA Wineries Assoc.

Nationally the number of wineries has doubled since the Millennium Day 1/1/2000 [see WineAmerica]. The vast majority being small scale and over half of those are urban by both Census and NASA's definition of urban.

Vineyards [in the 'burbs'] are good for the environment and Wine is good for health. 

Why drink Aussie wine when I can drink my neighbors ??


Jac Smit, MCP, AAS 4/10/8

My wife and I spend ten percent of our annual expenditures on food [not including alcohol]. Families in the majority of countries in the World pay over one-third of their income. And that's for the total population not the low-income population. Fifty percent and more is common at the lower end of the income scale.

History tells us [see Egypt 4,000 years ago ++++] That at the time of food shortage [price, hunger] population moves from the village to the city and social unrest marches in.  This month we have reports of such 'unrest' in Port-au-Price Haiti, Dakar Senegal, Cairo, Egypt, Harare, Zimbabwe and several more cities and countries.

Josette Sheeran, CEO of the World Food Program said in Ethiopia last week that hunger today is unlike any other  in modern times, "-a new face of hunger - more urban".

Javier Blas reporting from the African Finance Ministers meeting in Addis Ababa makes the point that as hunger hits the more politically sensitive urban areas than the rural areas, riots are going to occur sooner and more drastically.

Joachim von Braun, CEO of IFPRI [International Food Policy Research Institute] makes the point that the rise in food prices is directly related to global food [trade] system.  Export countries are reducing their exports and prices soar.  He calls it a "-starve your neighbor policy-".

Data reports at the all Africa meeting said that cereal prices had increased 50 percent last year and 125 percent in the past three years.

One can argue that the vaunted 'Green Revolution', the grand Agriculture Economic principle of 'Comparative Advantage', and the virtuous principle of 'Fair Trade' aren't working well in the 21st century, as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

It can be concluded that the time has come for locally producing what we eat in an ecologically sustainable way.  As the Earth becomes more urban, more rapidly where there is the most poverty, International Development might well put more science and money into urban agriculture, or as they still say "urban and peri-urban". 

And they need to be told that it is being done and that we know how to do it.


W-Post 4/5/8 "In Egypt, Upper Crust gets the Bread" Ellen Knickmeyer

Financial Times, April 4, 2008

'Rice Today' Oct-Dec. 2007 Rice Prices still Rising, http:''

Wall Street Journal, 28 September

Economic Times, India, 23 September

Brown Fields To Green Community, Economic Development And Good Food:

The next Brownfield's Conference is May 5th to 7th in Detroit. Registration is free.

Urban Agriculture has been missing the opportunity.
And we are being presented with an opportunity.

There are 100,000 vacant-idle lots in our cities and suburbs.  There is a lot of government and non-profit money available to convert them to a productive urban landscape.

Here is the conference objective: "-cleaning up and redeveloping abandoned, underutilized and potentially contaminated [urban] properties -"

Why attend?

A. Funding, 8 sessions
B. B'fields & Climate Change
C. Small lot cases
D. APA's "Creating Community-Based
       Brownfield's Redevelopment" +
E. Ecological remediation technologies
F. European Cases [London, Glasgow, Berlin, +
G. Renewable Energy

There are many successful cases of urban agriculture applications nationwide; Asheville, Austin, Boston, Mexico City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, +++]. I do not see them in the agenda.

Too often I hear concerns about remediation. 
The Conference offers a lot of answers. 
My own favorites are; bamboo, cactus and poplar.

My 'quick start' brown-to-green model is:
Raised beds and hoop houses with a renewable three-year lease and up-front credit.

This Conference has 100 endorsers including:
BP, GM, CH2MHill, ESRI, APA, ICMA, US Conference of Mayors, USDA. USEPA, USHUD, USDOE and NOAA.

Do attend and spread our message:


Opportunity Missed !
Up-Coming Oportunity !!

Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities April 29 to May 3rd, Baltimore MD Convention Center Costs $ 200 to 500 [1 to 4 days]


¢ Green Roofs Tour
¢ Green Roofs in Europe & around the World
¢ Green Roof, Wall, [& Fence] Design
¢ Ecological Design
¢ Growing Media & Biodiversity


Continuing Education Credits: AIA,, ASLA,, DCI,, APLD

Why? Attend

Green Roofs are being advocated and supported in tens of counties and hundreds of cities.  We local fooders and greeners are welcome and needed.  They will pay us $s for our input.

The 'Food  from the Roof, Wall and Fence' [FRWF]  movement is spreading worldwide including: Singapore, Australia, India, Germany, Netherlands, England, Senegal, Cuba, Columbia, Canada, USA, +++.

At this conference we can learn, advocate, make connections and find financial support. 

See you there !  Jac Smit


Place-Based Green Fast Food:

Locally Grown Produce,
Rated Number 2 in the Chef Survey  "What's Hot" for  2008"
by the National Restaurant Association, USA

             ?? Number 1.  "Bite-size Desserts"  ?? # 3. "Organic Produce"

My wife came home from lunch today and said: "Wow! Ann and I had lunch at Chiolpe.  It was terrific!"  Believe me she does not often go out for a fast food lunch, never mind rave about it.

What happened?  Many of us were blaming the fast food industry for obesity, food miles, draining community and more.  And lo-and-behold their top lobbying group has been coming to us.

I collected a short descriptive list of major fast food outlets and providers in the number 2 'What's Hot'  trend:

Urban Agriculture is no longer 'farmers' markets' and 'farm to school'. Some of us will be sorry to wave the Urban Agriculture of the 1990s good bye. The green environment movement has joined our team. Or have we joined theirs? 

The healthy food movement at home and in schools, businesses, health care centers, restaurants [fancy to take-out] are now carrying our ball from New York to London to Tokyo.

How's it going in your town?

Reference: "What's Hot",
194 items ranked on percentage by 1,282 chefs as HOT

M. D. Pinkowish, Ode Magazine, April 2008,
Volume 6 Issue 3, 'Business '


Land - Space for Urban Agriculture:

© Jac Smit, March 19, 2008

Small and medium agriculture builds community. Consider: community gardens and farmers markets.

Urban agriculture requires permanent and temporary space where we live. Consider:  Temporary may be 'raised bed' and 'hoop house'.

In many cities world-wide we urban agriculture practitioners and advocates should be working to assure that public lands/properties are assigned to agriculture to serve community needs; social, environmental and economic.


Parks, schools, playgrounds libraries, hospitals, fire and police stations, street and roadsides, power/electric and other utility rights-of-way, idle/vacant land and roof-wall-fence [RWF] .

In the urban 21st century we need local government policies, plans, strategies and programs to convert these spaces-places-land into a productive edible urban landscape and green infrastructure. The action is up to communities, with professional support.

We advocates need to put the tools into community activists hands/portfolios. We need to pull up historic and modern best practice and be able to recite and quantify the benefits in terms of building community.

We have such an organization here in the United States Capitol, with 40 NGO & corporate endorsers, to serve as a starting step. There must be a hundred more.

Empower DC', an NGO, launched "The Peoples Property Campaign" in 2005. It is advocating that public properties be kept public and used to serve communities.

Contact: property.html
Parisa Norouzi

Request for Sources of Information:
              History & Trends of Urban Agriculture

Jac Smit, GUAN,

Ancient Technology:
¢ Hittite and Tiano Trellis
¢ Beni Bolivia & Mexico Raised Bed
       and Aquaculture
¢ Chinese waste-based Biointensive

Industrial Revolution (19th Century)
¢ Paris Marais with Greenhouse
¢ Munich Aquaculture
¢ Germany 'Lazy Man'

Post WW II Technolog
¢ Hydroponics
¢ Aeroponics
¢ Vertical
¢ Plastic [ground cover & 'Hoop']
¢ Drip irrigation

Post WW II Policy:
¢ China 1967
¢ Russia 1978
¢ Tanzania 1986
¢ Cuba 1991
¢ Brazil 2002

Post Vietnam War Marketing:
¢ Chile; community kitchen & garden combo
¢ Japan; Face of the Farmer
¢ Switzerland; Food From the Canton
¢ UK; Market Basket
¢ Italy; Slow Food
¢ ??; Food Sovereignty
¢ USA; Farm to Cafeteria

Re-discovery and Establishing the Distinction:
¢ AVRDC 1970s
¢ IDRC 1980s [early]
¢ FEN 1980s [late]
¢ UNDP 1990s [UA: F, J., & S. C.]
¢ RUAF 1990s [late]
¢ ++++

20th Century Trends:
¢ Community Food Security
¢ Locally-Based food system
¢ Food Miles
¢ Eggloo
¢ Mobile Goats
¢ Mobile Slaughter House
¢ Vertical
¢ Food From the Roof, Wall & Fence
¢ School & Campus Gardens
¢ Waste is Food [industry]
¢ Master's & PhDs degrees

America's Number One Urban Agriculture Cash Crop is Marijuana/Pot

Desk of Jac Smit,
January 15, 2008

We advocates of farming in the city have for the past three decades, It is the 30th Birthday of City Farmer and the 40th year in the field for the author, focused on its value for good food and its benefit to the low income households.  In the past decade we have given more attention to its benefit to the environment, and in the 21st Century to its money earning capacity.

We can not ethically further study or report the income generating capacity of urban agriculture without the cash crop Marijuana or Pot.

Pot is the largest cash crop in America and in other countries.  A 1997 Study by the US Government DEA estimated a street market value of $ 44 billion.  For comparison, this is approximately twice the value of America's leading legal cash crop, Corn. In the past ten years both Corn and Marijuana have increased their market share. 

Beyond the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] other estimates for 1997 were: Jon Gettman, author of "Marijuana Crop Reports" and President of NORML = $ 100 billion; Dale Geirringer, NORML California = $ 30 to $50 billion; Marijuana Business News = $ 100 billion in 1998 [NORML is the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ]; it will issue a new report in 2008.

How is it that I find Pot to be an urban crop?  In contradiction to its nostalgic image, Pot is mostly grown indoors from machines the size of a dishwasher to uninhabited 10,000 square foot Mac-Mansions. Outdoors now-a-days it is mostly grown in small plots in the forest. But indoors is more productive, although requiring a greater initial investment and providing less bang per ounce.

The nostalgic image from the 1960s and 70s is Pot gardens.  The current common image is of an illegal criminal activity hotly chased, destroyed and punished.  Here are a few contrary factoids. But don't forget the dollars!

A. The number of deaths determined to be from marijuana in the 21st Century is  zero:

B. The Medical Marijuana Directory includes eleven States from Alaska to Rhode Island, with over 25 offices,        which   includes the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] [] C. A Legal Directory has over fifty offices, from Seattle WA to Fredericksburg        VA, one of which declares a 90 percent Federal Jury trial acquittal rate.

D. The "Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower's Bible" has sold over 500,000 copies        and is now available in Spanish and Italian. []        and the DVD I & II is on :

E. Beginners packages priced at US$ 1,500 +/- include technical support.

F. Most growing is Hydroponic and Biodynamic is spreading []

Government and University based surveys are reporting urban agriculture in 2007 has two to three percent of the food market, and we accept that we are approaching the four percent "Tipping Point". However, when we include Pot, which has a huge Hi-Tech work force, capital investment and market, we are playing in a different league. The dollar value of Pot, unlike the other big crops, is produced by small businesses and therefore generates greater benefits to local communities.

This memo only reports on the USA. Pot has a similar significance in at least 100 of the 190 countries on earth, I assert.


2. "The Best of High Times": Special Collector's Edition, 2008,
4. Ultimate Grow DVD at
5. Marijuana Horticulture Medical Grower's Bible, Cervantes, G.
       5th Edition,    Book Masters, Ashland Ohio
7. "Marijuana Crop Reports"

Rising Food Prices And Urban Agriculture:

Desk Of Jac Smit Dec. 20, 2007

The urban poor are the hardest hit by higher food prices from national capitals and all towns and cities worldwide from Addis Abeba to Washington DC.

In Washington the 'Food Pantries' have less food in storage than was at hand a year ago. And the demand is up sharply from both the unemployed and the employed.

In Addis Abeba the National Statistical Authority reports that food prices are up over 50% since the turn of the century, the supply lines and warehouses are running low and hunger and malnutrition are rising.

The Economist of December 8th identifies the following global causes of food price increases, and forecasts no foreseeable return to the low food prices of 2000 and before.

Higher food prices is very good news and very bad news for varying participants. It is Bad news for the urban poor and Good news for the rural poor. This phenomenon presents us with a once in a generation  opportunity to manage the global and national food systems for greater benefits for all.

The World Bank finds that the bottom level Rural poor get three times as much extra income from an increase in farm productivity as from the same productivity gain in industry.  Thus as prices go up there is a real possibility of the rural poor working their way out of poverty.

In urban areas worldwide, but especially in low-income countries, the rise in the cost of food, which is the largest item in poor family's budget, is now doing and will do even greater damage in the future.

This is a 'clarion call' to everyone engaged in any way in urban agriculture. The need is greater and more significant than any of us have recognized, predicted or 'spoken up' about.

An increase in urban agriculture by the poor, for the market as well as the family, can turn a looming disaster into a brighter day.

Happy Christmas and 2008 from the Desk of Jac Smit.

The Millennium Development Goals and Urban Agriculture:

Farming the City and Advancing the MDGs
[MDG is the eight United Nations 1990 - 2015 Millennium Development Goals which are adopted by 189 countries]

Desk of Jac Smit  
12 5 '07

The advocates of Urban Agriculture will do well to present the case for farming the city as a tool to contribute to the achievement of these goals.

Four of the eight goals can clearly be advanced by urban and peri-urban agriculture, numbers 1., 3., 5., and 7.  At the base this can be argued because; in 1990 the earth's urban population was under 40%, in 2007 it is over 50% and on the target date [2015] it will be close to 60% urban.

The Eight MDGs in Brief; (Urban Agriculture's Targets Underlined)

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty & hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

To get the discussion started, and with the intention of presenting a case to the United Nations and 189 Countries, allow me to state some clear possibilities, and list some references for research and documentation.

First MDG: Urban Agriculture reduces hunger: A/ By providing direct, on-the-ground, access to good food without having to make the money that will move your family out of poverty; B/ UrbanAg provides opportunity to earn money in the most stable of industries, food production close to market, which will  reduce poverty.

Third MDG: The majority of chief farmers or 'farmer-in-charge' in the urban sector is women. Men are in charge in rural areas. Farming in the city gives women a major stepping stone to equality.

Fifth MDG: Maternal health: Studies in several of the 189 committed Nation's urban populations find that the health of women engaged in farming is significantly better than other women in the same income range and in some as healthy as healthy as the richest women in the city.

Seventh MDG: Environmental Sustainability, City farming advances sustainable development in at least five ways:
A/ It greens the city;
B/ It uses solid waste and waste water as inputs, reducing pollution;
C/ It reduces the transportation, cooling and processing and packaging of food conserving energy;
D/ It slows and reduces the expansion of polluting rural agriculture into forests and up mountains;
E/ It reduces the global shortage of water by using efficient drip irrigation     and grey water, rather than trenches and overhead sprinklers.

There is a multiplier to these four factoids.  Studies from NASA to FAO find that urban agriculture has seven to ten times more productive capacity per square meter than rural agriculture. 

Given that a) half to two-thirds of the market demand is in urban areas, b) urban areas can produce much more per person, c) the majority of urban farm production is achieved by women and d) farming the city and its fringes makes both urban and rural areas more ecologically sustainable.

We can make a strong case that the MDG strategy and program of the United Nations should give a greater weight to urban agriculture as a MDG achievement tool.

References and Cases:

- Wikipedia, -- Millennium_Development_Goals
- Earth Institute - Sanchez, Pedro , 2005 "Halving Hunger---"        a report of the Task Force on Hunger, @ Columbia Univ.
- World Bank, 2005 SIMA Database
- World Bank and IFPRI 2005 "-- MDGs faster through Agriculture"
- UNFAO, MDGs "The Road Ahead.
- InterAction, Monday Development, 2006, Volume 24 Numbers 17 & 18
- Millennium Development Goals: 2007 Progress Chart

- The United Nations, Google and Cisco unveiled a pioneering online site-  that tracks progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. MDG Monitor tracks progress toward the MDGs in a number of categories in nearly every developing country in the world.  The site presents the most current data from multiple sources in development areas like public health, education and women's empowerment. By laying out areas of progress and continuing challenge for the world to see, MDG Monitor aspires to keep the global community's eye firmly fixed on the Millennium Goals, and to provide vital information for policy makers and development practitioners worldwide.

On one portion of the site, MDG Monitor allows a Web surfer to use Google Earth to fly anywhere on the planet and explore from above, in three dimensions, the places where work is being done to realize the MDGs.  With a few simple clicks, users can access country assessments and data collected by the UN worldwide. 

The Millennium Campaign has set up a page on Myspace and an application on Facebook. 

Urban Forestry, Community Forests, Forest Gardening and Post-Disaster Recovery from Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast:

Desk Of Jac
November 16, 2007

As reported in the November 15th issue of the Journal 'Science', the hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed 75 percent of the trees in New Orleans, 100 percent in other Gulf Coast towns and a forest in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama the size of Maine or Illinois, with 320 million trees killed.

This is estimated to be the worst forest disaster in US history and in recorded modern times [Mississippi Forest Commission]. Full recovery will take hundreds of years [Louisiana Nature Conservancy].

The decomposition of the forest will generate more carbon dioxide than all forests in the USA can sequester, Also do consider that we lost well above average forests to fires this year from California to the Carolinas.

So, what has urban forestry got to do with the disaster?

Our urban society can not wait hundreds of years to recover the benefits of forestry.  And clearly trees in our urban areas are the most effective by far. UC Berkeley finds an urban tree to be 3 to 5 times more effective than the same tree in the woods.

Using New Orleans as a case in point, over half the city has been transformed from built out to vacant. In these areas there isn't a tree left standing. There is nothing more urgent in America today in terms of Climate Change and the health of New Orleans residents, urban forests, community forests and forest gardens may responsibly be given priority over all other rebuilding.

This reforestation can include not primarily ornamental species but first fruit bearing trees for income and nutrition.  Slower growing and taller trees can be planted along side to over time establish the needed canopy. Community forests and forest gardens will also be available for forest crops on the ground and shrubs from mushrooms to berries.

The operational concepts here are (i) green infrastructure; (ii) continuous productive urban landscapes and (iii) post disaster recovery.  And this program is at a National Scale, not only local, requiring National funding and leadership. It is hard to conceive of a more significant urban agriculture project in our times.

Mint-Ing Reliable Income in Your Back Yard; With your community or alone:

© Jac Smit
November 14, 2007

Mint as a home industry may sound "off the wall". But consider the markets for mint.

The basic home or neighborhood products are usually but not limited to:

Production is not complicated and know how is widely available.  The basics require only a small, intensive, well watered plot and a greenhouse or cold frame.  Six to nine crops a year are normal. Markets are accessible on the web.  Processing at small scale require a community or cooperative group.  It's fairly simple.

Kabul Afghanistan is a particularly impressive case study in terms of quick start-up and return to labor and investment.  The term used for the monetary returns is "value added", although the market for the fresh leaves is substantial in many cities, and Wal-Mart.

Reference: ICARDA Caravan No. 24, June 2007

The Global Water Crisis And Farming The City

© Jac Smit
November 1, 2007

David Mason of Sydney Australia at the Department of Primary Industry reports that the hi-tech market-garden called "ecoCity Farm" can produce vegetables and fish on five percent of the water used by traditional farming methods to produce the same volume of product. 'ecoCity' is designed as a practical entry for small business into the food chain

At the other side of our Globe Dr. Despommier, at Columbia University (as reported on BBC News), reports that the "Vertical Farm" being designed for Manhattan would operate entirely on recycled water, beginning with grey not fresh water. And the Vertical Farm may be even more relevant in other cities such as Athens, Los Angeles or New Delhi than New York.

How do these emerging agriculture methods cope with the global water crisis?

The UNEP [Environment Programme] reports that as the world population increases in the next few decades by 50 percent that water demand will increase 100 percent.  And we are already using more water than can  sustain our population with current management methods.

At the same time the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) finds that over 80 percent of the world's population is living in those portions of the Earth that will be experiencing more frequent dry days, and one fifth of them will be suffering severe drought in the next two generations.

Given these two frightening forecasts can anything be better than for civilization than water efficient urban agriculture?

The Sydney and New York new farming methods may be worth serious study and support.  ecoCity Farm can create enough fish protein and vegetables on one quarter acre to feed 300 families. The "Vertical Farm", at 30 stories, can on a similar quarter acre feed a somewhat more diverse diet to 75,000 (25 times as many persons).  Columbia University proposes that a 150 of its tower farms, as businesses, could feed the entire population of New York City, ten million.

These applied scientists in effect say that the next generation, think 2025 will have the choice of cities feeding themselves, (UNDP projects that the world will be 75 percent urban} except for exotic foods, as in the 19th century.

And 90 percent of current farm land can be returned to forest, prairie and recreation, with much more fresh surface and ground water retention per liter of rainfall.


Agriculture Today [Australia] Oct 25, 2007
Andrew Bodlovich,    Tel.0427 519 975 [with diagrams]

The Urban Farm of the Future
(2MB PDF news article.) The ecoCity Farm culture, known as enviroponics, combines aquaculture and chemical free greenhouse plant production that may be capable of organic certification. "It would create enough food from a quarter-acre block to fulfil a significant part diet of 300 families." Australia.

Urban/Suburban Forest Gardening:

Desk of Jac Smit
Sept. 20 2007

Two labels are being introduced from differing groups. Gardeners are saying The Edible Forest Garden. [TEFG]. Foresters are beginning to agree on Non-Timber Forest Products [NTFP]. Basically it's the same.

There are very long histories of such agriculture.  Two were recently documented by UNESCO are in West Africa and Indonesia.  Our best know practitioner in the USA is Senator Lugar of Indiana, farming on an Interstate called "America's Main Street".

Baltimore is one of our most densely settled cities, land use wise, not skyscrapers. Hers' a bit of data from a 2006 survey:

The forest farmers of Baltimore produced over 103 products from 78 species. A few for instances:

Peaches, figs, mulberries, wine berries, chestnuts, gingko nuts, maple syrup, honey, morels, chanterelles.

Sassafras, jewel weed, pollen, maitake mushroom.

Grapevines, forsythia sprigs, willow bark, pine boughs, boxwood

Ash seeds, walnuts, acorns, bamboo, ferns, dogwood seedlings, oak seedlings, native azaleas.

This value was typically produced with no investment except labor, mostly part time.

"In addition to their dollar value there is a value in Climate -- - sequestering].  These additional values are on par with other Urban Forests." Contact. "Inside Agroforestry at

For those of us who would like to learn how to do it at the beginner stage, there is a good introduction in; Mother Earth News, August-September; By Harvey Ussery, at

He does a good job of describing the way and value of Layering:
Trees - Canopy, with products
Shrubs - tall and short [or short trees]
Vines - Edible fence & trellis
Ground plants - stationary and creeping
Root crops

My favorite "Shrubs-Vines-Ground" is the "Three Sisters"    common from Mexico to Ontario when Europeans arrived, Squash, Beans and Corn. Three crops nicely spread over a long season and no weeding in the hot summer months.

Further Info:

Edible Forest Gardens, Volumes One & Two, Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier

It's Happening in the Nation's Capital and the Rift Valley

Jac Smit, Prez TUAN
August 16, 2007

Two Days of Urban Agriculture in the Local Press

Now-a-days isn't yesterdays.  These days' locally-based food system and sustainable environmental management hit me in the eyes every day.

Silver Spring Voice: [8/14/07]

"The Sacred Food Project"  suggests that all faith traditions have a moral obligation, as stewards of the earth, to assure that our food production and distribution honors the land, water and air, our bodies and our souls, and therefore, to permanently change our food system for the better.

Montgomery County Gazette [8/15/07]

The Maryland Energy Administration announced four new energy efficiency programs aimed at reducing electricity consumption by 15 percent statewide by 2015.

Environment Maryland [an NGO] proposes fees for all new paved surfaces and tripling the transfer tax on development of agricultural land.

NW Washington Examiner [this week]

FreshFarm markets sales are up sixty percent over last year.  The 55 provisioning farmers are now cultivating 6,000 acres within 150 miles [same day delivery.

Washington Post, August 15, 2007

Quote; Mark Talisman

"At my hourly rate, my tomatoes probably cost $ 5,000.00 a pound, -- But they taste like it."

Talisman is a local resource to all niche market and backyard recreational gardeners.  He grows 15 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, nectarines, peaches, plums, grapes and other exotics [paw-paws, horseradish, and creeping rosemary]. 

His one-third acre farm has frequent visitors including cookbook authors, gourmet chefs, master gardeners and restaurateurs.

Washington Post August 15, 22007

"Soaring hop prices" open window to profits for "mom-and-pop" growers for sales to regional and "mom-and-pop" brewers.  Backyard gardeners with south, west and east facing walls and fences are investing in hop-trellises. 

Feeding the Future, July 2007 [just in] Sasakawa Africa Association

Introduction of small-scale water harvesting micro-irrigation, and micro-revolving credit in Ethiopia, has raised "the average annual incomes of participating farmers and farm households -- significantly, from less than US$ 500 to about US$ 2,000, -- on individual 1,000 square meter plots.  Households have enjoyed major improvements in food security, nutritional status and general family health."

The project supported by an ILRI, EIAR and MoARD partnership [see www above]. It engages 125,000 households in the global warming impacted Ethiopian Rift Valley and paints a promise for the future for similar places [think Darfur].

A key element is "We work with farmers to diversify their operations - cash crops, livestock, and poultry -"in addition to staple crops

Gazette Community News [business] 8 15, 07

Headline "Chicken-Out Rotisserie [local chain] adds free-farmed poultry to the menu"

"- we make everything fresh from scratch every day in every restaurant [20]-", CEO Rick Hindin

GROWN in DETROIT has major progress 

Jac Smit, Prez TUAN
August 16, 2007

Detroit Concrete with Vegetable Farm to market within the municipal boundary

Dawn DeMuyt quit her corporate job to develop a business growing and selling 20 varieties of heirloom        tomatoes in her inner city backyard. Dawn reports:

"- most backyard or micro-farmers have to juggle several ways to make money as they pursue farming as a livelihood."

Detroit city owns over 20,000 idle-vacant lots.  It issues renewable permits at no charge on an annual basis.  Since the turn of the century, over 800 vacant sites have been tested for pollution.  Two were found to be contaminated by lead.

Detroit vegetable and fruit crops are sold with the "GROWN IN DETROIT" label and earn a premium price.

Cornelius Williams and his partner of several years are adding a 'hoop house' this summer to stretch the growing season for their several green leafy vegetable crops.

As previously reported "Grown in Detroit" is exploding. The number of city leases jumped from 80 to 300 between 2004 and 2006. 

Taking an International view, Detroit is joining several major cities that have achieved this transition, including: Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Havana, Cuba; and Ho chi Minth, Vietnam.

So. What's the lesson?

The Year of the Goat

Jac Smit, Prez TUAN
August 16, 2007

"The Year of the (urban) Goat"  NYTimes Magazine Headline June 17, 2007 by Paula Disbrowe

My father, my brother and I raised goats in urban Massachusetts, Michigan and Illinois, at the edge of University towns. We were producing milk and cheese.  And on-the-side we ate fresh kid-goat meat.

In 1992 The American Meat Goat Assoc was formed in Texas. In 2007 it has thousands of members in 40 States and Canada, {}

In 1993 the South African Boer [boss] Goat was introduced to the United States and that immigrant has changed the name of the game. The Boer is recognized as be the ONLY true meat-type goat in the world.

Until the 21st century goat meat marketing was concentrated on "ethnic populations" [Caribbean Islanders, Hispanics, Mid-Easterners, South Indians, West Africans,+].  Today its high priced restaurants, farmers markets, the health conscience, gourmet food outlets, backyard grillers, and the rest of us.

Goats are ruminant livestock [natural browsers]. They prefer brushy and woodsy over grass.  Thus, goats are well suited to our low-density suburbs and the urban-rural interface. Goats are also good caretakers of our woodsy, weedsy parks, roadsides and our powerline rights-of-way.

Considering the threat of climate change generated by ever increasing food-miles, what could be better than meat and milk goats in your neighborhood?  A green landscape and dairy products and meat produced next door, at minimum energy/pollution.

Ref. Susan Schoennian, Extension Agent University of Maryland.

My brother remembers our days as goatherds as follows, quote:

"I certainly can remember eating my first goat's meat in Holland Michigan. It was such a tasty lunch that I was late getting back to school at the bottom of the hill. I have to admit that it did bother me initially to eat the meat of a kid that I had raised from birth. I certainly would never have eaten her mother that I milked every day." (end quote)  Neil

Edible Backyard Forest Garden

Jac Smit, Prez TUAN
August 16, 2007


"Imitating natural systems is fundamental to any successful effort to raise food."

     Harvey Ussery,

Reference: Edible Forest Gardens, Volumes One & Two                    Dave Jacke & Eric Toensmeier

"The forest garden is the place where the Garden of Eden meets the Scared Grove. " [Christianity and Islam].

Excellent article on the Edible forest Garden in Mother Earth News. August/September 2007                                      pages 96-102 with illustrations

The back/front yard forest garden is more than food & nutrition. It is a key element in mitigating the negative impacts of climate change for the household the community and the metropolis.

The forest garden produces at half-a-dozen levels:


And the forest garden  is beautiful.

There are excellent studies available from the United Nations; UNESCO and UNFAO..

Urban Agriculture Takes Many Forms on The Expanding Urban Fringe, including Communes:

Jac Smit, Prez TUAN
June 28, 2007

Loudoun county Virginia has been in the top three nationally in urban expansion since the 1980s. Loudoun is west of Washington DC where the Atlantic coastal plain meets the Piedmont mountain ridge.

During the past twenty years as the population quadrupled the number of farms, total agriculture product, number of agriculture jobs,  and the diversity of agricultural products all increased.

A friend of the author's established a vineyard which produces wine, tourist visits and vegetables. Shiitake mushrooms have replaced soybeans and goats have replaced cows.  Horses and chickens have remained.

Today [June 28, 2007, Jonathan Mummolo the Washington Post reports on the establishment in 2003 of a 35 acre communal farm.  The organization known as "Twelve Tribes" moved to metropolitan Washington from rural Tennessee. 

The 25 member commune raises goats and produces vegetables year round.  In addition to production the 25 member group runs a farm stand, landscape business and  is opening a coffee shop.

Thus in the USA the farmer moves to the market at the same time as the market moves to the farmer.

Freakonomics & Urban Agriculture

© Jac Smit, Prez TUAN
May 13, 2007

Last Sunday's "Freakonomics" article in the NYTimes Magazine by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt threw me back to my teen-age mornings feeding chickens and weeding the vegetables in West Chicago.  My Dad was an assistant professor at Wheaton College raising seven kids and every dollar saved in the backyard garden and the hen house was critical to our well-being.

The article's authors cite the National Gardening Association's data that one in four American households raise vegetables.  A quick calculation suggests somewhat over 30 million American vegetable producers. This gardening activity is defined by Valerie Ramey and Neville Francis as "Home Production" ["A Century of Work and Leisure", National Bureau of Economic Research, 2006]. Interestingly from 1965 to 2000, as the work week got shorter and incomes rose, adult males in America increased their home production efforts from a day-and-a-half to two days a week [11 hours to 16 hours] and a lot of these hours were in the garden or on a small part-time farm. Other studies find women to be equally or more active than men in small scale food production.

What is the possible Freakonomics significance of 30 million vegetable producers in our urban country? One possibility is that our diet is not as bad as the government's data says it is because some of us eat home grown fresh vegetables. These same families may spend less for food and effectively have a higher annual income than reported. 

Many part-time farmers [home producers] trade or barter their products with others in their community [tomatoes for potatoes or share-a-ride credits].  There is a spread in the country of "local dollars" for instance Massachusetts's "Berkshares" and New York's "Ithaca Dollars" which are not yet on the Dept of Commerce's charts.  A few of the home food producers sell directly to retail stores, restaurants and farmers markets.

A key characteristic of this informal at home food production is that the product is what the market calls "niche products".  Niche products are not corn, chicken or beef but salad greens, water cress, and cherry tomatoes.  The return on niche crops per pound and per acre is a multiple of most super-market foods.

The accumulated economic product of 30 million producers, unreported by economists or governments, is a rather substantial health, economic and environmental foundational element of our 21st century economy. It provides good food. It produces close to the market reducing global warming impacts of shipping and storage. And it generates a reliable income for working class households.

America can learn from other countries.  Japan and Switzerland have programs called "Food with the Farmer's Face' and "Food From the Canton" [county]. A recent survey by a Glasgow University found that 70 percent of all Russian households raised food, following a Gorbachev government 1970s policy initiative. Brazil's Government initiated a local farmer support program in 2002 [no more than four employees and within two hours of market].France adopted new small farmer support programs in the mid 1980s.

As we face the twin threats of obesity and climate change Freakonomics and home production offer hope.

On the Edge

© Jac Smit
April 20, 2007

A question in front of many professionals, politicians and reporters is; "What is the distinction 'the urban edge' ? ".  Many expressions are in use including:

Suburb and Exurb, Urban Boundary, Rural Residential, Greenbelt, Edge City, Peri-urban ___ , Urban 'Sprawl', Megapolis, Micropolis, the Urban - Rural Interface and Metropolitan and Metropolitan Adjacent Counties.

In 2007 most of these labels are over 50 years old.  Today's world population is over half urban and North America is over three quarters urban, according to some decades-old statistical measures.

The author from ages 4 to 12 grew up On the Edge [1930s & 40s]. 

I. Johnston Rhode Island; house on a hill eight miles from Providence and Brown University and half a mile to Slakes Pond.  The farmer next door produced milk that went directly into a door-to-door delivery system.  My family raised chickens and vegetables. 

II. Lakewood Michigan; seven miles from Holland and half a mile to Lake Michigan.  I picked up our milk by bicycle from the dairy next door.  One summer I interned on a door-to- door mobile grocery store.  We raised goats, made cheese and picked berries.

III. West Chicago Illinois; on the 'Chicago, Aurora and Elgin commuter rail line, eight miles to Wheaton and Wheaton College and 20 miles to The Loop.  Raised vegetables. 

The populations of the world's most urban countries today predominantly have universal access to the Internet and the automobile.  Given the freedom of movement presented by these two technologies, what criteria might we now set to define the geographic urban space and the geographic rural space?

A simple answer is to go to a satellite and take a look.  What if we looked at a midnight streetlight world image from 1977 and another in 2007 and projected another urbanizing 30 years to 2037?

My 2002 office wall street-lighted map of the Earth finds that; Japan, England and Italy have no possible urban rural edge. In North America there is no possible rural break from Quebec to Miami and Québec to Milwaukee.  California is all street lighted from the Mexican border to San Francisco and beyond. Back in Europe the "low country" of Belgium, the Netherlands and beyond does not offer a 'rurban' boundary option. Egypt presents no possibility of an edge nor does Java.

A fairly often expressed and/or applied measure is farming or agriculture, with the interpretation that to farm is rural and that urban is not to farm.  Economic and satellite data say otherwise.  Half or more of all farm product in the USA is produced in Metropolitan and Micropolitan counties; [Metro is urban with a central place of 50,000 or more and Micro is urban with a central place of 10,000 to 50,000]. There are over three times as many agricultural enterprises in America's urban counties as there are in its rural counties, offering a much higher number of jobs.

Having considered the universality of the car and the Internet it may be useful to add the airplane.  A recent technical breakthrough has taken place in air travel.  The 21st century small plane and small airport is a twin explosion that has implications for the historic rural-urban divide.  The 21st century small aircraft, replacing post WW II technology, are half the price, are far safer to fly and consume one-third or less fuel per mile of flight. 

In the USA the national government has invested over US$ 7 billion in small airports improvement since 1996.  No surprise, many of these airports are Micropolitan linked.  A satellite map of Micropolis and its airports may be an important indicator of the future relationship of rural and urban. Safe to predict it won't be 'Grand Central Station'.

At the recent American Planning Association [and AICP] annual conference senior professionals discussed 'The Edge'.  One presentation was of a planning tool that extended 1,000 feet into a rural area and 1,000 feet into an urban area, 600 meters total edge.  Another presented the 'edge' as a metropolitan adjacent collection of districts extending to two hours highway driving, with the most common land use being 'rural residential' [commuter?]. 

The discussion included concern following the failure of Oregon's urban boundary plan, after 20 years of good reviews.  And we considered the success of edge planning and implementation in Germany and France, which includes the 'greenbelt' concept.

On of the more obvious conclusions to reach from these emerging facts is that future planning and development can not consider agriculture or farming as being rural, as it is mostly urban in the world's leading economies.  Another is that in many situations, particularly coastal geography, urban is to be measured in hundreds and in some cases over 1,000 miles in extension.  Urban is commonly transnational in Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia.

A high level multi-professional conversation is urgently needed to erase one-by-one some of the decade and century old measures and names [Exurb, Suburb [less than urb?], Edge, Boundary, Sprawl [- spread irregularly -?].  It is time to come together to set new definitions of the human settlement.  Village, Town, City, Metropolis, and Micropolis are all obsolete.  Community is not.  Perhaps urban and Countryside will stay with us.

A later step in the process, and one that can not wait much longer, is to redefine the distinctions i) rural, ii) peri-urban and iii) urban agriculture.  Possibly we will arrive at something like community-based agriculture. 

Meanwhile 'urban agriculture' is not a major negative as long as we don't use the distinction [as spoken at a recent conference] "True Urban Agriculture" [? Inner city?] and 'More or Less Urban Agriculture'. 

From the 2002 satellite it is clear that from Québec to Miami, [extending back to the Adirondacks and the Appalachians], Osaka to Sapporo and from Naples to Milan all farming is urban.

Ethics Of Urban Agriculture: Farming Within The Human Settlement

Ethics Of Urban Agriculture: Farming Within The Human Settlement
"The moral and ethical standards concerning food production, processing, distribution and consumption have drifted in the past century towards food becoming a commodity and the problem of hunger and food insecurity being perceived and addressed as one of income. This paper asserts that the time has come to invent and adopt a new set of ethics regarding the relationship of food production and the human settlement [urbanization and farming]. The paper is organized as a checklist for a discussion. It reaches no conclusions. It is presented in draft form for critique by the conference attendees." Posted January 16, 2007

Farming The City: Food Security And Much More

© Jac Smit January 15, 2007

In the last quarter century there has been a worldwide rapid increase in urban agriculture. Recognition has by-and-large interpreted this phenomenon as a response to hunger and food insecurity in the low-income countries [think Dhaka] and a growing demand for good taste and quality in the wealthy cities rapidly urbanizing world [think Paris].

With global acceptance of the inevitability of Climate Change, it may be time to measure and promote farming from the City Center to the suburban fringe considering additional impacts. Doing this could determine the contribution and greater possibility of farming the city to reduce the negative effects of Climate Change in urban climate zones and to slow down Global Warming.

This ambitious goal will require reframing the issue, setting new parameters, for forecast models, collecting new data, organizing and shaping policy and legislation.

As a start let's now look at a few apparent but not defined with certainty possible benefits and actions:

1. Reducing the greenhouse effect:

a. A reliable study found that a tree in Los Angeles has 3 to 5 times the beneficial effect of a tree in the Amazon rain forest.

2. Reducing deforestation and loss of prairie:

a. Urban faming methods have been found to have 5 to 15 times the production per acre as rural agriculture, Thus UrbanAg can cut back deforestation for pasture [think Brazil] and mono-crop [i.e. soy and corn] production extending into pasture [think Oklahoma]

3. Reducing pollution by shipments of food by air, rail and truck:

a. Urban agriculture produces close to the market and in the case of 'sprawl' the market comes to the farmer

4. Sequestering carbon and enriching the soil with nitrogen fixation.

a. Urban typical multi-cropping sequesters more CO2 than mono-cropping and fixes more nitrogen in the soil.

5. Reducing pollution caused by cooling and heating buildings:

a.Green roofs and parking lots, street trees and trees in vacant lots cut the cost of heating and cooling buildings and absorb air pollution.

6. Reducing the use of chemical fertilizers:

a. Urban farmers and gardeners use urban waste as fertilizer and as a soil improver, thus the pollution from landfills and sewage and its transport is reduced, "Waste is Food": [see 3. above].

7. Reducing urban and agricultural generated pollution:

a. Urban/suburban farming reduces soil, air and water pollution [think pond, stream, river, bay and ocean] and thus pollution's contribution to reducing the carbon sequestering algae in the oceans.

Plant Swap

Jac Smit at 301 565 3131

Urban Gardeners from dooryard, to community to truck have been exchanging/swapping plants as long as we have lived in villages, towns and cities [10,000 years].

Enter the Internet: now I can enter a notice to my Yahoo group, place my excess/obsolete plants on the curb and have them in welcome hands and soil within the hour.

There are garden clubs which organize Spring and Fall 'swap events'. These are not 'one for one' but take what you want and leave what you don't.

Alternatively there are e-mail groups where offers and requests lead to exchanges and a green community.

For guidance contact:  Master Gardener Susan Harris,


The 22nd Annual General Meeting Of The Consultative Group For Internatinal Agricuture Research [CGIAR]

December 3rd through 7th 2006 @ the Hilton Washington

© Jac Smit, AICP
Prez. UAN

Eight hundred [+/-] professionals meet in W-DC to consider the future of agriculture. They represent 75 [+/-] Governmental, University, Research and Civil Society Organizations [CSOs] from from over 50 Nations.  Their special focus is on Climate Change, Women and Knowledge Exchange in the 21st Century.

Urban Agriculture was not a special focus, however; there was a strong presence provided by CGIAR's 'Urban Harvest' program, RUAF, IDRC, FAO, AVRDC, CIRAD, and UAN [Urban Agriculture Network], as global actors and several National and Education organizations.

It is fair to say that every time the case was presented, from the floor, for urban agriculture there was an immediate positive response.  Specific instances include: NASA [productivity], CIFOR [forestry], ICRISAT [periurban to rural], ICARDA, [drought resistance], WARDA [rice>< vegetable rotation], USAID [post disaster], IRRI [land use], World Bank [renewed emphasis on agriculture after 20 years] and much more.

The event included over 40 booths and tables from CSOs large and small.  Urban agriculture was not well represented compared to the level of interest and its global importance. 

There is huge need, demand and opportunity for urban agriculture to be featured at the 2007 CGIAR AGM in Beijing.  And we might well begin preparing for it tomorrow.

Follow-up Contacts:

1.  Ms. Katherine Sierra,
Vice president of the World Bank and the Head of CGIAR [confirmed at the event]

Ms Sierra has a graduate degree in City Planning.
She is not an agricultural scientist or economist.
She has been at the World Bank for 20 years.

The World Bank has recommited to agriculture.
And we have a chance of being heard.

2.  Ms Eija Behu,
Agricultue and Rural Development, World Bank.
Ms Behu has a background in Environmental projects.
She is the top administrator of CGIAR.

202 458 2422

3.  Robert Zeigler, DG IRRI in Manila is a supporter of agriculture's role in Climate Change and a member of the Internationa Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]

4.  Ms Cynthia Rosenweig, Reserach NASA
Godard {IGSS}  Member IPCC and keen to move forward on Urban Agriculture.

5.  Jac Smit, TUAN

Farming in the City and Climate Change: The potential and urgency of applying urban agriculture to reduce the negative impacts of Climate Change

A polemic. By Jac Smit ©
UAN October 2006

A multitude of studies find that 'global warming', and its derivative 'climate change', has three principle causes, in this order:

A. Coal
B. Deforestation
C. Transportation

Other studies indicate that farming in cities and their immediate hinterland, using modern intensive agricultural methods, has a very substantial potential capacity to reduce both B. & C., deforestation and transportation. Its capacity to reduce the burning of coal is not as significant.

Reducing Deforestation and Increasing Urban Forestry:

During the past decade and longer we have been measuring the "footprint" of cities finding that they are ten to twenty times the actual size of the city. A major share of the footprint is either directly of indirectly causing deforestation. Yes, wealthy cities have a much larger footprint per capita than lower income cities.

The global agri-business industry contributes to both deforestation and transportation in a very large way: asparagus from Chile to Canada, red peppers from Amsterdam to Atlanta, poultry from China to Connecticut and so forth all over the world, not to mention opium.

A considerable chunk of global agri-business is the harvesting of forest products. It also contributes to deforestation by converting diverse forest areas in to mono-cropping areas.

The most studied and reported deforestation places include: the Amazon Basin, Indonesia's eastern islands, the Siberian tundra, and the United States' national forests. The tundra recently was reported to have forest fires encompassing the geographic size of Italy. In Brazil, Indonesia and the USA we are cutting trees for their wood and to clear land for grazing as well as crop production. The negative impact of deforestation has perhaps been most devastating in the small island nation of Haiti and the small mountain nation of Rwanda.

What may cumulatively be as great a deforestation generator is urbanization and particularly its characteristic of the post WWII period of allocating five to ten times as much land per family as we did prior to WWII. You may know this characteristic by the name of Sprawl.

Farming the city can reduce the rate and scale of de-forestation and to a lesser degree contribute to re-forestation.

21st Century urban agriculture produces five to fifteen times as much per acre as rural agriculture [and more in some applications]. As a generality, it is useful to consider the yield to be ten times, unless a focused study proves it to be closer to three or to twenty times as great in a particular application.

A recent Agricultural census in the USA found that the average yield on an acre of corn grown in state of Iowa was 400 dollars. In the urban county of San Francisco the yield was ten thousand dollars an acre. Yields of four to eight thousand an acre are more typical. Yields of twenty and forty thousand dollars a year on a single site have been reported by reliable data sources.

Producing five ten to twenty times as much per area of land takes pressure off of rural land and forests, and reduces deforestation targeted to agriculture. It does not reduce deforestation due to harvesting lumber. There is a great need and potential for re-forestation to ameliorate the negative impacts of global warming and climate change.

Reforestation is essential to the sequestering of carbon dioxide [CO2] in the foliage, the trunk and branches, the roots and also nearby soil mold. The CO2 in the soil will outlast the trees

Urban forestry and community forests are a particularly effective method of reforestation in terms of the environmental impact per tree. The Lawrence Berkeley labs find that a well-placed tree in the city is worth three to five trees in a distant forest, in combating global warming

'Food Miles' versus the 'Place-based Food System'

Transporting food and agriculture inputs by plane, train, truck and ship is a driving force towards global warming and climate change. Air shipping consumes ten to twenty times as many petroleum calories as the food calories it puts on the retailers shelf. Moving food by truck [the most common] utilizes five to ten times as much as shipping by train and train miles consume two to four times as much energy per mile as sea transport [consider refridgerated].

Overall, as a generalization, global agri-business consumes over ten calories of petroleum and coal energy to deliver a calorie of food to your dinner plate. This is the global warming cost of so-called "food miles". These food miles impact some climate zones more intensely than others.

As with de-forestation, the post WW II lower density of more rapid urbanization is considerably expanding food miles and its negative impact on the environment in which we live.

A viable and fairly common definition of urban agriculture is that which is within "same day delivery". Same day delivery can put a calorie of food on the retail shelf for between one and four calories of transportation calories.

A simplification of the 'Place-based' food system 'Farm to Market' can be stated as:

1. Harvest [or slaughter]
2. Chill [or process]
3. Load truck [or train]
4. Deliver

All four within 24 hours. This process is a four to five times reduction, from the global agri-business industry, in terms of global warming and climate change.

At the risk of oversimplification, Global Warming' will have a different impact on the climates of each and every climate zone. We have already recorded the changes in Sudan and Greenland. Bangladesh and Pennsylvania are in the wings.

Adaptation/coping plans for each climate zone will have to be specific. There is no single climate coping plan. A case in point is a recent study with MIT Univ. in the lead. It found that the agricultural productivity capacity in 50 to 100 years for California will be cut in half and that of Pennsylvania will be doubled. Equally reliable studies find that Russia and Canada will gain 80 to 90 percent of the increased agricultural yield capacity.

Considering Bangladesh and it s population of over 100 million, the reduction of snow melt from the Himalayas flowing to Bangladesh via the Bramaputra and Indus rivers may well reduce its agricultural capacity by half at the same time as the rise in sea level reduces its land area by ten to twenty percent.

Clearly in both California and Bangladesh urban agriculture technology will be critical. At the same time Greenland, Pennsylvania, Canada and Russia need to prepare for an influx of immigrants or build very strong fences.


Sudan Greenland Bangladesh Pennsylvania
Warmer Warmer Warmer Warmer
Dryer ? Dryer Wetter


Emigration Immigration Emigration Immigration
Reforest New Crops Reforest New Crops

'Therefore' is based on British and American models: Google

A great deal of detail study is needed [ASAP] to define the parameters cited above and they need to be done for a wide range of urban places: cold to hot, rich and poor, wet and dry to begin to shape doable programs and projects. And there is a great deal of data available as close as our computers.


A. Urban agriculture can stop deforestation being caused by the expansion of industrial agriculture into forests [consider soybean into the Amazon rainforest].

B. Urban agriculture can massively reduce the negative environmental "footprint" of urbanization [intensive sustainable production replacing unsustainable mono-cropping].

C. Urban forestry produces lumber at the same time as it sequesters CO-2 and cleans the environment for living.

D. Urban agriculture can and does reduce 'food miles' by half or more [not coffee or mangoes please].

This article is not written as an academic paper. It is written to stimulate a Climate Change action discussion. And everything stated is based on reading well-researched texts.

The Edible Fence Initiative [EFI]

© Jac Smit 9/21/2006

100 miles of edible fence; 1/10th of a mile each of 1,000 schools and public playgrounds Nationwide.

A fence surrounds each and every schoolyard and playground.  Most of these fences are not attractive.

Vines thrive on fences.  To name a few: zucchini, cucumber, tomato, and morning glory. EFI converts ugly fences into classrooms and a source of good food for school lunches and dinner tables.

How does it work?

1,000 small grants can have a big payoff.

School districts and local park departments will handle administration.

The Threat of Plastic Wrapped Spinach

The national Government of the USA [FDA] has ordered producers/packagers of spinach to destroy it and to stop packaging until further notice [see associated press ++].

Citizens are warned that plastic wrapped spinach and similar green leafy packaged products that may include spinach should be destroyed.

The notice says do not open packages labeled "FRESH SPINACH" dated August 17 to October 9.  We can assess that these two dates, published on September 15th, explain that the FDA is telling us that the

Of course some may take less time BUT there is no way of knowing that.

University research tells us that spinach that is field to plate time-lapse of one week has lost half [50%] of is micronutrient value. Perhaps in a month or two is greater.

Locally produced spinach [in the USA 100 mile radius] is

In some places the price of the two products is the same. In others the locally-produced is cheaper.  Spinach harvested and packaged on America's west coast and sold retail on the east coast [the majority in 2005] consumes more-or-less ten calories of energy to deliver one calorie of food.  Locally produced consumes one to three delivery calories [chilling, washing, shipping] to each calorie of food.

The Urban Agriculture Network asserts that locally produced spinach, and other green leafy vegetables deliver twice the micro-nutrients [vitamins and other] at one third [or less] air pollution.  And that it is much safer to eat.

Why are our governments not telling us these facts?  What do we, who know the value of locally-grown, going to do about it now that "the cat is out of the bag'"?

GLOBAL WARMING! CLIMATE CHANGE!! What's Urban Agriculture Got to do With It?

© Jac Smit August 4, 2006

Urban Agriculture was born in 3800 BC on the River Euphrates at Uruk [now Iraq]. What was the cause of this civilizing invention? It was driven by a "Climate Change". The reliable rainfall of the previous 6,000 years [from 10,000 to 4,000 BC] came to an end. Farmers moved closer to the riverbanks and into fewer larger settlements [village to town]. As the dryer times continued, the previous centuries’ irrigation was improved and [with warmer days and longer seasons] two [or more] crops were produced per year. {Ref}

It is predicted by Al Gore and others that the 21st century will be like unto the 3800th BC, warmer. It is interesting to speculate that farming in/near the city will be an intelligent response to Climate Change this time also.

Urbanization is a rapid and broad trend in our global civilization. A substantial portion of that trend is pushed by environmental deterioration, with climate change being a major cause of that deterioration.

In short, on four continents modern agriculture practice and climate change are diminishing the quality and possibility of life in rural areas today. In these four countries alone we are looking at ecologically driven urban in-migration of between 15 and 30 million each year, and increasing.

Referring back to the simple Uruk model, farming in and near the city produces a multiple of modern agriculture's product per acre. 21st century urban agriculture technology produces five to fifteen times the rural yields per acre, depending on various factors [think ten]. So it is possible to imagine that as the deserts advance we will be able to feed the in-migrants with locally-based food systems if we plan and mange our urban regions well.

Not all climate zones will be impacted by drier and warmer. Some will be cooler [southern hemisphere most likely] and wetter, others warmer and wetter. Each climate zone will need its own tailored climate change development strategy. Many will perforce include urban farming. Consider California with half the Rockies and Sierras snow melt of 2000 or Norway with a longer growing season.

The challenge ahead for urban agriculture is amazing!

Reference: " -, the city is a key human adaptation to drier climatic conditions." Brian Fagan, 2004 The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization, New York, Basic Books

The many Names [nomenclature] of Urban Agriculture
[Alphabetical with NO priority ranking:

© Jac Smit
June 25, 2006

The general public, city planners, food and ornamental marketers, and agricultural economists all-too-often overlook agriculture in the city, town, metropolis because they do not recognize the many labels/names it has adopted. Perhaps we can usefully have an E-roundtable on the subject. With recommendations down the pike to those who can make use of them.

I have listed a few that come to mind without research. And this can be fun.

This list can be multiplied by country and language Please do.

A short list of diverse urban agriculture in diverse countries:

These examples have all been visited and most photographed by the authors.

Clearly we Americans are coming from the German with Latin roots.

Seeing Urban Agriculture through Four Different Lenses:

© Jac Smit
June 6, 2006

I. Malnutrition and Chronic Hunger:

The Copenhagen Consensus in May 2004 reached the conclusion that the top two benefit-cost bang-for-the-buck of ten development interventions were:

1. HIV/AIDS prevention/cure
2. Malnutrition reduction

They found that there were 800 million and rapidly increasing malnourished persons in the developing countries:

Malnutrition was identified as being dominated by 'undernutrition'
The two most beneficial interventions were:

1. Reduce micronutrient deficiencies * 36
2. Agriculture research & development * 15
[compare to 'Improve Infant Nutrition'] *  3

Urban agriculture is particularly effective in delivering micronutrients to persons with low income by improving their access to fresh produce, poultry, micro-livestock and fish.

Agricultural research and development is more efficiently delivered in urban and peri-urban places than in rural places. From the urban it spreads to the rural.

Landless populations benefit readily from urban agriculture technology, consider refugees and internally displaced persons.

Lomborg, Bjorn, How to Spend US$s 50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place, 2006, Table 6.1
** Rankings by Simon Appleton

II. The Ecological City

The 'Center for Urban Restoration Ecology' [CURE], a partnership between Rutgers University, NJ and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, NY is concentrating its efforts on how-to restore abandoned dumps [landfills], Brownfields and other blighted landscapes into Urban Productive Landscapes. CURE's research includes a Liverpool UK dump, an abandoned Australian mine, and the Staten Island NY landfill, which is the world's largest to date.

Our urban waste dumps are a huge opportunity to restore our urban ecology and produce healthy food:
1. Energy source {methane and more} to heat the greenhouses
2. Compost to enrich the soil
3. Space for orchards, berry patches, fields and gardens

All in close proximity to markets.

A bonus of this opportunity is the precept of a ten-year lease at which termination the site converts to other urban land uses and the 'farm' moves to the next landfill.

Reference: Heather Millar, Sierra Magazine Nov/Dec 2005 Page -44-,

III. Climate Change [global warming] and Urban Agriculture:

Studies by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] and the University of California [UCSB] using the 'Hadley 2 Model' [Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, 2004] find that in the next 25 to 50 years the product of California's agriculture will be cut in half [minus $2.4 billion a year] whereas Pennsylvania's agricultural product will double [plus $ 570 million a year]. Given West coast to East coast variations of this size in the USA, what is the future for food production worldwide?

Very broadly and unevenly the temperate zones of the earth in coming generations will become wetter and warmer and therefore more productive. The tropical zones will become warmer and dryer and less productive.

A different set of predictions and projections say that the world will go from 50 percent urban to 75 percent urban with most of the urbanization occurring in the regions that are losing agricultural productive capacity.

One can come to the conclusion that the need for farming the city will increase:
a) an urban world, and
b) a demand for more efficient irrigation.

Reference: Deschenes, Oliver and Greenstone, M. 2006, The Economic Impacts of Climate Change: Evidence from Agricultural Profits and Random Fluctuations in Weather.  MIT DOE Research paper No. 04-26

IV. The Oldest Farm in America, 1632:
Tuttle Family Farm, 151 Dover Point Rd., Dover NH
Phone 603-742-4313

The Tuttles have been farming on the same site for eleven generations in Dover NH. The farm today is 240 acres. The core named "The Oven" is seven acres. The name 'Oven' derives from its intense heat caused by being surrounded by farm buildings and evergreen trees. The farmstead includes a year-round retail market where each product is labeled by source and date.

The location today is suburban, on the commuter highway and has always been close to town. This sounds more like France than New England.

Here are two other American family farms each having more than 300 years in continual operation and doing well:

Barker Farm: North Andover MA, est. 1642,
Phone 978-683-0785
- 150 acres including apple orchard. flowers, and farm stand

Allendale Farm, Brookline MA, est. 1699
Phone 617-524-1531
- Inside the beltway [128], farm stand & education programs

Reference Lisa Palmer: Yankee Magazine, May 2006, Page 69 +

Food Security for Refugees During Wartime Through Community Based Urban Agriculture

[CBUA] on the Arid Horn of Africa and in the Balkan Mountains: (Somalia 1992-1999 and Sarajevo 1991-1996)

© Jac Smit
March 17, 2006

The war in Somalia drove tens of thousands to Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya for a decade and continuing to the 21st century at a reduced scale. The war in Bosnia surrounded tens of thousands in Sarajevo with cannon and sniper fire for five years. The neagtive impact of these two recent historic disasters were reduced to a large degree by the work of one man, Frederick Cuny. [Refs]

The food security success story in both cases is built on a four-pillar structure:

The introduction of agriculture into the refugee camps and the besieged city contributed to the creation/recreation of 'community'. Rather than surviving/holding on as faceless recipients of United Nations food handouts, the dispossesed raised crops and livestock, processed them into food for the table and established an informal economy.

The majority of the Somalians had pre-war been dependent for food security on cattle/cows, beans and grain/corn. The Sarajevo urban population had been dependent on peri-urban produce and meat and on grains and other foods from throughout Yugoslavia, Ukraine and beyond.

Fred Cuny, working with the united nations and humanitarian organizations delivered high yielding biointensive crop production methods and training which had been previously unknown or little practiced. The first element was the best seeds for crops that were consistent with the cultural cuisine. The second was the use of plastic to conserve water, protect against desert dust storms and cold nights.

The third pillar, and most significant, was irrigation. In Somalia the solution was small-scale drip irrigation using five-gallon plastic pails suspended on poles and plastic drip hoses. Much of the irrigation in an arid climate was done with gray water, including the urine of animals and humans.

In Sarajevo the provision of irrigation was more complex. It included establishing a reservoir and reactivating an abandoned drinking water system. [Ref]. As in Somalia, much of the irrigation was done with gray water, and this case with smaller plots, much of it was done by carry pails of water in darkness of night to avoid sniper fire.

Fred's fourth pillar was microlivestock. He organized the delivery of pregnant rabbits and laying hens. Somalis learned the skills of caring for very small animals rather than the cows and goats of their home places. Sarajevians welcomed rabbits and chickens into their homes and fed them on the remains of their meals and garden misfits.

Reports from Sarajevo were that between four of five and nine of ten families were engaged in CBUA. In Somalia women, youth and the aged carried out the majority of the CBUA.

The history of Fred Cuny ["Master of Disaster"] beginning in Biafra [1969] through Bangladesh, where we met, in the 1970s and from Iraq/Kurdistan to Somalia and on to Bosnia, is one of caring but more significantly of enabling. His work as presented in the references below was focused on building community. From his work the future of disaster, and post-disaster situations will be more of "working with" than "handing out" and will give priority to CBUA.


Fred Cuny, 1983 "Disasters and Development", Oxford Univ. Press

Fred Cuny, 1991 Displaced Persons in Civil Conflict, Geneva UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Training Program

Scott Anderson, 2000 "The Man Who Tried to Save the World - Fred Cuny", Anchor Books

Urban Niche Production With Three Benefits

© Jac Smit
March 2, 2006

Truffles create:
1. Jobs,
2. A Healthy Environment for Living, and
3. Economic Stability

What could be further from the common perception of urban agriculture being related to low-income residential areas and farmers' markets than Truffles?

a) The US$ 800 per pound wholesale price of truffles can return $220,000 per acre per year.

b) Truffles lose their all-important pungent scent during the second day after harvest.

c) It takes three days or more for European of New Zeeland truffles to hit the wholesale market in North America, too late!

d) Truffles are produced on the roots of trees that enhance the environment.

e) In the late 19th century France produced +/- 675 tons of truffles a year. In 2000 it was 35 tons, and demand is growing.

Given this information, the reader can write his or her own script. Charles Lefevre the CEO of 'New World Truffieres' says this

"Think of it like having $ 20.00 dollar bills scattered thick all over the ground of your orchard."

There is a clear opportunity and large benefit for small-scale urban fringe truffle production that can deliver to restaurants and retail outlets on the day of harvest [morning to evening].

18th Century Urban Agriculture methods in the Caribbean built community and that community continues to 21st Century:

© Jac Smit Feb. 2006

The sugar cane and other colonial farms of the Caribbean imported slaves from Africa and required those field workers to feed themselves. The slaves incorporated African and European intensive farming methods, now common to urban places worldwide, to small plots that were referred as "Provision Gardens" and later by some as "Ground Pieces", and commonly known in the 19th and 20th century as "Community Gardens" and "Allotment Gardens".

The garden and related small livestock rearing was a significant element in building a community amongst immigrants from several African cultures which is alive today.

At the end of the day, at daybreak and on Sundays the field laborers produced for their families, niche products for the market and significantly to feed the elderly and heal the ill.

The Provision Gardens were the core of an informal economy that enabled some participants to purchase their freedom. Much of the garden produce, livestock, handicrafts and medicinal products collected in the lush forests were traded at Sunday markets in clearings that were accessible from several plantations. These weekly markets became social as well as economic and learning centers

Two 18th/ and 19th century sites to visit are the Esperence and Annenberg sugar estates on Saint John in the American Virgin Islands, both just off the highway. After your visit conversation with local academics and local community members will reveal that the 'Provision Garden' community spirit continues to today.

Urban Agriculture: Improving the Environment for Living and Contributing to a Sustainable Ecosphere

© By Jac Smit, February 2006

Global warming has reached the 'Tipping Point'. Kyoto and similar 'one big solution' strategies are as obsolete as the dinosaurs. Today we need one billion small steps where we live and breath.

Archeology tells us that farming inside the city wall and at its perimeter existed 4,000 years ago on the Indus, Tigris and Euphrates and within another thousand years on the Jordan River [consider a. Agriculture, b. City, c. Agriculture-in-the-city]. We know that this intensive form of agriculture moved from the Middle East to European walled cities after the so-called Dark Ages and the Black Plague.

The 19th Century industrial revolution introduced: germ theory, the steam engine, railroads, chemical fertilizers and cities without walls. Farming the City became less essential and began a long decline. We learned that garbage and wastewater caused disease. Chemical fertilizers reduced the need and utility of urban waste for soil maintenance and enrichment. Railroads replaced rivers, dirt roads and canals and enabled farmers in relatively remote places to serve city markets.

The 20th Century, perhaps the second half more than the first, brought the world "Agribusiness" and/or the Agrifood industry. The vertical integration from farm to market of Agribusiness, more integrated than any other industry, brought the industrialized countries of Europe and North America cheap reliable food year-round. It also established methods of production, processing and distribution that kicked-off the demise of a sustainable ecosphere.

We first became aware of this death knell with the publication of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" in 1976. Now-a-days we receive monthly, if not weekly, new data to affirm her prediction. What we hear/read much less about is the turn-around of the AgriFood industry.

The second half of the 20th century brought the end of the City as it had existed for 4,000 years. Urban human settlements now consist of: a. central city, b. suburbs and c. exurbs. The geographers' description is: a. Megapolis [multicentered with millions of us] b. Metropolis [usually one center and hundreds of thousands or a few million] and c. Micropolis [one central place and tens of thousands]. The last is substantially related to limited access highways. Urban geographic areas covered somewhat less than 3 percent of the earth and agricultural areas somewhat over 30 percent in year 2000.

The 21st Century City is fast becoming a polka dot pattern of settlements rather than an octopus with a dense center and several rambling arms:

The 21st Century welcomes the return of urban agriculture [UA] and its beginning of improving the environment for living in Mega, Metro and Micro, and slowing the deterioration of earth's ecosphere. A big assertion; And there is a lot of evidence, more than can be presented in a short article, but we can sketch the basics.

Its not only environmentalists, consider a 2004 study by NASA [not an agriculture, food or environmental corporation]. NASA found that in the lower 48 American states that the three percent of the geographic area that was urbanized [night lights] had the agricultural capacity of the 39 percent that was being farmed. Theirs was a complicated equation that included: soil, water, temperature, carbon and nitrogen cycles and more.

Studies by many other government, private and institutions have determined that the intensive production methods typical of UA produce 10 to 15 times as much food per square meter or acre as typical rural agriculture. 'Tis consistent with the NASA finding. Studies in Russia following Perestroika found that the small Dacha Gardens produced ten times as much per acre as the State farms with one-tenth the capital investment.

The 21st century human settlement pattern delivers the end of the short-lived [150 years] separation of the city and agriculture and its negative impact on the environment for living and the ecosphere.

Urban development in American metropolitan areas from 1990 to 2000 placed one household per acre, including malls and highways. Pre WW II urban density was approximately eight households per acre. The food market is moving to the farmer.

What makes urban agriculture viable today and into the future?

What are the benefits to the Environment for Living and the Ecosphere?

One billion small steps are urgently needed to extend life on Earth. Farming the city provides an opportunity for such small steps, where the majority of us live and breath.

Farming the city provides a greener healthier environment for living. Farming the city reduces global pollution and slows the progress of global warming. And Urban Agriculture does these things while building a secure economy and a healthy diet.

International Urban Planners and the Right to Food:

October 30, 2005, By Jac Smit, AICP, MCP [Harvard]

For the past five years the world population has been over 50 percent urban. Approximately 900 million of the world's 3,25 billion urbanites are living in informal, illegal, squatter settlements, neighborhoods, or communities.

In the popular movie "The Constant Gardener" we visited an 80 million squatter settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. I've been there in the real world. One thing I observed was that the food system did not work very well.

The right to food is the most foundational of the several essential human rights. Without the right to food the right to education is useless. A young person cannot learn on an empty stomach. The right to live above poverty is useless. A man or woman cannot do a full weeks work on an empty stomach. And so forth.

The food system that we have created in the 19th and 20th century does not work for over one third of the world's town and city residents, not in the USA and not in Zimbabwe. The 20th century food system is ineffective for the poor and it is not ecologically sustainable for the 21st century.

The 21st century town, city, micropolis, metropolis and Megapolis are increasingly more dispersed and therefore more directly related to our natural resources. I assert that as urban planners we will be held accountable more than in the previous century to plan with nature.

One aspect of this assertion is the right to food. In an urban world, if everyone is to have access to appropriate nutrition, food production will perforce need to take place in both urban and rural places. And, as our 'urbs' become less dense this is readily feasible.

As international professionals our ethics may now give greater importance to the right to food.

Community-Based Mobile Grocery Shopping

October 30, 2005, By Jac Smit, The Urban Agriculture Network

An old U.S. Mail truck, purchased for 3,000 dollars, painted purple and orange, is loaded up daily with locally-produced vegetables and herbs. It travels on a regular route, time-and-place in West Oakland CA [across the Bay from San Francisco and downstream from Berkeley]. Fresh food is sold at below market prices at schools, churches and at intersections in residential areas.

The "Moveable Feast" is a not-for-profit founded by a trio of young residents. They surveyed the food shopping opportunities in their 30,000 population community and found 40 corner stores selling tobacco, alcohol and packaged food and one grocery store with prices considerably higher than in the bordering suburban communities.

Their first step was a community garden with a weekly market during spring, summer and fall. The next step was a training course for elementary and secondary school children. Thirdly the Mobile Grocery was founded in partnership with the graduate community kids.

Malaika Edwards, one of the founding trio recalls: "When we started, I thought that everyone in West Oakland was going to be all about fast food --". But then our customers were like "Where's the tempeh?" and "We want miso." "It's not that poor people don't want to eat healthfully. People will eat organic food if they have access to it."
Email: [for nutritional value of fresh food]

Topics Covered in Jac's Articles (not complete index)

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Revised July 11, 2009

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture