This Urban Fringe Farm Is Worth Adapting
An Agrovision Publishing Report
Executive Officer (honorary),
The Urban Agriculture Network - Western Pacific Office,
PO Box 85, Mt Gravatt Central,
Queensland 4122, Australia.
Phone 61 7 3349 1422
Fax: 61 3343 8287
Mobile: 0412 622 779
If you travel to Laredo, Texas, on the banks of the highly-polluted Rio Grande river there's an urban farm well worth the visit. It is the Laredo Demonstration Farm, and it could be an idea well worth adapting for the urban fringes of Australian cities. A joint venture between the Laredo Junior College and the Laredo State University, the aim of the demonstration farm is to teach students about the successful integration of farming systems with waste management.
Exciting features are:
- Worms for fish and poultry food.
- Insect and insect larvae production for fish food.
- Composting of urban wastes.
- Harvesting of wind energy.
- Production of biofuels, such as methane.
- Fish production.
- Agroforestry combining fruit trees with vegetable growing.
- Use of human sewage for water and compost.
- Solar refrigeration.
- Food processing.
- A weekend farmers market.
- Cement-rendered, straw-bale buildings.
- Wind-protection of crops - to increase productivity.
This kind of unit could become a model for fully-professional periurban (city fringe) small holdings currently sneered at as "hobby farms", and given short shrift these days by the Australian Taxation Office.
My first reaction when viewing the Laredo Demonstration Farm was that it would make a marvellous teaching unit for urban agriculture in Australia.
Some of our agricultural high schools, colleges and universities should latch onto it. The concept surely has all the right politics for educational fund-raising in the 1990s!
My second reaction was that it could also be the blueprint for an Australian adaptation of a commercial smallholding that could provide a decent income for a family.
My third reaction was that it was a idea which could be taken up by a franchising entrepreneur. Such a person (or company) could put a catchcy business name to the project, and develop both training and marketing programs that maximises profit to the small-business owner.
Such franchising is only a small step beyond a few urban and periurban farming ideas I'll be writing up in "Alternate Farmer" next issue.
The area taken up by the Laredo Demonstration Farm was less about a hectare. There's many such sites on Australian urban fringes on main roads that give maximum exposure to a weekend market. I saw it as an ideal unit to run next to an intensive poultry farm or piggery. Pig and poultry manure could be the raw materials of the next process - growing food and processing it using natural energy sources.
Use of organic wastes from pigs or poultry means that the soil quality of the site doesn't matter at all - raised beds of worm castings would provide the best growing medium for vegetables and fruit.
The worm-farm processing of these wastes would also provide food for fish and such specialties as quail and game birds, and fish, plus organic fertiliser for either sale or organic hydroponics.
The two cities of Laredo, Texas and Neuvo Laredo, Mexico, have long figured in Zane Grey westerns. They were always the destination of black-hatted baddies being chased by white-hatted lawmen .
The twin cities now are home to around 500,000 Texans and Mexicans who have been unkind to their local environment in recent years. It is one of the poorest areas of the United States, and one of the fastest-growing in terms of population.
As a result the Rio Grande is badly polluted, and nobody seems to care.
At least that was the position until the local high school and university people decided to try to teach students better environmental practice mixed with sound business ideas.
The Laredo Demonstration Farm idea came from a consultant in Austin, Texas who was well attuned to what is practical in alternate farming practice.
The ideas for combining urban waste management with profitable food production appealed greatly when fund-raising took place.
When I saw it the structure was only partially complete, and innovations such as raising insects for fish food were not in place.
A full report on the Laredo Demonstration Farm concept is to be published by the newly-established office in Brisbane of The Urban Agriculture Network - Western Pacific Office (TUAN- WP).
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