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Urban Farms & Parks

Community gardening is a growing area in which parks are playing a role. Karrie Jacobs of Metropolis magazine reviews a new book on urban farming and talks about the places she sees as ripe for it.

The best thing I learned from Hungry City is that urban agriculture doesn’t need high-end architecture. Steel devoted a scant paragraph in her final chapter to the organopónicos, the grassroots network of urban farms that Cuba started after it was cut off from the global supply stream by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the United States’ trade embargo. They’re organic, low-tech, shoehorned into every available space, impressively productive, and truly inspiring. Reading Hungry City reminded me that there’s a farm right here in Brooklyn called Added Value. It employs neighborhood kids, sells much of its produce to nearby restaurants, and sits atop two and three-quarters acres of an asphalt playfield. Its fanciest structural component is a chain-link perimeter fence.

I don’t think I’ll live long enough to see a 30-story farm rise in New York City, and I’m pretty sure that JFK’s prime acreage will be devoted to takeoffs and landings for the foreseeable future. But I can imagine the minifarm, Cuban style, as an increasingly familiar part of the urban landscape. And I love going to Added Value’s twice-weekly farmers’ market and picking up collard greens and edamame.

One example in which all of this can be found in parks is in Chicago. There, among other gardening programs — the Park District has partnered with Growing Power (whose founder Will Allen was just a recipient of a MacArthur Genius Fellowship) to create an urban farm in Jackson Park that is part educational program/part supplier of food to the south side surrounding area.

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