John C. Jones, MPA, PhD

Month: December 2018

New Urban Agriculture Literature Collection at University of Toronto

Below is a press release for a collection of urban agriculture literature at the New College at the University of Toronto. I met Joe Nasr once in connection with my article in an upcoming special volume of Urban Design International that he is editing. He is very accommodating and I am sure would welcome messages from anyone interested in the literature available in this collection!

A Boost for Urban Agriculture and Food learning and Activism at the D. G. Ivey Library of New College, University of Toronto

The D. G. Ivey Library at New College, University of Toronto, has acquired a unique collection in the field of urban agriculture and food studies. The collection, made available through the generous donation of Joe Nasr, co-founder of the Urban Agriculture Network, comprises a wide range of materials focusing on urban agriculture, small-scale farming, food activism, and food-related policies around the world. It includes rare and difficult-to-find books, magazines, journals, personal papers, policy documents, and reports by governments and non-governmental organizations, most of them published between 1970 and 1999. The collection is named in honor (and includes papers and correspondence) of the late Jac Smit – an early advocate of urban agriculture – acquired while working around the world for agencies such as the International Rescue Committee and the United Nations Development Program (for more information about Jac Smit, please visit http://www.jacsmit.com/).

The acquisition further solidifies the D. G. Ivey Library at New College as one of the eminent repositories in North America of materials on urban agriculture, a field currently experiencing a renaissance among scholars and practitioners alike. In addition to supporting the innovative work of varied global food equity programming at New College, including courses in its first-year transition program, NewONE, the D. G. Ivey Library also serves as a branch of the Toronto Seed Library. Entirely open to the public, the new Urban Ag and Food Collection should delight and inspire anyone interested in the “how” of food policy and the formation of community movements, both in historical perspective and as present-to-future endeavour. The collection is open to interested members of the university and urban agriculture community as well as the wider public. More information about the collection, as well as a listing of its contents can be found at www.newcollege.utoronto.ca/urban-agriculture.

New Farm Bill would create Office of Urban Agriculture

CityFarmer.info reports that the finalized version of 2018 Farm Bill will create an “Office Of Urban Agriculture And Innovative Production”. In short, within one year of President Trump signing the bill (which to my knowledge has yet to occur) this office will roll out pilot programs for ‘county and suburban’ county committees and community composting.
To my knowledge this the first major programming for urban agriculture in a Farm Bill since, I believe, the 1980s. I will post an update on this new office as I become aware of new information.


Enterprise Profile: Guided by Mushrooms

Guided by Mushroom is an informal-scale urban food enterprise that specializes in mushroom farming that, as of late November 2018, has operated for less than one year. The farm is located a family-owned, six acre campus bordered on three sides by an elbow turn in the Stillwater River in the City of Clayton, Ohio. Elsewhere on the campus are several other single-family homes and associated outbuildings. The entire property is wooded and is not visible from any nearby public roads.

The owner-operators, a couple, have adapted parts of a multi-car garage, that their extended family renovated to create a space for their operation. Their growing operation uses three spaces: a) a small seeding room containing their seeding operation and a Laminar Flow Hood, an industrial-strength homemade air filter chamber; b) a growing space in a temperature and moisture controlled tent in another wise unheated large single-car garage; and c) an outdoor space with a 41-quart All-American Pressure Cooker, a 55-gallon drum substrate steam sterilizer used to prepare their saw dust and soybean husk growing medium.

 The owners report selling roughly 20-30 pounds of mushrooms per week to two farm-to-table restaurants in the greater Dayton, Ohio region. The owners said that demand is high for their mushrooms, and believe that they could easily sell more mushrooms, to either new or existing customers, if they could maintain a greater level of production. They believe that part of this high demand is due to their product’s quality and uniqueness, as well as the niche they fill in a marketplace that otherwise relies upon farmers from out of state.

The owners indicate that scaling up their production volume is their greatest challenge. Part of this challenge was due to need to test various production techniques, growing mediums, and growing environment conditions. Several online communities of hobbyist, informal, and micro-scale mushrooms producers provided much of this information to the owners. Despite these early hurdles, the owners have only spent several thousand dollars in start-up costs. As of our conservation, they now believe they have determined best practices for their operation and expect to improve their production capacity in the coming months.

They report no contact with local regulatory officials, but do not expect any conflict with local or state regulations. Despite this lack of contact, the owners still wish local officials were more aware of various examples of urban food entrepreneurship in their region and wish that that local governments would make micro-grants available to urban food entrepreneurs. In the near future, they hope to incorporate either as an LLC or a worker-owned cooperative. As of late November 2018, they had no specific plans to become a formal enterprise.

Follow these links for more information on Guided by Mushrooms:
https://www.guidedbymushrooms.com
https://www.facebook.com/guidedbymushrooms/

Guided by Mushrooms uses part of multi-car garage renovated to create extra living space.
A look inside the temperature controlled growing tent that is located inside a unheated garage.
The seeding room. The device on the right is a DIY air filtration chamber used in the seeding process to ensure only mycelium is introduced to the growing medium.
Shelf space in the growing room. Once harvested fully, bags are turned over for a second harvest and then discarded.  

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