As the local food movement has taken hold in the nation’s largest city, urban agriculture has become an important component of not only the local food movement but also a multitude of related environmental and social initiatives, such as stormwater management, sustainable city planning, food justice, and more. New York City is now home to several commercial farms and numerous community gardens growing food. As the awareness of the benefits of healthy wholesome food spreads to areas considered food deserts, more people are becoming involved in growing their own food. However, urban agriculture presents challenges that are different from conventional agriculture. Most fundamental of these challenges are the soils: their potential contamination, conservation, and building soil health.
The goal of the project is to create a cadre of urban farmers knowledgeable in working with urban soils for growing food in low-income communities of color in New York City. These neighborhoods are considered food deserts and lack access to fresh food as determined by the Supermarket Need Index, which is based on multiple metrics such as rates of diabetes and obesity, population density, household incomes, among others.
Workshops & On-site Technical Assistance
The Project Team (NYC Soil & Water Conservation District, NYC Urban Soils Institute., The Horticultural Society of NY, GrowNYC, and Greenthumb) developed the outreach and workshop series on urban soils and growing food in the city. The workshops were held on May 7th and 20th 2017 at GrowNYC’s Demonstration Park in McCarren Park, Brooklyn. Workshops were free to attend, Those who came to all three workshops were eligible for free on-site garden assistance and soil testing.
The first workshop combined two soils topics into one all-day workshop: Soil Health Basics and Soil Interpretation. Soil Health Basics included such topics as fundamentals of soil fertility, pH, macro- and micronutrients, soil organisms, organic amendments, soil texture and structure, and soil fertility testing. Soils Interpretation workshop was focused on characteristics and functions of urban soils, sources and risks of contamination, thresholds of contaminants, screening for contaminants in urban soils, interpretation of test results, remediation strategies and suggestions for mitigation of exposure and contamination.
Horticultural Society hosted a half-day workshop focused on Growing Food in the City. This workshop covered crop selection, crop rotation, increasing production, harvesting and preserving. Participants also took home seasonal veggie starters.
Onsite technical assistance will be taking place in August. Gardeners will have one-on-one assistance with soil testing, interpreting soil tests, deciding on and applying best management practices and soil health building techniques, and assistance on selecting and growing edibles as well as harvesting.