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Urban Farming – Local and Community Food Gardening

The urban farming movement puts back-yard gardening front and center. Even if your only crop is a pot full of cherry tomatoes, you’re part of the fast-growing local food-gardening revival.

It’s hard to miss the signs of urban farming these days. School-yard gardens and community gardens promote the pleasure of growing your own peppers, beans, greens, and other edible delights, and farmers’ markets emphasize local crops and the gardeners who tend them.

“We’re riding a wave — there’s a food revolution going on,” says Janet Moss, coordinator for Cultivate Kansas City, an organization that promotes urban farming and helps people get started in community and back-yard gardens throughout Kansas City. “People are talking about food gardening like I’ve never heard it before,” she says.

Urban farming starts with a package of seeds, or with ready-to-plant tomatos, green peppers, lettuce, parsley, and basil. You can plant your crops in rows in any sunny spot, grow them in a pot or a window box, or make room for them among the daisies in a flower bed. Many vegetables — including tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and even beans — will flourish and produce an impressive harvest in a pot. You’ll need large containers — at least 14 inches in diameter. If you live in an apartment and simply do not have space to grow your own, you can volunteer at a community garden, or shop at a farmers’ market and both support and enjoy the benefits of local food and farming.

Urban farmers are resourceful: They use recycled and repurposed packing crates, second-hand building materials, fence sections, cinder blocks, chimney flues, and other inexpensive materials to make planting beds and useful garden structures. Many are experimenting with rain barrels to capture water during storms. Organic and sustainable gardening practices are important to modern urban farmers, too, but a bountiful harvest is, of course, the real goal.

“One of the most exciting things to me is seeing good, healthy food being grown in neighborhoods that have no grocery stores,” Moss says. A new generation is learning to grow tomatoes and potatoes, and “they are growing food in their neighborhoods, for their neighborhoods,” she says. They’re part of the most successful crop yet: home-grown gardeners.

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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • How can you tell when it is time to harvest the backyard apple, peach, pear and cherry trees? Time the picking to coincide with the fruit being fully ripe to yield its peak of flavor and nutrition. Here’s what to look for:
    - The fruit will look ripe. Its skin will be flush with color rather than the green shade it had while developing all summer.
    - The fruit will feel ripe. It will yield to a gentle squeeze indicating the flesh has softened somewhat.
    - It will also smell ripe becoming pleasantly fragrant, especially when the sun has warmed it.
    - The best indication that fruit is ready for picking is that it picks easily. Truly ripe fruit virtually falls into your hand when grasped. But harvest before it drops onto the ground and attracts bees.