Monthly Archives: October 2015

Urban Farmers for Food Freedom Visiting Local Schools to Teach About Urban Farming!

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Urban Farmers for Food Freedom has been super excited to bring miniature goats and baby chicks out to multiple elementary and middle schools in the Visalia Unified School District to teach students about Urban Farming!

In addition to teaching about chickens and goats and letting the kids get hands on experience brushing, petting and handling these sweet animals, we’ve been teaching students all about local community sustainability, and getting our hands dirty making pollinator friendly seed bombs to throw / plant around the school!
Check out a sample of what we’re teaching in Tulare County public schools!

Definition of Urban Farming

Urban agriculture can be defined shortly as the growing of plants and the raising of animals within and around cities. You don’t have to own a lot of land to be an urban farmer. An individual, a couple of friends, a family, a nonprofit group, a school classroom, or a neighborhood group can start and run an urban farm.
Urban farming has become a means to increase access to locally grown food and a way of reintroducing the public to the many aspects of food that we have lost as a culture. The importance of urban farming is increasingly being recognized by international organizations like the United Nation Habitat and the World Food and Agriculture Organization.

Examples of Urban Farming

Urban farming can involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping, horticulture and much more. Some of the more common food production and sustainable practices you’ll find on a household urban farm is:
  • Chicken keeping
  • Raising miniature dairy goats
  • Beekeeping
  • Vegetable, Fruit and Herb Gardens
  • Cultivating pollinator friendly plants
  • Composting and recycling
  • Rain water collecting and water conservation practices

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Student art for Urban Farmers from Woodlake Middle School Students!

Why Urban Farming is Important

As more people begin to understand our food system, many are seeking to have more input into how food is grown, how it is treated after being harvested and how it moves from one place along the food route to another. People have begun to understand how far food travels, and that they, as the consumer, have had no say in what is grown or how it is grown. Urban farming helps to change that, and give individuals the freedom to produce their own food if they choose to do so.
Ultimately, urban farming is beneficial for families, for the community and for the environment.
  • How Urban Farming Helps Families

The costs of supplying and distributing food to urban areas based on rural production and imports continue to increase every year. Urban farming is a great way to help to alleviate poverty and food insecurity with lower income families and allows families control over what they eat and how it is grown. Growing your own food saves households money, provides individuals access to healthy food, and allows families to be self-sufficient and self-reliant.
  • How Urban Farming Helps Communities

A community that is aware of and engaged in urban farming, is a community that is focused on conservation, stewardship and teamwork. The more that families and communities engage in urban farming, the greater the “greening and cleaning” effect on the city, with positive impacts on the micro-climate (shade, temperature, sequestration of CO2). Knowing where your food comes from, and respecting, enhancing and protecting your environment creates a priceless and strong sense of community.
  • How Urban Farming Helps the Environment

In addition to the greening of the city, urban farming contributes to the productive reuse of urban wastes and is a powerful tool in the urban ecosystem. Growing cities produce more and more wastewater and organic wastes. Urban farming helps to solve such problems by turning urban wastes into a productive resources (like organic waste as compost and urban wastewater as irrigation). Urban farming also actively replenishes the soil, cleans the air and provides essential wildlife – especially birds, bees and butterflies – a healthy sanctuary in the urban setting.

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Learning how to make pollinator friendly seed bombs at Liberty Elementary School in Tulare, CA

Why Pollinators Are Important

Imagine living in a world without flowers or fruit or even coffee or chocolate for that matter. Thanks to the wonderful work of pollinators like bees and butterflies, much of the food we eat and flowers and plants we enjoy are possible. Without the assistance of pollinators, most plants cannot produce fruits and seeds.
Worldwide, there is an alarming decline in pollinator populations. Excessive use of pesticides and an ever-expanding conversion of landscapes to human use for urban dwellings are the biggest culprits.
It is estimated that more than 1,300 types of plants are grown around the world for food, beverages, medicines, condiments, spices and even fabric. Of these, about 75% are pollinated by animals. More than one of every three bites of food we eat or beverages we drink are directly because of pollinators.
Although we live in an area that isn’t as populated as Los Angeles or New York, bees right here in the Central Valley and Tulare County are experiencing colony collapse, where the entire hive just dies off. You can make a positive difference in your home environment and make urban landscapes friendly to pollinators by planting herbs and flowers that provide lots of pollen and nectar to bees. Through urban farming, it is possible to make your city a sanctuary for bees and butterflies instead of a death sentence!
One of the ways we can help protect pollinators is by making and scattering seed bombs in open spaces of land – beside roads, highways, empty fields, and in our front yards or flower beds.

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Students with three baby Nigerian Dwarf goats at Liberty Elementary in Tulare, CA

Why Miniature Goats for Urban Farming

Miniature goats, which include Nigerian Dwarfs and African Pygmies, are popular amongst urban farmers because they’re a manageable size, relatively inexpensive to feed and produce a lot of milk for their small size. A regularly milked doe lactates for 10 months to two years after giving birth, and produces a quart of milk a day. Two mini goats can provide a family with 3 ½ gallons of milk per week. Aside from drinking the milk, you can make goat cheese, butter, yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, kefir and many other dairy products, including infant formula.
Other reasons for keeping goats on an urban farm include weed and brush control (goats will eat poisonous plants and harmful weeds like poison oak, stinging nettle, and thistles) and fertilizer (their manure is dry, fairly odorless, and nitrogen-rich and can be used immediately on crops or in the soil). Goat meat is also delicious and healthy.
Goats are ruminants, which means they have a four chambered stomach system. The straw, grains, grasses and plants that they eat are thoroughly digested, fermented in the stomach, and broken down to create the ultimate plant food and soil enhancer. Goat manure helps to build up the organic matter content in the soil and adds nutrients, increases microbial activity, and improves drainage in heavy soils and moisture retention in sandy soils.

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Students handling baby chicks at Liberty Middle School in Tulare, CA

Why Chickens for Urban Farming

Most chicken-owners have the same reason for starting up their flocks: eggs! By getting eggs from your own chickens, you avoid supporting industrial farms that produce the majority of eggs sold in the US. Egg-producing hens on factory farms are often kept in such close, inhumane quarters that they cannot stretch their legs or wings, walk around, or participate in normal social behaviors.
Also, studies have demonstrated that pasture-raised eggs, from chickens given space to peck for food, are more nutritious than industry-sourced eggs, with pasture-raised eggs containing two to three times more omega-3 fatty acids and one-third the cholesterol of factory-farmed eggs. Those healthier eggs cost far less than the eggs found in the grocery stores!
Chickens also serve as great composters for your kitchen scraps. There isn’t much you can’t feed a chicken! They’re omnivores and will eat just about anything that comes out of the kitchen, including meats.
You can then add the chicken’s waste to your compost pile and use it on your garden as a fertilizer. In addition, chickens will happily pluck up any unwanted insects and pests in your yard.

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Students with two African Pygmy goats at Woodlake Middle School!

We look forward to visiting more classrooms in the month of October! (If you are interested in a classroom visit, please contact Gingi Freeman at gingifreeman@gmail.com)