Brooke Budner and Caitlyn Galloway, both 29, diligently tend to a patch of land in San Francisco's Mission district that yields a cornucopia of greens, from arugula, spinach, and fennel to lemon balm and pea shoots. The pair combined their passion for plants with the owner's willingness to let them work the land, which Budner had spied from her then-apartment window. The women take the greens to a nearby restaurant where diners nosh on truly local food.
But, as any urban community garden grower will tell you, there are challenges. Budner and Galloway regularly battle snails, slugs, and unwelcome shade that comes from trying to grow in an area surrounded by buildings. And, of course, there's the lack of available land.
"So many people want to farm in San Francisco," says Budner in the Mission Local article. "But there's a lot of motivation and big ideas. There's not much space."
That means community gardeners and farmers have to get creative to find underutilized or discarded lots that others won't touch. Brooklyn non-profit Added Value did that. They found an abandoned asphalt field in working-class Red Hook, Brooklyn and with hours and hours of hard work via volunteers and truckloads of topsoil and fertilizer, the group converted it into a nearly 3-acre community farm.
To do this, the non-profit got a lease from the New York City Parks Department, which owns the site. In exchange, Added Value employs local young people in the surrounding low-income neighborhoods and educate them about sustainable food practices. Over 40 crops are harvested each year and sold at local farmer's markets. Bushels of tomatoes, egglpants, squash, basil, greens and strawberries travel mere blocks to be sold and consumed.
Some inner-city charities and food pantries are starting to look around their neighborhoods as well. The Brooklyn Rescue Mission broke ground on the Bed Stuy Farm a few years ago from an abandoned lot behind the food pantry. Sugar beets, cucumbers and salad greens are now a regular staple in the meals that are served. The group sees community gardening as a way for residents to become self-empowered and gain access to healthier food.
And then there are the more guerrilla urban gardening attempts, as the environmental blog Grist shows us.