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By terryhallinan at 2012-06-18

Dreamy talk of urban farming may be nearing reality.

In Chicago, a dilapidated former 93,500sf meat-packing factory has been revitalized into The Plant: a net-zero energy vertical farm and food business operation. A complex and highly interrelated system, one-third of The Plant holds aquaponic growing systems and the other two-thirds incubates sustainable food businesses (including an artisanal brewery, mushroom farm, bakery, etc) by offering low rent, low energy costs, and a licensed shared kitchen. The Plant is aiming to create 125 jobs in Chicago’s economically distressed Back of the Yards neighbourhood. A renewable energy system diverts over 10,000 tons of food waste from landfills each year to meet all of its heat and power needs.
That is light years from the revolving skyscrapers imagined in Dubai to something more akin to an East St. Louis development where an entire downtown block was once offered for $50, without any takers.

But it has the advantage of being real.

In Japan and Holland and Vancouver, British Columbia, a new factory farming is taking shape.

Now if they can just kill the organic farming hoax, we can get down to the business of feeding a hungry world at minimum cost with minimum use of water, land, chemicals and relatively clean work for labor at living wages.  We could even leave the wilderness to the wild things.

It is no longer just an empty dream but hopefully the start of a true revolution.

Best,  Terry

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Comment Preferences

  •  Organic farming hoax? What's that? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clues, boophus, LinSea

    Poor labeling laws?

    •  Yeah, I was confused too (0+ / 0-)
      •  Not the sort of line to drop into a diary (0+ / 0-)

        Without explanation. Because "poor labeling laws are allowing some to claim their crops are organic, when they really aren't" is a LOT different than "The entire idea of organic farming is a hoax." It really sort of sounds like the diarist is saying "Factories good, hippies bad."

      •  And me, too (0+ / 0-)

        This is a fantastic story about urban ag that I hadn't seen before, and I was quite excited about it. Then got to that weird aside.

        "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

        by Joan McCarter on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 03:15:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, I was already to rec until I hit that. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dear occupant

      Proud Slut...Fear is the Mind Killer

      by boophus on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 02:51:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am hardly unaware of the idolization of (0+ / 0-)

        crackpot science but fortunately some are not so willing to follow the leader without quibble.

        I am fully willing to discuss anything except how hateful and ignorant I am.

        We all know that.

        Best,  Terry

         

        •  Then discuss organic farming (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FG, JayBat

          Nobody is saying anything negative about you. Why the preemptive defense? You seem almost disappointed that no one has called you hateful and ignorant for sharing your opinions about organic farming.

          I mean, you seem intent on picking a fight, calling organic farming a "crackpot science" and implying that anyone supporting it is just "following their leader." While this is an interesting opinion, it does not rise above the level of other unfounded opinions such as "My child is the most beautiful child in the history of the world" or "Squid tastes yucky." In order to be more than an unfounded opinion, you should attempt to provide facts that back it up. String those facts together into a series of connected statements, and you have what is known as "an argument."

          I would like to see that. But, at the moment anyhow, it seems that you are more in a mood to drop a turd in the community punchbowl and run off without debating your claims. Hopefully you can provide more meaningful insights than "Organic farming sux, doood!"

          •  But I Have, I Have (0+ / 0-)

            I have not only discussed the higher cost, the larger footprint of organic farming that means lower productivity/acre and reduction of wilderness, the increase in greenhouse gases here but in entire diaries.  

            I was fascinated by an experimental farm in Denmark that used even the stench of pig farming [ammonia] gathered in air filters to fertilize tomatoes.

            Pig city

                Another livestock emissions research farm, but this time dedicated to recycling the metabolic waste of pigs, is being built in Denmark.

                Gottlan Paludan, the lead architect in the construction of the "City of Pigs", says the purpose is "to analyse the synergies of large-scale livestock raising and the production of tomatoes, in order to take advantage, in a reciprocal way, of the waste that each process produces."

            The site of the pig farm, on the Jutland Peninsula, allows the filtration and absorption of CO2, ammonia and other gases. The manure will be reused to generate biogas, which in turn will produce electricity. The manure will also be recycled to remove water and produce natural fertilisers.

            This from CLIMATE CHANGE: Wanted – Methane-Free Livestock

            I have posted numerous diaries on the genetically modified produce and plants from their own inherent genes that produce stronger,  healthier, more bountiful crops that can be bred without the bioengineering.  And I have asked why the weak have thrived and the strong own the land except for rare examples.  There is scientific speculation on that score.

            Anyway thank you for reading and asking.

            Best,  Terry

    •  Count me three (as confused). (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dear occupant, FG

      Though I had to read through again to pick-up the "hoax" reference.

      I was so excited by the main concept that I kind of glossed over some of the other details (as to revolving towers of Dubai for example...)

      Perhaps the Diary could use a bit more focus, but again, I appreciate the reference to the main concept - exciting stuff, and glad to see it being explored.

      Thanks!
       


      I kinda screwed up with a careless uprate so (for now?) I'm a "No Rate" pariah. So when I give a comment "+110% n/t", please consider that a recommend. (That's my workaround fix to participating in this community!)

      by The Angry Architect on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 02:54:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I thought it referred to those beating the drum (0+ / 0-)

      and spreading fear against organic farming for whatever "reasons" they can think up?

      Dance lightly upon the Earth, Sing her songs with wild abandon, Smile upon all forms of Life ...and be well.

      by LinSea on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 02:54:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Organic farmers increase the environmental (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LinSea, congenitalefty

      footprint of agriculture, the cost of food and even, in at least some cases, increase greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

      They do not eliminate chemicals, do fight scientific advances, spread cockamamie claims and scientific fiction like a Sarah Palin advising that dinosaurs are hiding in caves.

      The organic food I have eaten is indeed superior in taste and quality to the average run of food, it may or may not be more nutritious at the same level of freshness but I think few who have tasted truly fresh produce would disagree that the fresh food is immeasurably better in taste.  

      We hadn't the foggiest notion what asparagus could taste like until we grew some.  Like corn, the sugars start converting to starch as soon as the asparagus is picked, the stems become woody, etc.

      Even quick freezing does not save the asparagus.

      Yeah hydroponic crops are seeking the organic label and will sacrifice economy and science to get it.  As far as I know they have not succeeded.

      As far as I am concerned, it is mostly a way to get more money from consumers and do more damage to the environment.

      All JMO.

      Best,  Terry

      •  Well, I certainly misunderstood. Still rec this (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        terryhallinan

        for answering and clearly stating your opinion.  Thank you.

        Dance lightly upon the Earth, Sing her songs with wild abandon, Smile upon all forms of Life ...and be well.

        by LinSea on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 03:09:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  That's a rather broad brush (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SethRightmer, LinSea, JayBat

        with which you paint all organic farmers and advocates. Most of them I've worked with (and I have worked with a number of them from when I was on the board of directors of Seattle Tilth) are pretty well rooted in the reality-based community.

        "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

        by Joan McCarter on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 03:18:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I am attacking a false concept rather than people (0+ / 0-)
          That's a rather broad brush with which you paint all organic farmers and advocates.
          Isn't that like saying I am attacking coal miners because I want coal left where it is?

          Certainly I think both of us would prefer their current livelihood vanished along with the damage coal does.

          That does not mean we hate coal miners and wish them ill.

          Indeed I do think advocates should be willing to stand up and defend their efforts but they don't - and I daresay can't.

          Best,  Terry

      •  Could you expound on this? (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LinSea, patchmo13, JayBat, boophus

        Here are the claims about organic farming I see you making:

        1.) Organic farming does not eliminate chemicals.
        2.) Organic farmers fight scientific advances
        3.) Organic farmers spread misinformation
        4.) Organic food is superior in taste and quality

        But this is simply your opinion, you present no facts that would let me form an opinion of my own. I don't really have a horse in this race, I am not for or against organic farming, per se. I am for the stated goal of organic farming, which is to feed people nutritious food in a way that requires minimal or no unsustainable inputs/

        Personally, I have known a few organic farmers and I can say that, in my experience,

        1.) They have eliminated many if not all chemicals and unsustainable inputs.
        2.) They are highly interested in any and all scientific advances in agriculture
        3.) They don't knowingly spread misinformation
        4.) Yeah, we agree here. :)

        Perhaps you have simply been unlucky and are only familiar with unscrupulous organic farmers?

        I would be interested in hearing your reasoning behind the statement that organic farming is a way to get more money from consumers and do more damage to the environment. It sounds as if you think organic farmers are part of some sort of evil conspiracy to fleece consumers and destroy the earth.

        •  Response (0+ / 0-)

          I have no knowledge of these unethical organic farmers you project unless it is corporations that aim for the higher cost market without following the guidelines.

          Personally, I have known a few organic farmers and I can say that, in my experience,

          1.) They have eliminated many if not all chemicals and unsustainable inputs.

          I doubt any have totally eliminated all chemicals and certainly not land.

          Chemicals could even be totally eliminated with current scientific advances and vertical farming can even eliminate the footprint of agriculture in some instances.

          Chemical use has been reduced undoubtedly.

          2.) They are highly interested in any and all scientific advances in agriculture
          GM's?  Surely you jest.  I don't mean Monsanto's GM's that help push Monsanto's poisons.  Genetically modified plants and animals can be harmful of course.
          3.) They don't knowingly spread misinformation
          Agreed to "knowingly."

          Best,  Terry

  •  Look at all the $$$ wasted on immaculate lawns (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LinSea, terryhallinan, congenitalefty

    that could at least be partially food gardens, and look even more impressive.

    "Four more years!" (Obama Unencumbered - The Sequel)

    by jwinIL14 on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 02:47:13 PM PDT

    •  Absolutely ~ (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LinSea, jwinIL14, dear occupant

      I live in Southern California, where the site of green lawns is particularly ridiculous given the amount of water required to maintain this symbolic vestige of the American Dream.

      Victory Gardens - Yeah!


      I kinda screwed up with a careless uprate so (for now?) I'm a "No Rate" pariah. So when I give a comment "+110% n/t", please consider that a recommend. (That's my workaround fix to participating in this community!)

      by The Angry Architect on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 02:56:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No argument at all with that but I don't know (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jwinIL14, LinSea

      how many with lawns will be up to supplying the community with fresh food.  

      When I was young, I never missed a chance to try to pick a sweet cherry or two from a neighbor's tree behind an inclined rock fencing.  You had to take a good run at the wall. :-)

      Even farmers out in the country have a hell of a time guarding a watermelon patch.

      A land speculator in Portland, OR, used to grow radishes on small plots of land selected for potential increase in value.  Had a regular crew rotating from field to field to tend the radishes. Can you imagine how many radishes can be grown on a 1/4 acre of land?  

      Best,  Terry

      •  Pomegranate tree branches laden with fruit (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        boophus, terryhallinan

        overhanging the fence as I walked home along the sidewalk from third grade in the 50's. Oh, YUMMMMM.  

        Also apricots and peaches for the sampling there in the fertile soil of California's San Joaquin Valley.

        I'm old.  I remember what real food tasted like.  Some years ago I saw a cartoon with a guy standing in a supermarket produce aisle saying, "How can something be both green and rotten at once?"  

        Dance lightly upon the Earth, Sing her songs with wild abandon, Smile upon all forms of Life ...and be well.

        by LinSea on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:14:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  $50 for an entire downtown block?! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LinSea

    Yeah, it's East St. Louis, which is probably why nobody wanted it, but wow.  For 50 bucks, I'd have a hard time saying no, especially if it had big old buildings on it. If nothing else, I'd turn it into my own personal playground/homestead.

    I've got so many ideas for everything from urban infill to rural retreats, but money is always the stumbling block.

    To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

    by Visceral on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 03:58:08 PM PDT

    •  You might not have liked the enforcers (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      the fan man

      There was a popular steak house that required St. Louis residents to drive through a portion of East St. Louis to get to.

      Snipers got to kinda worrying people and the restaurant closed.

      The movie scene in "Vacation," in which Chevy Chase drives into East St. Louis was not all that funny to those of us who made a wrong turn at least twice on the thruway with the family.  You would dumped into downtown East St. Louis with no return easily seen.

      The square block offer was a gimmick, of course, but there is no shortage of decayed industrial areas that can be had pretty much for the asking even in our lightly populated area.  One is tragicomedy.  Rusting skeletal structures are all that is left of quixotic dreams to induce industry to come back as manufacturers fled the city of Rome, NY.

      Best,  Terry

  •  Growing Power (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    the fan man

    If it takes a factory in Chicago being turned into a growing space to get you to pick up on urban farming, you haven't been paying attention.

    Check out Growing Power out of Milwaukee
    http://www.growingpower.org/

    There's a long history to this idea that goes back to the schoolyard gardens of the 1890s, the patriotic gardening movement of WWI, the Victory Gardens of WWII which produced a significant portion of the fresh fruits and vegetables for the Homefront, and the community gardening movement of the 1970s, a direct outgrowth of the anti-war, civil rights, and ecology movements - although I have yet to see anybody place it within that context.

    And don't forget the New Alchemy Institute and their vision of integrated agricultural systems that is coming into practice only now.  If you've eaten tilapia, you can thank John Todd and New Alchemy for the meal as they were the first people in the US to import the fish for aquaculture.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:59:55 PM PDT

    •  Yeah New Alchemy! Haven't heard that name in (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gmoke

      a looong time.

      Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

      by the fan man on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 04:43:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  "don't forget the New Alchemy Institute" (0+ / 0-)

      Hard not to considering I never heard of it before. :-)

      But then everybody surely knows of this guy grown in the mountains of Idaho:

      Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
      By terryhallinan at 2010-08-11

      The alligators are grown much larger than in Florida because the food is free.  It is what is left from cleaning tilapia in housing heated by geothermal like the Romans used to do with their baths.

      But the Romans and Inca Emperor Atahualpa, not to mention the Japanese today, were too lazy lolling around in their geothermal baths to grow bananas like the Icelanders.

      A dairy farm, part of a large complex that was once an undiluted horror in Pennsylvania where cows can now milk themselves when they take a notion as with the creepy farm in Rotterdam earns nutrient trading credits by recycling fertilizer in order to help clean up Chesapeake Bay fouled by city runoff and organic farm - oops, better not go there.

      We will change or we will die.  It's the way of all life.

      Best,  Terry

  •  Most of the land tied up in ag is in grains: (0+ / 0-)

    wheat, rice, corn and other minor grains such as millet, sorghum etc. When we find a way to grow those w/o much or any land, let me know. I like the work being done by the Land Institute. They're working on perennial grains which will revolutionize agriculture as much as anything in the last 1000 years.

    I've never been a big fan of urban ag, (I don't know what the terroir of say, downtown Detroit, is) but its necessity is apparent to me .

    As far as crazy organic growing methods, check out this veteran's business. Claims to grow using 1/10 the land and  water of conventional. It's also hydroponic and drip lined irrigated:
    Archi’s Acres

    Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

    by the fan man on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 07:40:43 AM PDT

    •  Compared to livestock? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      the fan man
      Most of the land tied up in ag is in grains
      FWIW I have got rumblings of information that rice might be grown inhouse, so to speak.  

      I haven't the foggiest notion how that would work nor if is a bit of kookery but the informant does not seem a kook.

      Whatever, yields vary enormously depending on everything from weather to fertility of soil to disease and pests to seed.

      My mother had a very large garden, very large.

      When my father ran a herd of horses through the garden, mother got very angry.

      I can't even imagine the homicidal emotions that are roused in Africa when a herd of elephants goes through a garden.

      And even those can't match what rabbits did to our gardens so carefully tended and protected in alkali soil.  Only melons that never seemed to ripen and carrots would survive untouched.  Only Bugs Bunny eats carrots I think.  Then again our rabbits were jackrabbits, which aren't rabbits at all.

      Best,  Terry

      •  It's the reason they call vegetables "minor (0+ / 0-)

        crops". I wasn't including pasture lands since there is no cultivation of the soil, but if you included it, it probably would exceed grains. We seem to be at the limit of what we can engineer grains to do and most if not all will be outdoors, Bugs Bunny willing.

        Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

        by the fan man on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 01:52:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Monsanto has licensed genes for corn that can be (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          the fan man

          grown without fertilizer, irrigation, pesticides, herbicides.  May not have been tested against their Roundup but I guess Monsanto sells no fertilizer or pesticides.

          Probably waiting for the patents to run out while the licenser concentrates on cancer.

          I don't know about wheat or other grain crops but I doubt the yield from corn has reached its limit at all.

          Even with alfalfa, a legume despite its use much like grass, a Minnesota alfalfa farmers co-op has a giant form of alfalfa that is used for feed pellets for hay burners and has been trying for years to get permission to produce fuel pellets for power and heating from the inedible parts.

          Dad had leases on desert land for grazing sheep that you could fit some small states in but even he produced some feed for livestock and as well as hay on land that could be cultivated.

          Grazing is not helpful at all to wildlife nor to the ecology of the land.  One Indian tribe is producing furniture from "invasive" junipers.  The junipers have come off the crags and invaded the valleys because of overgrazing.

          Best,  Terry

    •  BTW You probably know rice is a major contributor (0+ / 0-)

      to global warming.

      Growing it indoors would allow for controlling the greenhouse gases for those who give a damn.  Even if they don't, the gas could be useful for fertilizer if trapped in air filters.

      Best,  Terry

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