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A few months ago, some people in Cambridge, MA were inspired by the example of Todmorden in the UK between Leeds and Manchester, a town that decided to grow as much of its food as possible within the town limits.  

Since we started meeting, some of us have begun mapping the Cambridge local food system which already exists.  It includes farmers' markets every day of the week from Memorial Day to Thanksgiving, the local growing season, and one winter market on Saturday mornings.  There are City Sprouts ( gardens in every one of the 12 public middle schools, 15 community gardens including those at Harvard and Leslie Universities, and at least three restaurants with rooftop or container gardens.  Local organizations include Pick a Pocket Garden ( which is planting and maintaining public plantings of ornamentals, a yogurt-making coop, and the League of Urban Canners who will harvest and process fruit from neighborhood trees and bushes into preserves, with the owners getting 10% of the product.

The Cambridge Todmorden group may have access to three different sites for public gardens but we haven't turned any soil over yet, although we certainly plan to in the near future.

A few schools, community plots, and restaurants will not grow any appreciable percentage of the food in Cambridge, MA but it is a start.  There is a local food system.  We are learning how to grow it.

Todmorden has a population around 15,000.  Cambridge has a population of about 100,000.  The Todmorden example may not be completely applicable to Cambridge let alone cities of larger scale.  However, Linköping, Sweden, a city of about 104,000 people is considering a vertical farm project to become self-sufficient in food ( while Chicago is already building their first vertical farm ( and Berlin is planning the world's largest  rooftop fish and vegetable garden (

In the US, Growing Power ( in Milwaukee is probably the most successful urban gardening project.  Today, 1% of the food consumed in Milwaukee is grown in the city but Growing Power wants to increase it to 10% within two years.  They plan to build 100 acres of greenhouses for year-round growing and have begun a 20,000 backyard garden program.  You can see their founder, Will Allen, talk about their work on CSPAN's Book TV (

There's even a feature length documentary on this nation-wide movement entitled  "Edible City":

According to this film, Cuba's urban gardens can produce 16-20 kilos of food production per square meter using organic and ecological methods.

Locally, Cambridge is not alone in discussing these issues.  Boston, MA has been meeting for most of the year to develop a plan for urban farms, and Concord, MA has just finished a community food assessment, "Building Local Food Connections" (

Here are a couple of upcoming web-based events that will teach you more about local food systems:

Tips, Tools and Telling the Story: Evaluating Community Food Initiatives
September 13, 2012
12-1pm EDT
Webinar:  register at
Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) is hosting a webinar on evaluating community food initiatives. The webinar is geared at program managers, funders and other practitioners who are already engaged in evaluation or have a basic understanding of evaluation and are looking to explore evaluation topics in greater depth. Meredith Davis, CFCC’s Research and Evaluation Manager, will describe the process that CFCC went through to create its own national evaluation strategy, including successes, challenges and lessons learned along the way. Topics to be explored include: creating a theory of change, building an evaluative culture, developing indicators, developmental evaluation (DE), social return on investment analysis (SROI), evaluating in a respectful and dignified manner, designing effective evaluation tools and common pitfalls of evaluation. The last 15 minutes of the webinar will be set aside for group exploration.


Food Systems Networks That Work: Accelerating Learning and Increasing Commerce NGFN Interactive Webinar
Sept. 20
3:30p EDT
Webinar at

Learn how joining or fostering a food hub or food system network can improve your regional food economy and the strength of each member organization or business. This webinar will feature conveners of food systems networks at the local, state, regional, and even national level. The networks they’ve built have boosted triple bottom lines of member businesses and organizations.  

- Rich Pirog, Senior Associate Director, C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Systems, Michigan State University
- Marty Gerencer, Principal, Morse Marketing Connections
- Corry Bregendahl, Assistant Scientist, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University
- Karen Lehman, Director, Fresh Taste

Previous diaries:
Local Food Network:  Cambridge, MA
Integrated Urban Agricultural Systems
How to Heal the World
Urban Fruit Harvesting
Community Gardens as Permaculture Nurseries
Growing Green in the City
Celebrate Gleaning with the Boston Area Farm Gleaning Project
Urban Permaculture:  Chicken Coop Grapevine and Water Footprint
Raspberry Gobble
How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

Originally posted to gmoke on Wed Sep 05, 2012 at 02:09 PM PDT.

Also republished by Ecocities Emerging.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

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

    by gmoke on Wed Sep 05, 2012 at 02:09:46 PM PDT

  •  Nice! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Republished to Ecocities Emerging. Glad to hear about Todmorden, really great stuff. I love Will Allen, saw him presenting his new book, The Good Food Revolution, a couple of months ago. Good to know too that the First Lady has visited Growing Power several times and is pushing these important principles.

    Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out. - Vaclav Havel

    by citisven on Wed Sep 05, 2012 at 02:48:13 PM PDT

    •  Will Allen (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Will Allen was the featured speaker at the first meeting of Boston's urban farming initiative last Fall.  It was pretty much a standing room only crowd.  He is indeed an impressive man who has done great work, not only in Milwaukee but also in Chicago and Detroit.

      If we are going to build an ecological world, it is going to start with growing our own food.  Besides it's fun and tastes much better than anything you can get from a supermarket.

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

      by gmoke on Wed Sep 05, 2012 at 02:55:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yup, it is indeed more fun and tastier (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        people often forget that living in tune with nature's rhythm is not only better for our bodies, but our souls.

        Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out. - Vaclav Havel

        by citisven on Wed Sep 05, 2012 at 03:42:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nature's Rhythm (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Hard to hear over the 60 cycle hum.

          Of course, we were born for this planet, this natural world, shaped over millions of years to rely on the sun and all the processes it powers.

          Perhaps NNadir will deign to tell us how many exajoules of solar energy go into the food we eat.

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

          by gmoke on Wed Sep 05, 2012 at 03:55:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, given that you've bet the world's food... (0+ / 0-)

  , the planetary atmosphere and most of the world's higher mammals on the notion that we can all live in a solar powered nirvana - as you joined rather boldly with all those who would like to destroy the world's largest, by far, source of climate change gas free energy you surely don't need me to do this calculation.

            You must, with the rest of "Nuclear Free DKos," be a real genius, since you deign to represent large portion of the life's work of Glenn Seaborg worthless and beneath your exalted appreciation.

            There are, if you read it, lots of representations in the scientific literature, estimates of how much of the world's photosynthesis is devoted to human use.

            (If you don't read it, you can always ask a minor blogger on a backwater website to give you the answer.)

            Estimates seem to center at around 40-50%.

            Where I live, farm fields are actually being converted to solar PV sites, so this may change in the future to a higher number as we clear more and more forests, grasslands and other "useless" stuff.

            And then there's that tiny matter of the droughts.

            Happily, this will not impact yuppies very much, because of all the wonderful cityscape gardens, assuming of course, all that solar electricity we'll have to pump and drain lakes and rivers into cities.

            Heckuva job. You must be a very proud group over there at "Nuclear Free DKos" after you're long range efforts to destroy, the world's largest, by far, source of climate change gas free energy.

            Have a nice evening.

            •  Solar Powered Nirvana (0+ / 0-)

              We've always been a solar-powered nirvana.  We will always be a solar-powered nirvana.  Without sunlight, we can't exist.  Sunlight powers almost all biological life on this planet, directly or indirectly.  The amount of solar energy we use dwarfs the energy we count from all fossil fuels and your panacea, nuclear power.

              To answer the question which you deigned to respond to, thank you very much, but didn't deign to answer, Cornell agronomist David Pimentel confirmed my back of the envelope estimate of the amount of sunlight that goes into growing just the food we eat annually a number of years ago.  That number is on the order of at least three times the whole annual energy budget or something around 300 quadrillion btu's.  That's 316.51677 exajoules according to the online quad to exajoule calculator.

              About those droughts, they have shut down nuclear power plants around the world from time to time and will continue to do so until you and zombie Glenn Seaborg (no disrespect meant to that great scientist) produce a better design.

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

              by gmoke on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 08:32:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  The sun isn't powered by nuclear processes? (0+ / 0-)

                There is actually sufficient fissile and fertile resources on this planet to outlast the planet it's self. And the technology to do this, the IFR, this better technology was cancelled by... see if you can guess by who and for what reasons. And as for nuclear energy being a panacea, some one wrote a diary on just that subject. Who could that be I wonder?...

              •  Really? No kidding? (0+ / 0-)

                "We've always been powered by solar energy?"


                I thought that sort of statement was true only until the dawn of the 19th century, when less than one billion people lived short brutish lives generally.

                In any case, in case you missed it, genius wannabe, I wasn't talking only about food, although its coming absence will certainly be a matter of small concern to the same people anti-nukes in generally couldn't give a fuck about:   Poor people.

                I guess, by the way, that in all those lectures at MIT you attended - apparently nonetheless with a limited understanding of thermodynamics (or any other science) - you never grasped the simple division that is involved in the determination of "capacity utilization."

                While you prattle on that nuclear plants might shut for a few days because of temperatures - thus reducing their capacity factors by one or two percent - you give not a rat's ass that nuclear capacity factors around the world are all still close to 90% whereas your toxic, expensive and ineffective solar toys have a fucking hard time making it to 12%.   It's why the world can't frack hard enough to support your dangerous and deadly fantasies.

                (For the record - although it is clearly likely to exceed the reading level of the rote selective attention and scientific illiteracy of the murderous denizens of organizations like "Nuclear Free DKos" the question of climate's effects on electricity reliability in the current issue of Nature Climate Change.   You can access it in the Dewey Library.   Vulnerability of US and European electricity supply to climate change

                The text of the article states that all thermal power plants - including the gas and coal power plants couldn't fucking care less about and, on which they in fact depend will have their summer capacity reduced by as much as 19%.

                From the text of the paper, which I happen to have right in front of me right now:

                The summer average usable capacity of power plants with once-through or combination cooling systems is projected to decrease by 1216% (US) and 1319% (Europe) for the 2040s (for B1A2 SRES emissions scenario; Fig. 3a).
                I note that the reduction in summer capacity would still exceed the best capacity factor of a solar system in a desert during a drought.   I note with due disgust and moral outrage that our anti-nukes are working hard to make as many granaries as is possible into deserts so they can have solar farms where there were once food farms.

                But, of course, our "urban gardens" powered by pumped water will save the day, right?

                Do you ever tire of getting smug, delusional and indifferent to the plight of humanity?    Just asking...

                Some years back - while you were still handing out horseshit about "the future" of your stupid expensive toxic bourgeois toys and how they would save the world - I calculated using direct data which is still accessible the capacity utilization of the $700,000 solar PV system at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art  

                When I did that calculation, the capacity factor was 10.6% annualized.

                I mused about how much energy the system would produce over a putative 50 year life time, which wasn't very much.

                However the system did not make it 50 years.   It didn't make it 10 years.   It's failed.   It produced zero energy in the month of August 2012, and now qualifies, presumably as "electronic waste."

                Are you and your dumbelll pals at "Nuclear Free DKos" going to bicycle out to North Adams to make sure that the cadmium tellluride in this new waste heap is safely disposed of?

                I doubt it.    You'll just spew thermodynamic and moral garbage and nonsense about nuclear reliability

                And of course, we can be happy and thrilled that in this case, the money wasted on the solar fantasy only came out the budget for the arts, but more often than not, it is the poor, the helpless, the hungry who suffer for this bourgeois conceit.

                For the record, for anyone who can add and subtract, multiply and divide, nuclear energy - still the world's largest form of climate change gas free energy despite decades of rote fear, ignorance and superstition hurled at it by intellectual Lilliputians = is also still the form of electric generation with the highest capacity utilization.

                This may decrease, of course, as you and your pals in the fear, superstition and ignorance squad work to destroy the planet's rivers and atmosphere, but this merely makes you an arsonist who complains about the outbreak of fires.

                Heckuva job, anti-nuke..   Congratulations.   You must be very, very, very proud.

                Have a nice weekend.

                •  Sunlight (0+ / 0-)

                  Without sunlight there would be no life on this planet.  True since the beginning of time, true, in all likelihood, until the end of time.  That you can't see that is myopic in the extreme.  Nothing you can write will change that reality.  The sun goes out and we're gone.  That's it.

                  If you think I'm powerful enough to have stopped nuclear energy in its tracks, you are seriously deluded.  Just like you, I'm nobody important, another "third rate blogger at a backwater site" to use your words.  Beat up on me as much as you want but don't think that it's gonna make any difference in the world.  It's an easy way to pretend that you're actually doing something and much safer than confronting Exxon, BP, the Kochs, and the rest of the fossil fuel industry.

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

                  by gmoke on Sat Sep 08, 2012 at 10:45:26 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

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