Agroecology from A to Z

Adventures in Agroecology and Food Systems

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East New York Farms, Brooklyn, NY

When I was living in Ithaca, I was part of a graduate student group called New World Agriculture and Ecology Group (NWAEG). One of NWAEG at Cornell’s members, Megan Gregory, learned about about an innovative urban farming group through her research project in NYC, The Garden Ecology Project. In collaboration with local food justice groups, NWAEG at Cornell (a graduate student group) invited two youth interns and a staff member from East New York (ENY) Farms in Brooklyn to head up state and share the secrets of their success with us in s series of events on urban agriculture and food justice that we called “Urban Harvest”. ENY Farms has recently been profiled in the NY Times and is one great example of what people and communities are rolling up their sleeves and doing while other parts of the food movement are doing a lot of talking according to Erika Nicole Kendall’s recent article in Salon, America’s Food Debates are Just White Men Talking. Also, ENY Farms was also just featured in one of my favorite radio programs, Story Corps, with a series of interviews of urban farmers and food justice advocates in East New York. You can listen to all of the interviews on the ENY Farms YouTube channel.

Central NY’s food justice movement has been growing in recent years through individuals, churches, and non-profits like GreenStar Co-op. The movement has developed partnerships within Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension most notably through the Whole Community Project, Gardens 4 Humanity and Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities. We invited members of these projects to sit on a panel with our visitors from ENY Farms.

The next day, Southside Community Center hosted an all day event, Youth in Urban Agriculture and Community-Led Economic Development, and invited the community to come and hear about ENY Farms’ progress in creating the kind of food system they want to see. Youth interns from ENY Farms and Cornell students and Ithaca community members facilitated a visioning process where the community laid out the desired positive changes in the food system. Fun fact, our neighbor in Ithaca remembered when Eleanore Roosevelt came to town to the opening celebration of the Southside Community Center’s new building in 1938.

Updates: David Vigil is now the Director of ENY Farms, and although the Ithaca community misses her (a lot!) Kirtrina Baxter is doing food system work in Philadelphia.


Kirtrina Baxter, then director of Southside Community Center and Greenstar Community Projects


Cameal, youth intern with ENY Farms facilitating a community visioning session at Ithaca’s Southside Community Center


Musheerah, youth intern at ENY Farms facilitates a community visioning session at Ithaca’s Southside Community Center



Event organizers and guests taking some time to explore Fingerlakes gorges
L to R: Kirtrina, Musheera, David, Cameal, Jahi and Sam.

ENY Farms

It was really fun to host ENY Farms members at our home in Ithaca’s Northside neighborhood. Best potluck ever!


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Tierra Y Libertad Organization (TYLO), Tucson, AZ

During the 2012 Border Food Summit, I got to take an urban agriculture tour of Tucson where we visited the Tierra Y Libertad Organization and learned about their urban agriculture center and neighborhood projects. At the time, they were just starting up a tilapia aquaculture project.

From their Facebook page:

“Since 2001 TYLO has focused on building multiple examples of positive social change and community transformation in the barrios where we live. Work of the organization is carried out through a multi-tier model of grassroots community organizing and popular education that consists of four key programs: Barrio Sustainability Project, TYLO Freedom School, MAIZ, and the Migrant Rights Organizing Campaign!”

Recent projects include campaigns against liquor licenses (There are currently 41 permits in a 1 mile radius) and the creation of a Barrio Food Processing Center. I look forward to finding ways that Prescott College students can collaborate with TYLO in the future.


Mural from the alley behind TYLO


Mural from the alley behind TYLO


Mural from the alley behind TYLO


TYLO collaborates on this nearby garden at a church


TYLO collaborates on this nearby garden at a church

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Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm, Tucson, AZ

While attending the 2012 Border Food Summit in Rio Rico, AZ, I got to participate in an urban agriculture tour of Tuscon, where we visited Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm, a project of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. I’m so thrilled to see this innovative project featured on NPR today! You can learn more about the farm on their Facebook page and view some video I took of the tour where we learned about management of desert soils for vegetable production, chicken keeping, composting and a composting toilet pilot project.

As a manure-o-phile I’ll be closely following the news on the composting toilet project that Las Milpitas is participating in. Check out the urban agriculture blog [chik-uh n dik-shuh n] for more detail on this exciting project. I think making well-designed composting toilets legal in Pima County will provide a huge benefit in both water and soil conservation. My friend Sasha Kramer co-founded a non-profit in Haiti focused on composting human waste and using the finished compost for food production. If SOIL can safely compost human waste during a cholera epidemic, then composting toilets should be a viable option everywhere!

Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm September 2012

Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm September 2012

Urban chickens, a creative use of 5 gallon buckets

Urban chickens, a creative use of 5 gallon buckets


Keyhole bed preparation in desert soils (rain catchment in background)

Composting toilet pilot project, initial construction phase

Composting toilet pilot project, initial construction phase



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Prescott College Edible Campus Garden work day

We had a great turn out for the first work party of the fall semester and ended up getting a lot done:

Turned the compost
Sifted finished compost
Applied finished compost to winter plots (garlic)
Removed finished crops (corn)
Harvested tomatillos and dried beans
Put some beds to sleep for the winter

Thanks to everyone who showed up! I’m looking forward to our next work party.

Removing Hopi blue corn after harvesting

Sifting finished compost made from pre-consumer cafeteria kitchen scraps, horse manure and garden waste

Harvesting tomatillos to make room for chard seedlings

Applying finished compost and fresh alfalfa to a new bed that will be planted in garlic

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Tucson Village Farm: Farm based education for children

The recent Border Food Summit in Rio Rico, AZ included a full day tour. Erin Lingo and I chose the urban agriculture and local foods tour and visited a bunch of interesting projects in and around Tucson. I was really impressed with the Tucson Village Farm, check out what we learned from Leza Carter on the tour!


Leza Carter giving a tour of Tucson Village Farm
Photo credit: Erin Lingo


Student-made sign at Tucson Village Farm
Photo credit: Erin Lingo (that’s me photobombing)


Milk education cow (with working udder!) at Tucson Village farm
Photo credit: Erin Lingo


Tile mosaic fresco on healthy eating at Tucson Village Farm
Photo credit: Erin Lingo