Monday, April 30, 2012

My Sheepskin from Benjamin Moore!

Certificate of Completion

Leeann Lavin
Has successfully completed the course listed below:


Title: Color Pulse
IDCEC Course Number: 40030 CEUs .1
AIA Course Number – BM40030 CEUs 1.0
Designation: General Knowledge
Instructor/Author: Andrea Magno

Date of Issue: April 26, 2012

Andrea Magno
Manager, Designer Segment
Benjamin Moore & Co.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Home Renovation Diary

The color composition was finally coming together:  

We’d tried close to a dozen different color chips/swatches on the walls.  
And re-tried a few more -- and still more.  

I adore that Dorothy Draper at the Greenbriar look. 


The decorating diva recommended thinking about the way a room looks from within – as well as from adjoining spaces.

So I did.
I viewed the passages as frames that make each successive wall area pop – especially when viewed as a whole composition.
Getting there with the Draper inspiration

We changed the color of the dining room and sitting room area to a Martha Stewart paint.  Martha Stewart  

Truth was I was trying to match the view from our perch overlooking the water in the Highlands.  
We are blessed to see the sun rise on the northeast, right side windows and the sunsets, often looking like a low hanging, giant orange, on the left side. 
The gorgeous sunrise was the image I shared a few blog posts back.

I was also inspired by a Tiffany bracelet– you know – the new Rubedo Tiffany & Co. line the storied jewelry maker introduced this spring that touted the sunrise, saying it is a “Tiffany metal that captures the rose luminescence of a sunrise.”  Ahhh, be still my heart.
It’s a blend of gold and rose.  Sounded divine. 
While Home Depot couldn’t match the bracelet on the spectrograph, I did find the Martha Stewart Precious Metals line there. The color Sherbet is perfect I thought – goldish with spice/orange smiling through.  Very nuanced. Very rich. 

We loved the way the sample punched up and complemented the other colors and the heroic mirror I purchased from the Cosa Nostra, Genovese family estate sale.  

This paint decision would prove to “controversial.”

Troubles started with the color finishes! 
Most of the painters we interviewed wouldn’t go with anything other than a flat Benjamin Moore. Don’t get me wrong, I am enchanted by their Benjamin Moore Color Stories  and will attend the BJ Colour webinar this week.
I just wish the painters would embrace the full palette of colors and finishes as opposed to the oh-so-common flat, safe colors. 

Repeatedly, I kept hearing the house painter’s admonishment, “You have to have this or you won’t be able to wash the walls.”
This seemed so odd and jangled with my lifestyle but couldn’t put my finger on it.
Finally when I repeated this Painterly Commandment to my girlfriends, the one exclaimed, “Who the F--- washes their walls?!!”
Enough said.
I was back to asking for a paint with a higher sheen – around 7% or so.
I am in love with Farrow & Ball – their high depth paint colors and quality because they use natural pigments and low or minimal VOC.

The super, sensitive painter Roy, Royal Painters, was initially cool to the idea of working with paint sheen like this – but did agree.
And so we agreed to work with him.  (For other reasons too, of course, but this was key.)
He also agreed, reluctantly but adventurously, to working with the Martha Precious Metals paint.

He also eyed me somewhat suspiciously (or was that malice in his eye?!) when I told him I was going to be putting up a swath of skeletal leaves on the wall.
Under the paint.
To give the wall the illusion that leaves had just blown in. scattered-like effect.

The thing is the paint is so thick (later I learned there is a kind of “glue” in it, according to the artist who is doing an original, artful wall color transition).

The garden dining room and sitting area and loft were first up.

The BJ blue-green of the loft turned out perfect right out of the gate. The color seemed to pull in the see and the sky just beyond.  

The Martha Precious Metals paint, on the other hand, had a rather difficult birth.  
It was thick, yes, but dried quickly and the small, special roller that was recommended didn’t allow Roy to move fast enough to get the paint on without long roadway lines up and down the architecturally soaring walls.
Further, after the first coat, the color was Bright orange: pumpkin!  Yikes.
This wasn't even the same family as the Pantone color of the year!  Where was our princess?

Later, while discussing the issue with Roy, we determined the color was “puddling” due to the concentration of color ¾ the angled ceilings were painted the Sherbet color too, you see, probably causing the intense color correction. 

Soooo, I thought and thought about this while looking up.  I suggested we paint those angled walls/ceilings with the same Gypsy Moth, light, light salmon color – looks whitish in some light.
We’d been “told” to paint only the flat-topped areas as ceilings so the angles were considered walls, not ceilings.

So, the primer went back on, the Gypsy Moth ceiling color went on. 

Then we tried two of our earlier paint choices on the wall to see if the change in paint would in fact be better - especially in a room with so much natural light.  

Yuck.  The terra-cotta and gold I initially liked looked so lifeless and drab compared to the Sherbet Precious Metals - even in its comprised state.  
It Glows! Precious Metals Sherbet on Wall & chip

"Roller Roy" has the advantage!
Further, Roy determined it was time to make an educated, professional decision and change the roller.  I agreed. We had to try.  Roy secured an 18” roller that had similar longish lamb’s wool threading that help make the fauxish finish. 

I was upstairs writing and working while Roy and Herman worked downstairs.  On the day when we expected that room to be finished, it was like waiting for the birth announcement.  Nerve-wracking.
When Roy called me to come down, I was nervous. This was almost our last ditch effort to make it work.  My husband had thrown up his hands long ago on this issue saying, “Just paint it all blue.” 
But I had faith – there had been those glimmers on the shorter wall and I believed we could overcome the problems.  Sort of…

When I walked into the room, Roy was looking at me for the reaction, much like the TV show Home Improvement where the host yells, “Move that truck!”

I looked.  I held my breath and my heart.  It was glorious!  The light was streaming in from all sides, rendering the walls a burnished gold, spice color! 
There was depth, nuance, and a richness.  It reflects and refracts, and changes throughout the day and evening. 

Oh happy day. 
Good things come to those who wait….

And to those who have a good, patient and fellow home décor explorer as a partner. 
Roy was justifiably proud. 
And now, he recognized that he could add to his portfolio of color and texture treatments for other clients…
Win, win, win.

I love it.

The other colors went on with no battle scars. 
The creamy yellow looks classic and happy next to the dark wood of the kitchen cabinets.  
And I can’t wait to see it next to the reupholstered living room furniture fabric. 
The Farrow & Ball Organery next to the fireplace stone is stunning and so spot on.  
The Dix Blue in the hallow captures the filtered light of the front door, offering a sky-like backdrop for the sparkling stars that dance on the walls there.  
It’s very special…

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Urban Agriculture Panel Discussion at the Hort

After the keynote speaker, Thomas Fox delivered the morning’s compelling and informative talk that was based on his recently released book, Urban Farming: Sustainable City Living in Your Backyard, in Your Community, and in the World

Following a delicious, healthy lunch and happy plant talk among the sold-out attendees, the Panel discussion swung into a spirited, enthusiastic showcase of some of the City’s best, most successful urban farmers.

Moderated by Camilla Hammer, farm manager of Battery Urban Farm, The Panel Stars were:

Phyllis Odessey, Director of Horticulture, Randall’s, Island Park
Eun Young Sebazco, Horticulture Manager Randall’s Island Park
Britta Riley, CEO and Founder, Windowfarms
Erika Brenner, Farm Educator, Dekalb Farm
Annie Novak, Founder and Director, Growing Chefs
Zach Pickens, Farm Manager, Riverpark Farm at Alexandria Center

Each panelist provided a thumbnail overview of their work, most accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation to visually illustrate their unique contribution to the growing urban landscape.

Hammer introduced the panel part of the program, saying, “I once thought urban farming was just farming in a city.  But ooohhh nooo!” she said, with what could be a playful roll of the eyes.
She learned all are very different from one another.

Like children or snowflakes, there is a distinct personality inherent in every urban agriculture enterprise.

Brenner described Battery Park Conservancy’s first season, last year and the 800 students who were enrolled in the program that was supposed to be a two-year effort but now plans are underway to have ten schools learning composting and working a Historic Dutch Garden.

Phyllis and Eun Young described how together, with their team, have designed and maintained lush gardens and recreational areas at Randall’s Island Park where youth can play sports.  In 2007 they earned the Perennial Plant Association’s Honor Award for the Water’s Edge Garden on Randall’s Island.  In addition they showed how they produced 35 edible garden beds for the school children to grow food including organic vegetable such as Dragon carrots, Bambino Eggplant and Little Gem Baby Romaine, and fruiting shrubs producing 820 pounds of food they brought to a soup kitchen in East Harlem and the “little French nuns who run it.” 
The rolling pig compost “Pig” brought lots of approving smiles from the audience.

The two urban garden specialists also launched the city’s first apple orchard.  

But it was the duo’s launch of the city’s first rice paddy that elicited the audience’ oohs and ahhs, signaling their delight and discovery and respect for this creative urban gardening initiative. 
They showed how the came up with the concept: Eun Young’s extended family offered support and best practices; the building of the water garden, the harvesting, including the threshing.  Celebrity chef, David Chang of Momofuku was contacted and was just as enchanted and immediately offered to support and partner with recipes and cooking demonstrations for the children. 
Next exciting food opp?  Look out for sugar cane!

Windowfarms’ Britta Riley is dubbed a “social entrepreneur, technology designer and artist.”  True, but she’s also an inventor, a gardener, an educator, a catalyst and all round “Green” angel or prophet.  She is friendly and eager to share her story and her inventions, demonstrating and teaching how to go about becoming a powerful urban farmer even if one has zero real estate… 
Windowfarms' Britta Riley

She passed around elements of her “vertical hydroponic garden for growing food in your window” so we could see and examine the ingredients and parts of this alternative growing container.  

They look like glass beakers – but more mid-century designed look that escalate or cascade and with a constant, readily available water supply.  Genius. She even offered a 10% discount!  To learn more: Windowfarms

Erika Brenner, Food 360 is a farm to table job training program that is a partnership between Dekalb Market, Market Share, and FamilyCook Productions.
Brenner’s success story started, in fact, at last year’s Urban Agriculture Conference where with nothing more than a piece of paper, she heard great stories and was inspired to take the leap and start the career training. Just like that. Brenner took the leap.  “Just do it!” she said.  

She showed some great images of the challenges and results she and her team have produced.  

She advocates for the most diverse audience – those that have a passion for food, and to transform areas where a difference can be made. To learn more about getting a career on: Food 360

A lot has been written about Annie Novak, head farmer and co-founder of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn and gardener with the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) Children’s Gardening Program.  I have been one of those observers and bloggers covering her lectures and forays. 

She is the Founder and Program Director of Growing Chefs Growing Chefs
She is also a recognized force of nature.  

“Food is the most exciting part of what she does. She talked about recognizing it’s not so much about food access as it is about food quality. 
She also talked about food security and practical tips for making a sustainable roof garden – from roof access to watering to egress to weight load to sun exposure to soil and growing media (she uses Rooflite: 40% compost and 60% expanded shale and clay.)

She amused the audience with her reference to utilizing natural pollinators, including honey bees, and chickens and rabbits to facilitate compost. “IT’s a very closed look system.”
She supplies food education and inspiration. 

Last up was Zach Pickens, Riverpark Farm (and by the way, how perfect a name is “pickens” for a farmer – urban or agrarian?!)

Pickens explained that while his urban farm is no less of a challenge than the other farms presented, his is different because it exists as For-profit.  It must profitably grow produce for  Riverpark A Tom Colicchio Restaurant  in Kips Bay.  With wonderful views of the East River on one side, the restaurant boasts the raised bed working edible garden on the other side, growing seasonal foods for the kitchen and chefs.

Pickens says his work is not about education per se, as the other panelists, but he has a lot to teach.
The edible garden is built on a stalled site” meaning it is a commercial real estate project that hasn’t been able to be completed due to the lack of financing.

In the meantime, a garden grows and the city is all the better for it.

There are now more than 600 such stalled sites that have morphed into gardens.

Pickens says he gets to be creative and admits he counts on GrowNYC as a consultant.

Started in September 2011, he showed the before and after images of the garden and working farm and the event space it has become.  It’s beautiful.

Pickens shared a few amazing metrics from the farm at Riverpark:  they employ two farmers (that is one more than Pickens!), the area is 15,000 square feet of which they use only half at the present time, they grow the food in 3,500 milk crates that have been converted into planters!
They have produced more than 3,000 pounds of produce just in the first five months, including 20 winter crops, made possible by the urban location’s micro climate – and most exciting: within 500 feet of the restaurant’s kitchen!
A chef’s dream. 
I’ve met Riverpark’s chef and partner, Sisha Ortuzar, at one of the Greenmarket food benefits, and I could only imagine how inspiring this “carton to kitchen” farm is to his fresh, seasonal cuisine!

Pickens explained how they produced the innovative, simple and easy-to-make milk crate gardens. They line the crates with landscape fabric and staple it.
They then fill with potting mix (about $5.00 per crate).

“It’s mobile and modular,” said Pickens, showing images of how they can readily move the crates that are placed on wheelies.  “We had zero loss with Hurricane Irene – because we just moved everything inside,” he beamed.

Pickens charmed the audience with his description of developing unique tools for a unique farm.
Think ‘duct tape’ American innovation when it came to their ideas to improve efficiency for seeding, harvesting and bed prep.  He stuck or grafted a hand cultivator on a handle! 
Seriously. NASA could’ve used this plucky, resourceful manager!
He said he got the seeder from Johnny’s Seeder and was always inspired by Eliot Coleman.  “He’s my bible,” Pickens declared.  

That homage goes up in spades for all serious gardeners. 
We love Eliot and Barbara and Four Season Farm  
It almost seems as if the couple is pure garden magic – and love.

A rather lively Q&A followed the panelist’s presentations.

The biggest takeaway here was it seemed that most agreed that there is no substitute for horticultural knowledge based on formal education and training.  Go with a passion and an idea, but at the same time, invest in the study of horticulture.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How Does a Chef Do Science? - 92nd Street Y - New York, NY

How Does a Chef Do Science? - 92nd Street Y - New York, NY

This is the link to my first lecture for my book, "The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook" at the very prestigious 92nd Street Y!

Can you believe it?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Last week to see the Orchids at The New York Botanical Garden

Talk about eye candy!

Celebrating its 10-year milestone this year, the ever-popular horticultural show at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) is a sight for winter-weary eyes.
It’s akin to stepping from the world of black and white to color ¾ think Dorothy whirling and whipped to a froth from her two-tone farm in Kansas to the dazzling colored world beyond the rainbow and you kind get the thrilling sensual sensation of entering a portal into another world. 

Words are hard to come by to describe the star-studded beauty of the horticultural display.  It does leave you breathless.

While the world of orchids is stunning and the display gardens reminds us how much we adore the exotic and curious other-world of plants, the French artist and botanist, Patrick Blanc, along with the NYBG curators also deserve more than a few awards for determining how to set up and showcase this superb celebration of the plant world’s answer to Tiffany’s that so capture our imaginations. And our hearts.

Blanc is French. So there is more to love there and his winking insight to the botanic garden show is charming  

I saw the show being set up – and even that was an amazing site: it was a behind the scenes peek into the vertical magic being created.

And while orchids are found on every continent, you won’t see anything anywhere like Patrick Blanc’s Vertical Gardens NYBG Orchid Show at the Garden’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory  

The show is a wonder and a must-see – even though it’s the last week of the show, the experts at NYBG know how to keep the plants as pristine as opening day, rotating any recalcitrant orchid divas out with fresh, new ingénues. 
Any not at all like the Philadelphia Flower Show this year.  I have it on the best authority that the tropical theme this year seemed to create plant fatigue.  So the displays were less than spectacular which is a whispered disappointment to those who expect the very best from this fairy godmother of all plant shows…

And as Donna Summer once sang, this is your last chance for love, your last chance for romance...

The romance of Orchid Evenings, that is. 

Friday April 20, 6:30 to 9pm is the last of the Orchid evenings.

This is where the fantasy really takes flight…
You can enjoy a signature cocktail, elegant beauty, and music.
That is some swanky razzamatazz.

The Vanilla Ginger Moon cocktail is a dreamy confection created for Orchid Evenings by the new Bar in Dylan’s Candy Bar
The cocktail is a sweet brew of plants that know how to party, including corn whisky, Liquor 43  -- that is a vanilla extracted from orchids – plus 42 other botanic flavors such as citrus, fruits, herbs and spices. (you do the math!)

One of the best write-ups for the NYBG Orchid show was blogged by my garden friends at Garden Bytes from the Big Apple  
The two Ellen’s are hort experts and writers – and if that is not Linked-In enough worthy, they are oh, so much more. 

If you love plants, the art of the garden and solid hort advice, you will find their blog a stimulating and informative destination.

Visit the Garden or visit the website if you are not lucky enough to be able to visit this gem of a cultural institution.

Visit NYBG this week.  Instagram the show (see NYBG notations) and Pin me at Gardens I love:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Urban Agriculture Conference at The New York Horticultural Society

Love and urban agriculture have so much in common.

Think about it.

Just like the early stages of love – meaning there is the flirtatious gamble on exciting, new confrontations, the early passion, and the-where-have-you-been-all-my-life affirming commitment – so it is not off the mark to read the opening sentence on the flyer for The Horticultural Society of New York’s (HSNY)
recent conference on Urban Agriculture where it posits the question, “Is Urban Farming here for the long haul, or just the latest iteration of a ‘back to the land’ reflex that occurs whenever the nation or economy is threatened?” to see the parallelisms of love and urban farming and long-term relationships.
This manifesto of sorts could be the opening salvo of an online dating strategy.   (Substitute You for Urban Farming and back to the land for the steady lover and you catch the drift!)

But when it comes to Urban Ag, HSNY is all business.  They are no one-night stand!  The organization rightfully claims they have been cultivating urban gardeners since 1902 – so they are the Oprah-like poster child of long-term commitment and can claim a home field advantage on this subject.
Urban Agriculture Conference

It was an energized, cosmopolitan-peppy, sold-out audience that filled the Hort’s midtown headquarters for the all-day educational and entertaining event. 
Anticipation fairly crackled as attendees greeted one another -- eagerly embracing the too-early (i.e. hot) spring – and each other -- while serving up the healthy breakfast provided by The Hort. 
Overheard clutches of conversation were riffs on the themes: “Can you believe the herbs are up already?” to “There’ll be hell to pay with the ‘bugs’ this summer” to “My clients think we should start planting annuals now!” and “Does anyone need more proof of climate change??”       
All rather natty horticulture exchanges, don’t you think?

The Urban Ag Conference Line Up

The day’s agenda was a “Who’s Who” of urban farming and gardening. 
As an aside, does one read a difference in those terms or is the urban environment where the two acts: gardening and farming are rendered two sides of the same coin?

George Pisegna, Director of Hort, Introduces Conference at The Hort
George Pisegna, Director of Horticulture and the genius who toils to put these fascinating programs together opened up the Conference.  

Thomas Fox, Keynoter and author of “Urban Farming: Sustainable City Living in Your Backyard, in Your Community, and in the World,” (available at Amazon and on the Kindle. I got that version) was the ideal candidate to address the audience with his talk:
Urban Farming in 2012:  Anything New Under the Sun?”

Following a delicious and equally healthy lunch was the Panel Discussion, moderated by Camilla Hammer, Farm Manager, Battery Urban Farm The Battery Conservancy

Panelists: Erika Brenner, Farm Educator Dekalb Farm
Annie Novak, Founder and Director, Growing Chefs
Phyllis Odessey, Director of Horticulture, Randall’s Island Park
Eun Young Sebazco, Horticulture Manager, Randall’s Island Park
Britta Riley, CEO and Founder, Windowfarms
Zach Pickens, Farm Manager, Riverpark Farm at Alexandria Center 

Tom started the book in 2001; finished it in 2010. 
His talk was as much about the making of the book as it parallels the evolution of the world of urban farms as it was about the state of urban farming.

The moniker “urban farming” didn’t even exist when he started his research and writing, he said.

There was a Brooklyn rooftop farm, and the first urban CSA and pretty much nothing else.  His research took him from no material to everyone’s doing it, with urban farming-as-phenomena.

His book opens with the Google search results that go from three to thousands…

So what is creating this new status of urban framing?
Tom outlined what’s driving Urban Ag, with the starting gate of 2011:

1. The attacks on the World Trade Center caused many New Yorkers to move away. He cited a friend who relocated to Atlanta and subsequently felt drawn “back to the land.”  But then she also realized “food as crop” and was dissatisfied, nay disgusted with the choice of perishable food being offered for sale.   
She asked, “Is this the legacy we want to leave to our children?”  She came to farm her food.

2. Wars and economic problems  - there is precedence of this crisis that leads to gardening. Think Victory Gardens. The recent recession jumpstarted the practice of urban gardening.  In any economic crisis there is a want (need?) to grow our own food to save money.

3. China and the World Trade Organization –First we lost a lot of jobs when we stopped being the people who made things with our hands, leaving that to China and things like food here became cheap.

4.  Climate Change – It rains less frequently but more intensely and this is bad for agriculture.  Climate change will continue and will only get worse.  Tom said we can see the affects climate change has created and called out proof of its consequences in an article he found in an insurance industry press story on this – noting it was not covered in the popular press.
This discovery caused quite a stir in that business is already baking the climate change element into their spreadsheets and yet the mass population is not even accepting the fact that climate change exists! 
Moreover, there is a land grab presently going on in Africa, according to Tom.
Rain-fed cropland is already being farmed. Now, so many resource-poor countries are buying up millions of acres to lock in their land insurance for growing food. 
The land grab effort underscores a country’s insecurity.

Tom continued: The Slow Food movement started in Europe and like past immigrants, soon made its way to the US.
The organization is a grass roots effort to promote local food traditions and to combat industrial and unsafe food practices.

In 2003 Europe reacted to its Mad Cow disease but scientists still can’t figure out where the cow came from due to the complicated fabric of cross-networked food sources.
Now the Slow Food movement is making its way to China in reaction to its health scares and as a partial solution to that country’s food scandals, including salmonella outbreaks in eggs there – that are shipped elsewhere…

“It’s all very disturbing,” lamented Tom.  “All these examples point up the precariousness of our food supply.”

Part of the allure of urban farming is to reclaim the food supply.

Food Mantra

Food is radical. Food is power.
“This is a mantra that can be applied to most every urban farming experience,” claims Tom. “If you don’t control the food, you don’t control life.”

Most of this country’s “life” or food – comes from California’s Central Valley, and Latin and South America.
But, Tom suggests, fruits and vegetable can be grown locally. 
At this point, he noted the rice that was grown at Randall’s Island.
We’d learn more about this successful, revolutionary urban farming experience later from Eun Young and Phyllis – the Randall’s Island food farming heroines and geniuses behind this brave and creative experiment.

From a perspective of cultural anthropology, Tom pointed out the history of how farming changed mid-century -- after World War II.
At that time, it was considered a favor to get people off the farm. Working with one’s hands is wonderful yes, but tough.
Here, Tom showed a Gifford Pinchot sign he came across that celebrated this notion: getting farmers out of the mud and onto paved roads!

As in ‘preaching to the choir, Tom said the pendulum has swung the other way – and we now have nearly every city practicing urban farming.

There are generations of kids who have been exposed to growing their own food through the efforts of passionate citizens and organizations including public parks: i.e. Randall’s Island, botanic gardens, and GreenMarkets.  “Often, these kids go off to become professional farmers,” said Tom.  

Cities have built-in advantages, he said.  There is the ‘heat-island’ affect that can extend the growing seasons. 
In addition, cities can offer protection from winds and provide ready access to technology to better implement farming approaches such as hydroponics, and drip irrigation and greenhouses and window farms.
“In many ways, urban farms are more efficient than rural areas.”
He cited Lake Mead where the water levels have been steadily dropping due to less than average snowfall feeding the Colorado River.  Can’t miss that bathtub ring badge of water loss.

The Ogallala aquifer supplies 30% of the country’s total irrigation water and yet its waters have been so tapped that the trees there are drying up, Tom noted.
This aquifer, by the way, nourishes the “breadbasket of America” and has been dragged back unwillingly into the news recently because there are those who argue to allow the construction of the Keystone pipeline to carry oil to the Houston refineries from Canada, thereby increasing the risk, to say the least, for environmental disaster and loss of food security.  Does anyone remember the Gulf oil spill? 

And India has frequent blackouts due to the strain put on the grid by the overwhelming use of water pumps needed to extract water…  


OK, so the audience was already sold on the idea of urban farming, and were spellbound by the history and stories of farming romance engendered by working with the land…

Now the pragmatics were wondering about that place where the road hits the rubber, er, tractor tire.

How much money can one expect to make or how much yield will urban farming produce??

Tom says 20-30 pounds of tomatoes and cited Gotham Greens and others who claim they can earn $50K on a half-acre to 100 tons of produce yield from one-third acre. 
It all depends on the way the land is farmed. 
Shanghai, for example has a population of 23 million and produces 90% of its eggs and 50% of its chickens and pork, and more than two metric tons of wheat and rice.   “Something to aspire to,” he noted.

New York has 52,000 acres of back yards. 
An exciting development is “Distributed Farms” – where farmers do a lot of work on homeowners’ space who set aside land for farmers to work their land, with the homeowners having shares – similar to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  This could be a Home Supported Agriculture or a HAS!

Further, New York City has 14,000 un-shaded rooftop that can be farmed. This can also be considered an added advantage for building owners and landlords because the rooftop farms offer insulation that can benefit heating and cooling costs.

There is 11,000 acres of brownfields and vacant lots in NYC. 
Riverpark – celebrity chef Tom Colicchio’s Kips Bay restaurant overlooks a garden that was a “stalled” commercial development and is a good example of this enterprise.

In general, it was noted edibles can be grown in containers and raised beds to safeguard against ground pollutants, as is done at Riverpark’s farm.

Just look around – food can be grown most everywhere: in community gardens, patio containers and windowsills and on fire escapes – (the last being illegal, of course, and shouldn’t be promoted as a place to grow anything.)

Talk about Job Creators

Unlike some big shots, who claim they know business only to lay off workers or shut down plants, farming on the other hand does indeed generate jobs. 
Tom said it is a difficult metric to determine, but delighted the audience not only with his research and results, but also in his sheer pluckiness in finding the data in a Kellogg Foundation Report from which he extrapolated his work.

So here it goes:  The USDA says for every $1 million in sales, 13 jobs per million are created so therefore, urban farming can expect to provide 13,000 jobs! 
Major cities that can contribute to urban farming jobs are Detroit, San Francisco, Boston and New York that combined are one-third of the US population. 
“It’s an Agricultural Disneyland” Tom declared. 

How to Foster an Agricultural Disneyland – and get a Tool Library!

No “Land of the Future” amusement here, rather buying locally grown food and encouraging local restaurants that support local farms. 
“It is a great cachet for the restaurants,” said Tom.  “And many of the chefs get to help determine what’s grown – so they get an exclusive” to offer to the customer.

Another way to get urban farming going is to recognize zoning laws need to change.  City planners need to consider the height of buildings; consider having limits not apply to greenhouses.  “We could be looking at 12,000 acres of commercial rooftop use for farms,” noted Tom.

Our goal should be 15% of our food supply be grown in our own breadbasket. We can even grow apples -- just like they do on Randall’s Island, he observed.  

“Start with vegetables as opposed to livestock, “ grinned Tom while offering another tip to get urban farming in place.
Push for more community gardens and farmers markets with Tool Libraries as GrowNYC has.

Tool Libraries? 
What a great idea.  Tool libraries lend the garden instruments needed to till the land and can reduce overhead costs for start up efforts.

Another kick-starter is to allow for cottage industries.  For example, the Bronx Community Farm wanted to sell their produce but didn’t have a way to do business with a GreenMarket.  But after the city lent a hand, the Farm can now sell food commercially and make money to fund their operations.

Sure to enable urban agriculture is to support Farm to School programs to promote nutrition, careers, etc. 
Note: many master chefs recognize cooking is transformative – they work diligently for children’s gardening programs including chefs that are featured in this Examiner’s book, Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook
For example, chefs Bryan Futerman and Joe Realmuto build greenhouses and teach cooking and sponsor fundraising for their Spring Seedlings Project they spearheaded in 2008 to teach kids about growing their own food and quality of what they cook and eat.

Here’s a nice story about their efforts in the East Hampton Patch:

Chef Bill Telepan’s Wellness in Schools (WITS) helps city schools produce healthy menus. Other Celebrity chefs, including Marcus Samuelson, lend a hand to teach and train school kitchen staffs. WITS aims to foster “healthy eating, environmental awareness and fitness as a way of life for kids in NYC public schools.

What’s on the Horizon?

When asked what’s new under the sun, Tom delivered on the keynote’s headline provocation and didn’t hesitate to say he thinks there is great momentum, there are more ways to engage and to complement traditional agriculture along with plenty of ways to be sustainable. 
He also offered examples of successful Distributed Networks and shared the fact that Bryerson in Canada has a Distance Learning program.

He believes the future of urban construction and urban farms will be part and parcel of each other.  Urban farms will have become part of the construction building criteria and lexicon.

Agri-Tourism will become a popular form of travel entertainment, too.

For more information from Tom and his world of Urban Farming, visit his website:

Tom Fox, author & Urban Ag Conference Keynote Speaker

Next up is the Panel Discussion review filled with insight and tips from “some of the most productive and innovative projects in the city’s urban farming community,” as profiled in The Hort’s flyer.
They should know.