URBAN AGRICULTURE



Design and management of an urban agriculture rests on organic practices and application of permaculture principles.  Organic production systems are inherently healthy, based on ecosystem nutrient recycling, composting, enlightened tillage, and avoidance of petro-chemical inputs.  Permaculture is a design philosophy that builds energy efficiency, wise resource use and both personal and community awareness into sustainable, long-term land management systems.

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Black Creek Urban Agriculture Project Master Plan, 2004.
(Click picture to enlarge)

 

 

Organic urban agriculture speaks directly to living more sustainably by helping to:
bullet diminish the ‘ecological footprint’ of food by producing healthy, good tasting food locally, without use of petro-chemicals, with minimum transportation requirements
bullet reduce green house gas emissions and improve air quality as biologically active systems, that also close waste loops by recycling organic wastes and rainwater 
bullet promote personal well-being, cultural expression, social discourse and understanding of natural processes by the very act of growing, marketing and

        distributing food from local sources
bullet provide local employment, significant learning and skills development opportunities 
bullet protect pockets of good farmland, and from a land-use planning perspective helps to retain land use diversity and biodiversity, that also act as a buffer for natural areas, and as such is entirely consistent with principles of Smart Growth and control of urban sprawl.
 
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 Intensive organic production at the Everdale Environmental Learning Centre

Traditional mixed-use farms have always been managed, in one manner or another, as production ecosystems.  Viewed as an ‘ecosystem’, known inputs (solar energy, water, nutrients, minerals, fuel, equipment, soil amendments, seed, animals, etc.) and outputs (grain, forage, hay and straw, vegetables, fruits, nuts, animals that provide eggs, milk and meat - and manure with spent bedding) are balanced through processes of recycling nutrients back to the land.  Producers (plants) and consumers (animals and people) ultimately rely on decomposers (bacteria, algae, fungi, actinomycetes and micro- and macro-invertebrates) in the soil.  What is crucial in organic systems are healthy biological processes and recycling of water and nutrients that are managed in a stable and balanced production ecosystem.

 

Organic market gardens are flexible in terms of production, marketing and distribution of food - which may be by CSA shares, wholesale, retail or direct to consumer, market sales, donations or any number of other means.  CSA, or ‘community supported agriculture’ is just one model where a farmer gets paid up-front at the beginning of the season, which entitles the purchaser to a ‘share’ or portion of the produce on a weekly or twice-weekly basis, typically about 24 weeks duration.

Use of petro-chemical inputs over the last 80 years or so, in form of synthetic pesticides and herbicides, hormone enhancers, and antibiotics, etc., resulted in astounding gains in quantity of production and control of pestilence, but often at the expense of widespread environmental degradation of soils, water, air and some production quality.  Today, biotechnology represents a further challenge that results in a bewildering array of environmental, social, moral, ethical and economic concerns.

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Organic production big time at Everdale, but small urban gardens are just as important.

Contemporary organic agriculture in rural areas and organic urban agriculture is not a return to old-fashioned farming methods, but is farming based on ecological principles.  This involves not only avoiding use of petrochemical-based and questionable biotechnological inputs that can degrade water and soil, disrupt ecosystem dynamics, and contaminate gene pools, but also building healthy relationships between trophic levels using proven organic techniques and applied ecological principles.  Sustainable agriculture recognizes that ‘everything is connected to everything else’, that ecosystem diversity controls pests and disease, and that nutrient recycling and composting is fundamentally necessary for ecosystem health and optimum soil fertility.  Crop rotations play a central role in controlling pests and disease and optimizing soil fertility, water is carefully managed, and proper tillage and cultivation based on both technique and timing are fundamentally important in managing the farm production ecosystem.  The laws of biology and principles of ecology on the farm, or anywhere, do not change but our understanding and application of them continues to evolve.  Organic agriculture begins with the management of healthy, productive, biologically-active soils and the conservation of soil resources.

 

 

The following is an excerpt from Black Creek Urban Agriculture Project Operational and Economic Feasibility, June, 2004.

Organic operations recognize that:

bullet healthy, biologically active soils are the primary resource needed to establish an organic agriculture,  
bullet nutrient, mineral and biological management through proper recycling of compost, animal wastes and/or green manures is central to maintaining healthy, productive soils, clean and safe water and air,
bullet the proper use of farm animals, large and small, often has a positive effect on farm operations,  
bullet crop diversity, strategically planned and rotated helps to control weeds, pests and disease, and gives rise to a healthy ‘permanent agriculture’ that can include annual intensive production, perennial vegetable beds, green manure crops (fallowing), greenhouses, orchardry, berry and nut culture, apiculture, and supporting habitat for beneficial insects and birds.  The farm ecosystem may be further diversified through aquiculture (fish) and mycoculture (mushroom production), season extension shelters, enhanced organic composting, and nutrient recycling regimes that use soil mixing facilities.  Or, the farm can be diversified along more traditional lines that emphasize fiber or biofuel production, hay, grain, and straw, and pasturage,
bullet the adjacent natural environment is protected and managed according to accepted principles of bioregional ecosystem management, and
bullet people who contribute receive both material sustenance and social benefits that build a ‘permanent culture’ on the land.  Social activities revolving around teaching and learning, research and education, on-farm experience and related employment including value-added processing, marketing and distribution, and opportunities to express cultural identity, eg. in community kitchens, work bees and workshops should also be part of farm operations.

Click to Open:
Black Creek Urban Agriculture Project Phasing Plan (jpg)
Black Creek Urban Agriculture Project Master Plan Report (edited) (PDF)
Drawings - Existing Conditions (jpg)
Drawings - Removals (jpg)
Drawings - Master Plan (jpg)


Projects List

C. Brad Peterson Environmental Management and Landscape Architecture often encourage clients to consider the value of organic production systems.  Brad Peterson designed the first permaculture farm plan in Ontario, the O’Sullivan Farm Plan near Arthur, ON, in 1988.  Since then Brad has worked on many projects where organic production and permaculture principles are expressed either very explicitly, or form a quiet but important supporting function to the project.

See the Sustainable Landscapes and Conservation Development and Property Environmental Management and Land Stewardship headings under the Projects page for projects based in Permaculture design.