A Local Urban Gardener

Kim Kunasek lives in the Phoenix Metro Area and has her own urban garden in her backyard. She has cultivated and tended to her garden to the point that she wants to share it with others. She decided to do this by joining a group of individual families who put on urban garden tours.  Over the years she has participated in many different urban garden tours and had hundreds of guests tour her garden.  Kunasek has a passion for gardening and growing edibles, plants that you can eat, and raising chickens. Kunasek and her garden were even featured in the Phoenix Home and Garden Magazine. Her garden started off with just plants and then grew to also have chickens as well as other animals. Check out her story.

Urban Farming in a Dorm Room: Part 2

In an earlier post I gave you some ways to participate in urban farming, if you live in a dorm room or an apartment. Urban farming in a door room is not hard and in order to prove it to you I am going to give you some examples of people who have participated in urban farming in someway in a dorm setting. Emily Lierle is a student at Arizona State University and she urban farms in her dorm room because she fell in love with agricultural farming over the summer. Lierle worked in Williston, North Dakota, an oil boom town, at the North Dakota State University Williston Research Extension Center as what she calls a “machinery girl”, which she says is basically a farmer.

Photo curtsy Emily Lierle

Photo curtsy Emily Lierle

She says that the research center takes “different varieties of plants and testing them out and tell farmers, that this is the best yield of corn variety.” She says that she got to work out in the fields some days and even planted potatoes and helped harvest some plants. Lierle says she enjoyed the experience and got to meet lots of people that she grew close with “It was just really nice cause like I’m usually in the concrete jungle, Phoenix, and I got to be out in nature.” She enjoyed everything being more laid back and being able to go out into a field and just be alone enjoying nature.

Emily Lierle

Lierle participating in the harvesting of potatoes
Photo curtsy of Emily Lierle

To reminder her of her summer experience Lierle has a few plants in her room. “I worked a lot with plants this summer and I was inspired to keep something in my room. I really wanted to keep basil but I can’t just eat basil” says Lierle.  “This summer I just learned how to take care of plants.” She learned how to care for different kinds of plants and likes they way they liven up the room. Lierle is now thinking about getting her Masters in Agriculture because of her experience over the summer.

Emily's Plants

Lierle’s Plants

Emily's Plants

Lierle’s Plants

Roommates Sarah Atchinson and Alex Scoville both participate in urban farming in their own ways, even though they live in a dorm. Atchinson has a few plants on her windowsill in her room and takes care of them because she enjoys it. “I like the idea of taking care of something other than myself, plus I think its nice to have some vegetation in a room, it adds a little color” she says.

Scoville regularly attends the Phoenix Public Market and says “Usually I go every Saturday, first of all it’s nice to wake up early in the morning and go grocery shopping, there’s a lot of people and music and lots of good smells.” She says one of her motivations for attending the farmers market is that she is supporting the local community by purchasing groceries and crafts there. She added that “there is something there for everyone.”

There are many ways to participate in urban farming when you live in a dorm room or apartment and these three women are only a few examples.

Urban Farming in a Dorm Room: Part 1

Many people who live in apartments or dorm room think that they cannot participate in urban farming, here are a few tips about urban farming in that situation.

There are a few things you can do:

1. You can always start your own kitchen/balcony/window seal garden. This is fairly easy to do, you can go to a home improvement store such as Home Depot or Lowe’s and purchase a pre-made kit.

2. You can also go to local farmers markets a purchase fresh produce, here is a list of local farmers markets in Arizona.

3. You can always volunteer at a local community garden or even buy your own plot to farm in.

Predators In Urban Farming

Recently, my chicken coop was attacked by a local neighborhood cat…this happened three times over the span of four days. We tried many things to keep the cat away but nothing seemed to work. The cat started off trying to pull different doors open to get in, when that did not work he became very determined to get inside and even pulled part of the wood paneling off the side of the coop to get in. In total we lost all but three of our chickens.

Currently we are in the rebuilding process, but to help protect your urban farm here are some tips about how to protect your urban farm from predators.

PHX Renews

PHX Renews

On September 21st, 2013 an organization called PHX Renews had what they called, an activation day. On this day, community members came together to rejuvenate a vacant lot on the northeast corner of Indian School Road and Central Ave, In Phoenix, Arizona.  This vacant lot, owned by Barron Collier Companies, is located at Steele Indian School Park.

Students from Barrett, the Honors College at the Arizona State University, Downtown Campus, as well as students from different high schools in the Phoenix Metro Area, including my Alma Mater, Xavier College Preparatory participated in the activation day. Some of these students worked with Hugo Medina, a local artist, to create a mural to make the space more visually appealing.

mural

Mural that students created with Hugo Medina

In addition to the mural, other volunteers helped to create community gardens in different areas on the lot including one organization, The International Rescue Committee. The IRC has their New Roots Garden ready for community volunteers to help tend to it. According to Nicky Walker, the Development Manager for the IRC,  they are “hoping to grow” into 15 acres.

She says that the garden is helpful for the refugees. They “have amazing knowledge about farming” says Walker. The garden is a part of Community Supported Agriculture, a program in which people can purchase memberships to receive fresh produce grown in the local garden. The refugees also sell some of the produce grown in the gardens at local farmer’s markets. Walker says that biggest thing they need right now is resources, “we have people who know and can work the land.”

IRC

Another organization that was a part of PHX Renews was the Valley Permaculture Alliance. Gail LaTour, A Valley Permaculture Alliance ambassador, said that their organization took part in PHX Renews  to inform people about their organization. She explained that they were trying to teach people “how to not depend on everyone else,” they want to teach people skills related to farming, such as chicken raising and basic cooking skills. The VPA has classes, training and demonstrations to help educate people.

The Valley Permaculture Alliance has many different events, including the upcoming Food Day and Tour De Coops. Food Day is “a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food” according to their website.

PHX Renews is an Part of a movement called Keep Phoenix Beautiful. This event brought community members together to help create a space for urban farming. Space in the community garden is now available for rent and I encourage people of the Phoenix Metro area to take part in this movement. For photos of PHX Renews check out my Flickr album.

What is Urban Farming?

Many people are confused about what urban farming actually is. This video gives a general description of  what exactly an urban farm is. Urban farms may be small, but they still can contain lots of resources that communities can share. They can also contain different farm animals such as chickens, goats, sheep, etc. There are many different types and sizes of urban farms, but they all contribute to the urban farming community. Many people believe that it is hard to become a part of the urban farming community, but most people can join in some way. There are a few things that can help kick start an urban farm such as planting a small garden or raising a few chickens.

My Urban Farming Experience

Baby Chicks

For the past few years urban farming has become a large part of my life and my community. I have learned many things about chicken farming, including gardening. Urban farming has become a trend that is starting to grow throughout the Phoenix Metro area. It involves many aspects, including backyard poultry, other animals, and backyard gardens.

Before I go on with my blog let me tell you a little bit of my background story. In 2010, my Dad brought home a dozen baby chickens for my 17th birthday. At this point we already had three cats, two bunny rabbits, and a baby tortoise, so adding more animals wasn’t a big deal. What I didn’t realize is that this would open up a whole new world for me, the world of urban farming.

Once, the chicks were old enough to become free range, we built a coop to house them and started spending more and more time outside, creating a garden that we could potentially eat from. We started eating more fresh vegetables and organic eggs, something that I never expected to happen.

Our flock of chickens continued to grow and at some point we had over twenty-five chickens, four roosters, and two ducks. The roosters produced an alarming amount of baby chicks, which is how the name of my blog came about, Populating The Community. Because there were so many chicks, we started giving them away to any good home that would take them.

I decided to write this blog because I wanted to learn more the community that I had joined when my Dad brought home these chickens. There are now several organizations such as Valley Permaculture Alliance and Grow House that are around to support and promote urban farming. I will be writing about these organizations in the future.

I hope to gain more insight about urban farming and share it with the world so that others can learn about these organizations. I would like to find and share resources such as, Urban Sustainable Living Magazine, for readers to learn more about urban farming.