The founders of Seeding Galveston are experienced in urban farming, community gardening, animal husbandry and community organizing. Considerable input from past and current gardeners at Deborah’s Community Garden, area Master Gardener’s and the expert staff at Urban Harvest in Houston was elicited as a plan was developed to establish a series of gardens throughout the Island when residents can buy locally grown food at reasonable prices, make wiser, more nutritious food choices, reduce the community’s carbon footprint, and enhance the security of the neighborhoods by eliminating unused vacant lots.
Research in high yield farming and crop rotation on relatively small lots (even less than an acre) suggests that such urban farms, properly managed, can generate as much as $100,000 in crop value each year, utilizing Galveston’s year-round growing season. At least 25 per cent of that yield could be donated back to the community either directly or through low-cost vending. Community members could also become involved with the work of the farm and earn produce shares.
To that end the founders, John Sessions and Debbie Berger, have incorporated Seeding Galveston as a non-profit corporation with 501(c)(3) status pending.
There is ample precedence for this, both globally and close to home.
During the past decade, community gardens and urban farm projects have grown exponentially throughout the United States. These projects provide nutritious food for the needy, bring communities together in a shared endeavor, provide a “value added” element to cities that open up vacant lots to urban farm use, increase a community’s green space, boost ecological stewardship, educate the public on both farming and nutritional “best practices,” and encourage related entrepreneurial businesses.
There is hardly an urban community, large or small, that is not considering the urban farm concept in some format. For example, in Austin, where city council enacted landmark legislation slightly more than a year ago in support of urban farming, there are no fewer than eight separate organizations that operate urban farms throughout the city. In the Bronx, Community Connections for Youth developed community gardens as a way to engage youth who were at-risk for becoming high school dropouts and involved in crime.
An organization in Melbourne, Australia, 3000 Acres, envisions turning all of the unused lots, rooftops, carparks and other open spaces into green growing areas. The city of Milwaukee publishes a handbook to help residents turn vacant and abandoned lots into gardens, parks or other useful spaces. And the Distributed Urban Farming Initiative in Bryan, Texas, was singled out as one of five model projects highlighted for last year’s Earth Day demonstrating the many ways that small scale farmers are growing healthy nutritious food for their communities while protecting the planet.
Ultimately the founders of Seeding Galveston envision working with local chefs and school culinary programs to help students of all ages develop a hands-on appreciation for local and seasonal ingredients through a progressive program of urban farming education and practices. This program might include development of a luncheon café using Seeding Galveston produce.
Linking community members with unused land (vacant lots) and suggesting new uses for private backyards, rooftops and other open spaces can help Galveston rethink its relationship with food, reshape neighborhoods in a positive way and foster a positive use of scarce resources.