|Posted by Anne Siren on November 26, 2012 at 3:40 PM|
By Judy Vik
Oakland Park - Acreage at a former dairy may be transformed into an urban farm and community garden after commissioners expressed enthusiasm for a proposal by the Urban Farm Institute to plant the vacant land north of Jaco Pastorius Park.
“Urban farming is the wave of the future, but most of us have lost touch with agriculture,” Chris Brown, a principal with Redevelopment Management Associates [RMA], told commissioners. Brown, a self –proclaimed urban farmer, said residents can learn to farm either in their own backyards or in a community garden.
Until August when the lease was up, the Institute ran a two-acre farm on Powerline Road south of Copans Road in Pompano Beach, but issues caused it to close.
Now, with plans taking shape for a Culinary Arts District in downtown Oakland Park, Urban Farm officials Jon Albee and Stephen Hill are proposing to operate the acreage with the city as a partner. “The idea is to make locally-grown food more available and help people grow it themselves,” Hill explained. “This is a perfect fit to the Culinary Arts District.”
The farm features innovative urban growing systems, including vertical hydroponic towers and EarthBox soil-based systems, Brown said. The hydroponic units don’t use soil. Foods would be naturally grown with organic nutrients. “You can feed a family of four with six to eight towers,” Brown said. He has 15 hydroponic towers at his house. “I come home and cut my lettuce, add oregano and thyme and make an incredible salad.”
Classes are proposed for composting, use of worms, health and nutrition. The Urban Farm Institute, a non-profit arm of The Urban Farmer, would operate the only commercial farm east of U.S. 441, Brown said.
For a monthly fee, participants become part of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and share in the food raised.
Discussions also are under way for a green market in the downtown area just north of City Hall on NE 12 Ave. (Main Street). Brown suggested the market be on Wednesday or Friday evenings, since there are already so many green markets in the area on weekends.
Commissioner Suzanne Boisvenue noted that she grew up on a farm. “People want this. We need to do this. I’m really excited about it,” she said. Brown said the proposed tenant, the Urban Farm Institute, would work the farm. The area would be fenced and locked at night.
An avid home gardener, Commissioner Jed Shank reminded the commission that he asked for a community garden two years ago, but the idea wasn’t supported then. “I’m so excited about this. It’s outstanding,” Shank said.