Thursday, March 11, 2010
Design Project Two :: Charlotte, NC Urban Farm
Today we're designing an urban farm. This one will become real if we can get the funding necessary to start the program. The specific location of the farm will have to remain a secret for now but it's in Charlotte, NC near uptown. Todd Serdula did most of the excellent graphic work on this proposal.
To start with we break down the design considerations into 4 categories.
Transition and Construction
Marketing and Distribution
The Physical Components can best be thought of as the needs of the plants. At a basic level this means sun, soil and water. The Programing Elements are the energy sources for getting work done. Who or what actually does the work on the farm? What tasks are accomplished using hands, machines or animals? And how are decisions made? These are critical questions more important to the success of the farm than the Physical Components.
We also have to consider Transition and Construction. Farm infrastructure and programing takes development. It's a process that doesn't happen overnight. Lastly we have to think about what will happen to the food once it is ready for harvest. How does it get from field to fork? This will affect the farm design.
We start be identifying several vacant urban city lots owned by a willing partner. The partner also owns adjacent infrastructure including a warehouse, a vacant restaurant and parking. We test the soil and find no major problems. We put the land into cover crops to build soil while the design proceeds.
In this first phase we construct a welcome center, potting sheds and some demonstration gardens. This farm will serve educational needs as well as grow food. During the first phase the upper field will be a summer cover crop that reseeds itself, mostly likely buckwheat.
The lower field gets programed with a special cover crop that not only builds soil but also helps provide funding for the farm. A total of 48 squares, 30' X 30' are planted in sunflowers of various varieties. All of them are yellow except for one square selected at random which is a red sunflower variety. Individuals and companies sponsor squares with the hope that their square will be the winning red sunflower square. A website links participants and offers a 24/7 webcam as well as time lapse photography of the project. It's cover cropping meets cow patty bingo.
Phase Two includes a greenhouse with a float bed transplant system(sun), a composting system including vermiculture(soil) and a rainwater harvesting system(water). It also includes and an orchard, annual vegetable production and a post harvest handling facility with refrigeration, located within an existing warehouse.
Phase Three adds a greenhouse for winter vegetable and summer flower production. It also adds a workhouse for indoor projects and a 'living fence' made up of existing and moved structures to serve as housing for interns, agro-tourists and WWOOFers.
Phase Four rounds out the project with an additional greenhouse for aquaculture, an indoor market and distribution center in the warehouse as well as a value-add restaurant. Additional fruit trees and bushes are also planted. The result is a fully functional urban farm that celebrates community by supporting sustainable agriculture.
I'll update this post as the project moves forward.