Cultivating Gardeners and Urban Farmers

A half-acre farm has sprouted up on a vacant lot across from the light-rail station in the heart of the nation’s sixth largest city, Phoenix.

The Phoenix Urban Research Farm is where urbanites – a generation or two removed from agrarian life – go to learn how to garden or even how to start a small farm business.

The farm, which is helping to meet the increasing demand for locally grown food, is managed by faculty at the Maricopa County Cooperative Extension, part of the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

"You can't just plant on a vacant lot and expect it to grow," said Haley Paul, an urban agricultural assistant. "We're educating people on how to grow food in the low desert."

Volunteers have turned the sunbaked lot – vacant for 20 years – into a productive research farm, which is part of a 15-acre urban revitalization project, a partnership of Keep Phoenix Beautiful and landowner Barron Collier Companies.

The first step was planting cover crops of rye, peas and turnips in the hard-packed caliche, a type of sedimentary rock.

"Turnips are amazing at breaking up the soil and crowding out competing weeds," Paul said. "Those crops were plowed under to further condition the soil. We spent many hours of volunteer service to get these beds ready for summer crops."

The next step is recruiting more volunteers for the harvest.

Read more from this April 7 UANews article at the link below.

Date released: 
Apr 17 2014
Kelly Murray Young