408-7 Old Macdonald Had an Urban Farm: Creating an Urban Agriculture Curriculum.

See more from this Division: S11 Soils & Environmental Quality
See more from this Session: Urban Agriculture: II
Wednesday, October 24, 2012: 11:30 AM
Duke Energy Convention Center, Room 236, Level 2
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James Montgomery and Barbara Willard, 1110 West Belden Avenue, DePaul University, Chicago, IL

The urban agriculture movement has experienced phenomenal growth throughout the U.S. in the past two decades, especially in large Rust Belt cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, and Milwaukee.  However, the transformation of urban landscapes is not a small undertaking, particularly regarding soil quality.  Soil contamination from heavy metals, especially lead, is a constant problem in urban areas. 

In this oral session I will explain the challenges that we have faced in establishing an urban agriculture program at DePaul University.  The university is located in Chicago, one of the largest cities in the U.S. and according to the 2010 U.S. Census, has a density rate of almost 12,000 per square mile.  This clearly poses a number of challenges for anyone attempting to establish an urban agriculture program on a campus with very little open space.  Despite these challenges, urban agriculture is a worthwhile addition to a university's curriculum for pedagogical as well as service learning opportunities.  Research on community gardening and urban agriculture indicates that when these lots are transformed into community gardens or small-scale urban farms, a number of benefits are experienced by the natural and human community.  Urban farming reconnects humans to the landscape, it reduces our carbon “foodprint”, it creates greenspace in urban areas, and it can improve soil quality if practiced effectively.  

This session will identify the challenges we faced in establishing our program, the solutions we identified, and our on-going efforts at expanding the program.  More specifically I will discuss:

1)      Urban farm site selection (for on-campus and off-campus urban agriculture “lab space”)

2)      Teaching students how to improve soil quality on degraded lots.

3)      Identifying funding sources to establish the program.

4)      Developing a curriculum that supports an urban agriculture program.


See more from this Division: S11 Soils & Environmental Quality
See more from this Session: Urban Agriculture: II