News / Health

Urban Farms Bloom in Concrete Desert

Farm Blooms in Urban Food Deserti
X
August 21, 2013 8:18 PM
Farms are sprouting up in vacant city lots and abandoned properties across the United States. By tilling the soil in places where people have little access to fresh food, these urban farms have the power to change what people eat … and the power to transform troubled neighborhoods. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble takes us to a community near Washington, DC, where a healthier life style is taking root.
TEXT SIZE - +
Rosanne Skirble
Farms are sprouting up in vacant city lots and abandoned properties across the United States. By tilling the soil in places where people have little access to fresh food, these urban farms have the power to change what people eat and the power to transform troubled neighborhoods.  

This healthier lifestyle is taking root in a community near Washington, D.C., where a group of young people are spending their summer learning how to cook healthy food.

The six teens apply their skills in a kitchen set up in a shipping container at Eco City Farms. The farm is an oasis of freshly grown produce in an otherwise bleak landscape of strip malls, car repair shops and fast food marts.
    
For example, Philip Sidibe makes a plantain dish that is popular in his native Cameroon. He and brother Adam have been in the United States for less than a year.
Urban Farms Bloom in Concrete Desert
Urban Farms Bloom in Concrete Deserti
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

Margaret Morgan-Hubbard founded Eco City Farms to make this food desert bloom. The social activist says the scarcity of fresh produce is a major health problem for these kids and their families who live nearby in Bladensburg, a historic town on the Anacostia River.   

“What’s critical is that 70 percent of the people in these towns are either overweight, obese, have diabetes or other kinds of diet-related ailments because they don’t have access to healthy food," Morgan-Hubbard said. "So we are very concerned that this is a social justice issue, that everybody had a right not just to food, but to food that nourishes and supports their bodies and that’s what we work on.”

Bladensburg, Maryland Mayor Walter James gets his pick of produce from the Philip Sidibe, Adam Sidibe and Wudood Omran. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)Bladensburg, Maryland Mayor Walter James gets his pick of produce from the Philip Sidibe, Adam Sidibe and Wudood Omran. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)
x
Bladensburg, Maryland Mayor Walter James gets his pick of produce from the Philip Sidibe, Adam Sidibe and Wudood Omran. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)
Bladensburg, Maryland Mayor Walter James gets his pick of produce from the Philip Sidibe, Adam Sidibe and Wudood Omran. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)
The teens not only cook their food, they also grow it in a large garden next to Autumn Woods Apartments. The low-income housing complex for 1,000 residents is served by one small store stocked largely with snack food.

With the support of Bladensburg Mayor Walter James, Morgan-Hubbard turned an abandoned piece of land into a thriving garden.

“Our young people are phenomenal," James said. "They always do a phenomenal job, whenever they can get their hands on something and they have that tangible thing that they can touch and say, 'I did this. I was part of this.' I believe that helps with the overall sustainability and growth of our community.”  

James is working to rezone the property and turn the entire 1.5-hectare lot into a commercial farm to serve the community.

Tameka Barbour-Gaskins likes the idea. She lives in Autumn Woods, where her son attends camp and spends time in the garden. The whole family is reaping the benefits.    

“I like junk food. I like quick food," Barbour-Gaskins said. "It’s not easy just to go from eating a certain way all your life to switching over to being healthier… With the garden here, with my son learning, he can help me switch around my style of eating. I want a healthy family.”

Fresh produce turns into a feast at Eco City Farms. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)Fresh produce turns into a feast at Eco City Farms. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)
x
Fresh produce turns into a feast at Eco City Farms. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)
Fresh produce turns into a feast at Eco City Farms. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)
Meanwhile, back at Eco City Farms, it’s time for lunch.

There are plenty of spicy lentils and rice, a Libyan stew and fried plantains from Cameroon accompanied by fruit and lettuce just picked from the garden. 

Morgan-Hubbard says the urban garden is a magnet for change and these young people are its newest advocates.

“Our program is about planting seeds," she said. "It’s about planting seeds not just in the ground, but in other human beings so that the movement can grow and it’s really exciting because… these young people will be working with us throughout the year to help plan the actual farm and to organize the community and ultimately own it.”  

This means not only farming food, but also making that food available to people who live in the community.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sylvia from: Studio City
August 23, 2013 7:13 PM
I visited another such urban farm in Chicago last week. Every open space has its own back story. The one I visited is on the most notorious public housing site, Cabrini-Green. I compelled to know more and posted its story on my blog:

http://slysmisenplace.blogspot.com/2013/08/a-story-of-one-city-farm.html


by: ou from: salem, Oregon
August 22, 2013 5:53 AM
My Jungle dad always said food are better than gold. if I have a lot of food and some one else has a lot of money see who can stays input longer. I used to said even you live in the king's palace, space or space station that you still need to eat dirt (food) like north korean could not eat their nuclear bumb so Oregon sent them a lot of granny smith apple trees back in the late 90. soviet found that out during the cold war.


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
August 21, 2013 10:03 PM
Yes, we are apt to love fast and junk foods. It is probably because these foods are easily accessible around convinience stores. Growing fresh foods near by neighborhood is a good idea for us to enjoy healthy lives without diet-related ailments. That being said, I am sure we would realize that growing vegitables is difficult and time-consuming job!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid