Research

Welcome to my research in sustainable and organic urban agriculture

The need to develop a sustainable urban agriculture is perhaps one of the most important and pressing challenges to city-dwellers in the 21st Century. In the United States, an enormous amount of energy is expended to grow and transport food into cities that are sometimes thousands of miles away from where it is produced. We are often concerned with turning off lights in our homes to conserve energy, purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles and reducing the costs of heating and air conditioning to conserve energy supplies. These conservation efforts can have wide-reaching benefits, some which go well beyond our community. A reduced use of non-renewable energy sources means cleaner air, less pollution, reduced carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere and lower costs to consumers. Most of us know this well and have made steps to live in a more “green” lifestyle.

But, with all of the progress that has been made, cities continue to grow rapidly. With this, available land within and around the city is converted into roads, homes and businesses. Often, productive farmland is converted to city. As this happens, the food production lands become farther away from the city consumers. As a result, many cities are on “life support” with respect to food- virtually all of it must be grown elsewhere and transported in. The farther away the food source, the more energy is expended to supply it. So, shopping for your food in the grocery store can be one of the more energy consuming things a person can do. The produce you buy may come from hundreds to thousands of miles away. For instance, carrots from California and peppers from Mexico. Although we spend a dollar or two for these items, the energy (and resulting pollution) costs can be enormous when you add up the impact of everyone in your city purchasing them. The problem isn’t the one item of produce that you buy, it is the energy used and pollution created to transport thousands of tons of them across the country. My logo says “E Pluribus Multus”, to paraphrase in English- much comes from many. A lot of very small contributions to pollution adds up to a lot of pollution. But, conversely, a lot of small reductions in pollution can lead to a lot less pollution.

My research is simple. I have just one backyard. How much can I grow? Does it really make a difference? Is it worth it, in terms of money and the environment? I have answered some of these questions and the response is a resounding “YES”. But now, I am attempting what may have never been done before- I am going to try to grow all of the vegetables I need to eat for an entire year in my own backyard, at the proper times and seasons, using “organic” methods. This may seem like nothing new but, in this case, I am measuring, weighing, pricing and documenting the entire process. And I want to share this experience with you through this website. 

Research plays a key role in documenting the benefits of urban agriculture. Below are links to some of my findings, a list of the fruits & vegetables I have grown and a listing of the recent publications and presentations I given on the topic of urban food production, urban food sustainability and backyard food gardening. Please click on the links below to learn more.

What Do I Grow?

Science Publications & Presentation from My Backyard Research

I hope you find this inspirational, even if you are unable to grow anything yourself. I would be just as happy if you would take this journey with me by checking in on this page from time to time. If you wish to grow some of your own food in your own backyard, I hope to inspire you and point you to resources to get you started. Tell your friends and pass this along. Let’s build a community to share what we know and encourage each other.

John

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