Monday, April 9, 2012

Vertical Farming in a City Near You!

I just read about 312 Aquaponics, a startup vertical farm in Chicago in the process of starting microgreen and tilapia operations. They are trying to get licensing issues worked out to get up and running and plan to be market-ready this summer. I'm so happy to see someone is actualizing the concepts presented by Dickson Despommier in his book "The Vertical Farm" for growing local food, repurposing defunct industrial properties, and creating jobs. It's a very interesting and exciting concept that will provide solutions to a variety of social and public problems. And it seems to be catching on.

Another urban aquaponics operation, Sweet Water Organics, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was operational in 2010 with the same type of business. They raise yellow perch, tilapia, and blue gill fish, vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and squash, plus mushrooms and greens such as lettuces, basil, watercress, swiss chard, and sprouts.

Dickson Despommier discusses both rescuing abandoned urban properties and building specifically-designed facilities for vertical farms. Growing food in urban facilities creates sustainable solutions with some very attractive advantages such as chemical-free food production and year-round growing operations free from the whims of mother nature. I hope to see more of these kinds of vertical farms in Illinois in the very near future. We can use some of the advantages of urban vertical farming in our state.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Love the Moon

photo courtesy of Schyler at en.wikipedia

When was the last time you were outside at night, looking up at the sky and contemplating the moon? I might glimpse the moon over a crowded horizon while driving at night, or notice a huge orange moon occasionally in the fall. But I am not regularly in tune with the moon. I didn’t even know that the moon has many names until I recently came across mention of the hunger moon in Dorian Winslow’s “The Curious Gardener” newsletter. The hunger moon is February’s full moon, so named by farmers and native peoples for the late winter month when food stores are emptying and gardens and outdoor sources are still frozen and unyielding. April’s moon is the egg moon, because hens start laying more eggs with the lengthening days of spring, unlike their winter egg yields which are lower because of less available daylight.

Even though I am a gardener and love to grow things, I don’t have a lot of interaction with the moon like farmers in ages past. They knew more about nature and her whims and the signs in the sky because they were more dependent on them. They also didn’t have the modern distractions that make our lives busy and keep us away from nature. No TVs, no cell phones, no computers, no automobiles, no modern appliances like refrigerators and air conditioning. They had to be in tune with nature and work within the framework of the seasons.

They loved their moons and gave them descriptive names with echoes of longing and hope, names like November’s snow moon, October’s blood moon (for the month when fattened animals were slaughtered before the coming winter), and January’s wolf moon, both for the fierce cold biting at their collars and the howling hungry wolves. I love that July’s moon was the wort moon (wort was what they called herbs), because herbs were harvested and dried for kitchen herbs and the medicinal herbal preparations they made in the fall.

This year’s egg moon, the April full moon, is Friday, April 6, with other lovely full moons appearing in the first week of the month until August, when the full moons start appearing around the last day of the month. This Friday night I plan to go outside and spend some time looking at the egg moon, wondering at its mysteries, powers and influence on our outer natural world and our inner emotional world. The moon draws sap in the trees and eggs from the chickens, pushes and pulls the waves in the oceans and seas, and stirs living things from their winter rest. That’s some powerful force of nature, baby! It makes me want to  be more in tune with the moon!

What kind of moon stirs you at the height of winter's cold or during spring's fresh breezes? A full moon? The skinny sliver of a moon? A bright moon in a clear night sky? The moon veiled with clouds? What's your favorite kind of moon?