Eric McClam from City Roots stopped by to tell us about their "in-town sustainable farm." Their mission is to "produce clean, healthy, sustainably grown products while enhancing and educating our community about the benefits of locally grown food, composting, vermicomposting and other environmentally friendly farming practices."
Eric shared many of the things they are doing at City Roots, some of which can be applied to our own gardens, including:
- Getting compost from the City of Columbia (more information can be found here)
- Taking a look at the types of food they are growing well in this area (i.e. berries, mushrooms, root vegetables, greens and more)
- Stay away from pesticides or use only those materials approved by OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute)
- Use worm composting
- Use your compost "tea" as a fertilizer
- Pay attention to the local frost fate of April 15
- Look for organic seeds from places like Johnny's Selected Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and more
- Have your soil and water tested through the Clemson Cooperative Extension
- Learn! One of Eric's book recommendations is The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener by Eliot Coleman.
LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. Read more about LEED here.
In the City Roots' green house they raise tilapia in a 3,000 gallon tank and produce nearly 500 varieties of micro-greens and sprouts. The tilapia are raised in a tank which has an adjacent biological filter that consists of two race ways with watercress to serve as both filtration and as a marketable item. They also grow citrus and use the green house for propagation for their field production as well.
City Roots grows around 30 varieties of vegetables and fruit. They have several bee hive for both pollination purposes and for honey. They have a variety of chickens that they free range and move in their chicken tractor. They have a large-scale composting operation which aides the fertility of their soil and is also used for growing several speciality mushrooms. Even their street trees that are required by the city's zoning produce fruit.
One of the key factors in starting their farm is an educational component and a community outreach program. City Roots provides farm tours for local schools, universities and the public, and hosts festivals and workshops. Those interested in volunteering or learning sustainable gardening practices should contact City Roots for more information.
One of the inspirations behind City Roots is Growing Power, a national nonprofit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities. Growing Power implements this mission by providing hands-on training, on-the-ground demonstration, outreach and technical assistance through the development of Community Food Systems that help people grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner. You can also read more at the Growing Power blog.
For those interested, City Roots is also starting a CSA. More information can be found here.
Visit their Web site at http://www.CityRoots.org. City Roots is located at 1005 Airport Boulevard, Columbia, South Carolina, 29205. The hours are Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803.254.2302.
Their produce can also be found at Rosewood Market, The All Local Market, Healthy Carolina Farmers Market and several local restaurants.