Community Planning

communityplanning

Jake Stodola of Cedar Rapids, a third-year landscape architecture student, and Maclaine Sorden of Creston (’11 community and regional planning / environmental studies), a graduate student working toward a master’s in sustainable agriculture and landscape architecture, present their design to transform the Des Moines Social Club courtyard into an edible landscape.

The ISU Community Design Lab’s Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit provides a framework to help communities improve their local food systems
By Carole Gieseke

In the heart of downtown Des Moines, teams of Iowa State students are presenting their unique visions toward a singular goal: growing food in the city.

The designs, presented at the Des Moines Social Club at 9th and Mulberry last fall, take advantage of urban spaces like courtyards, rooftops, and alleyways. These “public edible landscapes” are just one small part of a growing movement to create holistic food systems that assist in community redevelopment, revitalization, and sustainability.

“It’s important to work with communities,” says Courtney Long (’10 landscape architecture, MS ’12 sustainable agriculture), design fellow in the ISU Department of Landscape Architecture. Long facilitates the Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit, a project of the College of Design’s Community Design Lab.

Funded by a grant from Iowa State’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and launched in 2014, the Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit, by design, has a lot of moving parts. Three pilot communities in Iowa – Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Cresco – were selected to go through a process of developing agricultural urbanism tactics with the goal of promoting local food system revitalization.

Each community is unique, with a different overarching focus and a distinct set of tactics that will be implemented in 2015. Following an initial look at policy changes, for example, the Des Moines workgroup will create neighborhood networks including food hubs, edible landscapes, and a food box pilot program, with a long-term goal of creating an urban farm.

Cresco, a rural community that has the potential to serve as a year-round regional food hub, is partnering with local food co-ops, rural producers, and community programs to establish community orchards, a school garden/faith garden partnership, and an educational farm.

Community planners in Cedar Rapids envision a comprehensive city food system plan, and they aim to direct projects at the human scale that residents can learn from and use at home and around the city. Catalyst projects include an urban orchard, partnership for a shared kitchen, and demonstration sites of agricultural urbanism practices.

In addition to these communities, three new Iowa towns will be selected for the project this year. The Leopold Center recently extended the Toolkit funding for two additional years.

“A local food system needs to include both rural and urban agricultural activities,” Long said. “The Toolkit helps these activities work together to meet the needs of a broader community.”

She said that local leaders in and outside the state of Iowa are encouraged to view the Toolkit model online at http://research.design.iastate.edu/communitydesignlab/ to garner ideas for their own communities.

Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit tactics
• Edible residential gardening
• Faith gardens
• School gardens
• Public edible landscaping
• Community-supported agriculture
• Urban farming
• Community gardens
• Farmers markets
• Local markets / public markets
• Food trucks
• Restaurants
• Rural & sustainable farming
• Processing facilities
• Food hubs
• Food box programs
• Shared-use kitchens
• Food-enterprise centers
• Education centers
• Marketing & awareness campaigns
• Food policy councils

Outside of the Box

Iowa State University boxer Olivia Meyer of Dyersville is the first ISU female boxer to compete and win a title in the National Collegiate Boxing Association National Championships. (Photo by Christopher Gannon)

Iowa State University boxer Olivia Meyer of Dyersville is the first ISU female boxer to compete and win a title in the National Collegiate Boxing Association National Championships. (Photo by Christopher Gannon)

Dyersville native Olivia Meyer, a kinesiology major, discovered the sport of boxing while attending ISU’s annual “Clubfest” showcase her freshman year. She played soccer in high school, she says, and wanted to find a collegiate pursuit that would allow her to keep up her fitness and perhaps give her a chance to compete. Today, Meyer is president of the ISU Boxing Club, the club’s lone female competitor, a National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA) national champion, and a Glamour magazine “Phenomenal Woman of the Year Who is Making a Difference.” VISIONS recently caught up with Meyer to find out what drives her in the sport of boxing.

With all the clubs and activities available on campus, what made you choose boxing?
A lot of people ask me that question, and I don’t have a fantastic answer. I think I was inspired by the movie “Million Dollar Baby,” because I love Clint Eastwood. So it was just an itsy bitsy spark – not a huge flame. But I went over to the practices and just kind of hit it off.

What was it like walking into the boxing club as a novice?
Initially, it is intimidating. But once you figure out you’re surrounded by a whole bunch of other people like you who just want to learn how to box, and everybody is really nice about it, everything is okay. Some people are just there for the workout – and that’s okay, too, and a lot of people drop out. But eventually you actually have to work with partners and spar – that’s the whole point of boxing, you know. We have maintained about five people who officially compete, and I am the only woman. The first couple of times you’re sparring, it’s awful. After the first time I got into the ring I didn’t want to do it again because I just felt like, “Wow, I’m awful. I’m terrible.” But it just takes practice.

So, if you’re the only woman in the club who spars, does that mean you practice against men who are larger than you are?
Yep; I have to. Sometimes you have to tell them to slow down or stop, but they’re pretty good about it. If you tell them to step off, they’ll step off. But I’ve ripped my eardrum several times, had a bloody nose, lip, you know – what you’d expect.

What does it take to train as a competitive boxer?
You have to come two hours a day, six to seven days a week, and then you also have to train outside of practice with high intensity cardiovascular training, muscle training, and endurance training. I’d say I put in about three to four hours a day just training for boxing, and that’s a significant amount. It’s demanding, but if you like it I think it’s worth it.

Tell us about winning the NBCA title.
Well, I competed against the same girl at regionals and nationals because there aren’t many girls in the sport. So just realize that, compared to the guys who had to fight four or five guys to get there, I didn’t have to do as much. The competition was held in Eisenhower Hall on the military base at West Point, so everything was high security and intense. They had videocameras and CBS television there and they interviewed me after – which was good, because my family was able to watch it on TV when it aired.

How does your family feel about you boxing?
My dad has four girls and is the only guy in our family, so I think he’s happy about it. But obviously, none of them like to see me get hurt. I don’t think Mom could ever watch it; she’s still supportive, but she doesn’t want to watch it.

How did you end up in Glamour magazine?
I got an email from the freelancer, who was looking for women from each state to feature. I immediately called my mom. She laughed and said, “Well, Glamour’s not really your magazine – but go for it.”

You have said it is difficult to find fights. Do you wish more women would enter the sport?
I would love to see more women enter the sport. It’s upsetting to see so many people sign up and be super excited and come to practice but eventually fade away. It’s like, “Nooooo! Come back!” But we see the same number of men get excited, too, and drift away for the same reasons. While I think women leave the sport at the same rate as men do, I do think because of male physiology it’s a little easier for [men] to work at the high intensity without going through muscle atrophy. You definitely have to put in a lot of work.

What do you love about boxing?
I actually really like training for it. But I also do like the moment before you get in the ring and have all the adrenaline rushing through you. I get scared before every fight. I get nervous. Once you step in the ring, you just get tunnel vision. It’s you and the opponent; everything else around you is a blur for that 10 minutes that you’re in there. It’s a really cool experience.”

‘Roots for the Home Team’ Home Run

hometeamJPG

Teen Entrepreneurs + Garden-Fresh Food + Big-Time Baseball
By Mary Gunderson

Baseball fans savor the food rituals: cold beer, peanuts in the shell, and – for Minnesota Twins
fans – meal-sized bowls of fresh, crisp salad.

Salad!? At the ballgame?! Yup. Since 2012, Minneapolis’s Roots for the Home Team brings young urban agriculturalists together with hungry fans in the midst of Major League Baseball.

“I wanted to change up the food mix at Target Field,” says Susan Dunn Moores (L) (’80 food science), the creative mind at the venture’s heart.

Moores developed close associations with Urban Roots and Youth Farm, Twin Cities neighborhood garden programs with years of experience fostering youth leadership with sustainability and environmentally sound practices to raise and sell organic produce. Moores and 30 paid student interns from these garden partners form Roots’ core sales and marketing team.

In the first three years, 70 percent of the produce for Roots for the Home Team salads was purchased from the garden partners. Moores relies on Co-op Partners Warehouse for additional supplies and to ensure the young growers’ produce meets commercial standards for harvesting, packing, and shipping for food service. Target Field’s Minnesota Sportservice prepares retail product for the games.

Moores, a long-time entrepreneurial registered dietitian, gained corporate support for Roots’ efforts. The Twins Community Fund, Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota, Land O’ Lakes, JustBare Chicken, and others provide direct funding or in-kind services such as marketing support.

Pre-season, Moores and the students collaborate, brainstorming and planning product and sales ideas before rolling the Garden Goodies cart into place at Target Field. In 2014 the Roots crew offered six salad varieties at 18 games – with two salads in rotation at each game – including the League’s All-Star Game. All told, more than 130 youth were involved in the program.

One hot July Sunday afternoon, four students alternate in pairs, enticing customers with free samples and selling the finished product to hungry fans.

“I like fresh, local food,” says a 20-something woman, tasting the Tic-Tac-Taco Salad with corn, black beans, kale, and queso fresco. “I’m surprised to find it here!”

An older woman takes a sample, then smiles broadly, reaching for her wallet. “Good idea!”

One dad feeds his year-old son a bite of tomato. Son munches, dad grins. “At least I can say I had a salad at the ballpark,” he says.

Moores stands by at the cash register. She had envisioned satisfied customers. But she didn’t expect the broad benefits for her young sales associates.

“They rise to the occasion,” Moores says. She sees growth in teamwork, honesty, and persistence. The students gain unexpected recognition, too. Moores says, “Customers actually come back after eating the salads and say, ‘Thanks!’”

Tsminuj (SHEE-new) Yang, 16 and a high school junior, gardened extensively with his family before his student-intern experience. “All I knew, I learned again in a different way,” he says.

Now he’s looking toward his future. “Getting this internship widens what I can do. It’s a good starting point for public speaking and entrepreneurship.”

In her second season as a Roots intern, 15-year-old Imogene Silver, a high school sophomore, owned the honor of creating Roots for the Home Team’s Cracklin’ Cajun Salad, drawing upon flavors from her family’s Cajun heritage. The seven-vegetable garden rainbow features black-eyed peas, green peppers, and hot-pepper sauce. “That was fun,” Silver says. “I like to see people enjoying our food.”

Beyond Target Field, Roots promotes and sells the salads in two Twin Cities co-op grocery stores and at several Kowalski’s Markets. The Roots team even marketed the garden partners’ beets for beet-flavored ice cream at locally owned Izzy’s Ice Cream Shops in 2014.

Moores expects new products this year, plus Garden Goodies carts and sales teams at more athletics venues in the Twin Cities.

“I’m always on the prowl,” Moores says, “to keep Roots growing and interesting.”

Mary Gunderson (L)(’77 home economics journalism) of Edina, Minn., is an author, lecturer, and the owner of History Cooks.


GET THE RECIPE: BIG BANG SEOUL SALAD

Urban Roots youth rallied around this Korean salad concept. It features several of the vegetables found in their seven gardens on the east side of St. Paul.

SALAD
8 oz. uncooked wide rice noodles (pad Thai)
1 1/2 c. chopped broccoli florets
1 c. chopped radishes
1 c. sweet peas (frozen and thawed) or sliced sugar snaps
1 c. chopped cucumber
1 c. shredded carrots
1/2 c. shelled edamame, fresh or frozen and thawed
1/3 c. sliced green onions
8 c. salad greens
1/2 c. chopped roasted and salted cashews or peanuts
Black sesame seeds, optional

DRESSING
1/2 c. canola or olive oil
1/4 c. rice vinegar
2 T. tamari soy sauce
2 T. honey
2 T. Korean gochujang chile sauce
2 t. toasted sesame oil

DIRECTIONS
1. Break noodles into shorter lengths; cook according to package directions.
Rinse with cool water; drain well.
2. Meanwhile, mix remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in cooked noodles.
3. To make the dressing, whisk oil, vinegar, tamari, honey, gochujang, and sesame oil
together in a small bowl.
4. Toss dressing with noodle mixture; spoon over greens. Garnish with nuts and
sesame seeds.

Makes 8 servings
© Roots for the Home Team

Throwing Like a Girl

Sports

Cyclone Christina Hillman carves out her own
space in the world of women’s shot put

By Kate Bruns

When Tina Hillman was an eighth grader growing up in Dover, Del., her gym teacher’s husband – a champion weight thrower – happened to see the tall blonde pass the pigskin to a classmate. Not an 8.8- pound shot put, but a 14-ounce inflated football. Really, there’s very little that a quarterback and a shot putter have in common, but the sight of it was enough to give him a feeling: This girl could throw.

By the time Hillman got to high school, she had added track and field to her long resume of athletics activities. She was a standout Delaware prep, winning seven state titles at St. Thomas More. Then-Iowa State assistant track coach Grant Wall was in the state recruiting and decided to swing by and check out the 6-foot, 2-inch Hillman, who was still trying to decide whether to pursue collegiate track and field or volleyball. Hillman could hurl the shot 39 feet, even with horrible technique. And Wall just got a feeling: This girl could really throw.

Iowa State was the first school that recruited Hillman, and she rewarded that loyalty by committing to the Cyclones after falling in love with the Iowa State campus on her official visit.

“I didn’t think I was going to come here,” Hillman says, “I really didn’t. But I love it here. The campus is beautiful. And I love the team; the team is like my family.”

During the summer before coming to Iowa State, Hillman began working with a personal trainer. In just a few months, she increased her throwing distance from 39 to 50 feet. In 2011 she won the New Balance Indoor National High School championship and the Penn Relays. As an ISU freshman, Hillman earned all-Big 12 recognition. She continued to improve. And she started to get a feeling: I really can throw.

When Wall and head coach Corey Ihmels left ISU for Boise State in 2013, Hillman began working with a new throwing coach: Fletcher Brooks. Hillman says she owes a lot to both of her coaches and has thrived under Brooks’ tutelage. She says his guidance has helped shape what she is today: The top women’s collegiate shot putter in the U.S.

Hillman won her first national title at the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships, reaching a height she hadn’t even dreamed of pursuing in high school.

“I think I was almost crying,” she remembers. “I won it on my second throw, because the girl who was in first place threw such a PR [personal record]. She was beating me, but I said to myself in that moment, ‘No one wants this more than I do.’ It was a completely different mindset for me. It was the first time I truly believed I could win the national championship, so when I did I was jumping up and down on cloud nine.”

Hillman followed up that performance with the 2014 outdoor title, which she won on her last throw. “That one was almost kind of a relief,” she admits. “Once you win once, it’s like: ‘I can’t let another collegian beat me.’”

For Hillman, the bar has now been set extremely high: Not only does she want to win more national titles, but she is also passionate about making it to the 2016 Olympics. She will soon earn undergraduate degrees in psychology and child, adult, and family services and hopes to go on to earn a master’s degree and work with youth in the human services field. But she is willing to put plans on hold to pursue her Olympic dream. “I’ve heard that both training for the Olympics and going to grad school are full-time jobs,” she says, “so I’m not sure how that will work. But I’m open to going wherever I need to go.”

Despite her many successes, Hillman says she still believes there is potential to be fulfilled.

“I’m still relatively weak compared to a lot of the female shot putters,” says Hillman, who lifts weights about four days a week. “I love putting in the hard work and just testing my abilities to see where I can end up. It’s been such a blessing.”

Hillman also says she enjoys defying people’s stereotypes of female throwers. While she is certainly big and strong, she’s not what anyone would describe as masculine, with long blonde locks and painted fingernails.

“I wanted to show that you can succeed in a sport that’s deemed masculine, whether you’re masculine or feminine,” she says. “If [masculine] is your identity, that’s perfectly fine, of course. I’m very feminine; that’s my expression. Even in my sport it doesn’t have to be about masculinity or femininity. It’s about how hard you work and the effort that you put in.”

Issues of gender and sexuality figure largely in Hillman’s life; she was recently profiled by Outsports.com’s Cyd Zeigler, a national author and commentator on sexuality and sports, about her identity as a pansexual student-athlete – an identity Zeigler says adds “another color in the LGBT rainbow.” (“I think of it as being gender blind; I fall in love with humans” is how Hillman explains it.)

“I was open [about my sexuality] in high school because I was dating a female,” Hillman says. “But when I got to college I guess I went back in the closet, in a way, because it was a new place and I’ve always wanted people to know me as a person first. Once I’d made friends and established my networks, I came out and was accepted by almost everyone. Taking the next step and talking to Cyd was me realizing that maybe I could help some other athletes. No one part defines me, obviously. I’m an athlete, pansexual, sister, daughter…but if that one identity can encourage others, I would love to do that.”

As Hillman works toward adding another identity to that list – Olympian, she is relishing her experience at Iowa State.

“I hope my teammates would describe me as an optimist, as someone who is encouraging, generous, and thoughtful,” she says. “I love being part of a team: We support each other and are part of something bigger.

“But at the end of the day, what I do is completely up to me, and I like that. If I mess up, it’s my fault. If I do well, it’s because I put in the work. I love everything about it.”

Cedar Rapids: A Case Study

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Urban Ag is alive and well in Iowa’s second-largest city
By Carole Gieseke

When it comes to the urban agriculture movement in the state of Iowa, it seems that all roads lead to Cedar Rapids.

A devastating flood in 2008 left 10 square miles of the city – including the downtown area and adjacent neighborhoods – submerged in water when the Cedar River crested at 31.12 feet (19 feet about flood stage) on June 13. More than 5,000 family homes were damaged or destroyed. About 1,400 of them have since been demolished.

As Cedar Rapids continues to redevelop, so too does the opportunity develop to solve some of the city’s issues with food insecurity. Currently, an estimated 26,000 people in Cedar Rapids go to bed hungry. About 60 percent of its schoolchildren are on free and reduced lunch.

But this city now represents some of the best policies and projects in the state: zoning laws that allow urban agriculture to thrive, a commitment to designation as a “Blue Zones” healthy community, and a comprehensive city food system plan.

Iowa State connections are strong in this eastern Iowa community, with a highly engaged Linn County Extension team, alumni working in all sectors of the industry, and a new College of Design Community Design Lab agricultural urbanism project in development.

It was time to pay this city a visit. One day last August, members of the VISIONS editorial staff headed to Iowa’s second-largest city to see what was happening here.  On a day where the combined heat and humidity topped the heat index at an even 100 degrees, and thunderstorms rolled through intermittently, it was clear that the 2008 flood had opened up acres of opportunity.

Cultivate Hope Urban Farm
It’s not yet 7 a.m., and already the air is hot and sultry. A stormy sky threatens to scuttle the first photo shoot of the day, at the Cultivate Hope Urban Farm.

Neo Mazur (’12 global resources systems / world languages & cultures) greets us with a friendly smile and a handful of long beans. Mazur is the Cultivate Hope farm & school garden manager.

The urban farm is a project of Matthew 25, an independent, local nonprofit organization in Cedar Rapids. Matthew 25’s mission is to strengthen core neighborhoods on the west side of the city. This small farm is located at the corner of 6th St. NW and G Ave. NW – in a low-income neighborhood that’s, not surprisingly, in a flood plane. The idea of growing food here was created following the 2008 flood.

“This area was a food desert,” Mazur says. “They wanted to do something with the empty lot.”

More than 1,200 homes in this area were damaged in the flood. Many were not rebuilt. This two-acre farm is Iowa’s first urban farm education center. Children come to the garden to play on the natural playground structures. Families take evening walks here. Weeklong summer camps are held in this space, sponsored by FoodCorps, Linn County Extension, 4-H, and other groups.

The 2014 growing season is the third one in this location. Today, Mazur is harvesting heirloom tomatoes, beans, peppers, melons, and eggplant. Across the street is another plot and a row of apple trees.

Mazur grew up in Ames, the daughter of an ISU professor. She says she “hated gardening” when she was a kid. But today she’s bursting with pride as she offers a taste of her small, yellow Wapsipinicon Peach tomatoes.

Urban farming is “thinking about farming in a different way,” Mazur says. “It’s possible; you just have to think about space in a different way.”

Faith and Education
Our visit to the Matthew 25 urban farm is cut short by a brief cloudburst, which cools the air for about five minutes. When it’s over, the humidity is higher than ever.

Our next stop is at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, the site of one of several faith gardens in Cedar Rapids. In its location directly across from Johnson School of the Arts elementary, this vegetable farm is teaching kids about growing their own food.

In this city, where 60 percent of kids receive free or reduced lunches, Ann (Ewoldt) Torbert (’89 child, parent & community service) says it’s important for children to know where their food comes from. Torbert, a 4-H youth specialist for ISU Extension and Outreach, oversees the FoodCorps program administered through the Linn County office.

FoodCorps is a national program that connects kids to growing food, access to healthy foods, and education. It’s a partnership with the better-known AmeriCorps. Here in Cedar Rapids, Tess Romanski is the local FoodCorps service representative and a member of the county Extension staff.

Romanski, a 2012 Luther College graduate, is in her second year with the program. The education leaders at Johnson School of the Arts wanted to establish a vegetable plot, but the school didn’t have enough space, so the garden was established across the street at the church.

She brings first- through third-graders into the garden to teach them lessons on planting, what to do with the food, and composting the garden waste.

“Most kids enjoy it,” she says. “It’s so interesting being outside with the kids after school. Once they’re in the garden, they’re really focused.”

Feed Iowa First
Sonia Kendrick (’12 agronomy) grew up in Cedar Rapids with parents she describes as “Crippies.”

“You know, Christian hippies,” she says. “We had a couple of acres. Everything was pretty natural. We didn’t have a TV; we had to play outside. I can remember walking behind my mom putting seeds in the ground.”

Kendrick became an electrician and then joined the Army. When she returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, she had trouble reintegrating and eventually lost her job during the economic downturn. Faced with no job and a trade she really didn’t enjoy anyway, Kendrick called Iowa State.

“I wanted to be a farmer,” she says. “I was interested in food democracy and growing food and how everything works.”

She came to Iowa State and studied agronomy. And after graduation in 2012, she had a revelation.

“The ISU mantra was, ‘Iowa feeds the world,’” she says. “Well, I was volunteering at some food pantries, and what I saw changed my perspective. What does it matter if Iowa feeds the world? We’re not even feeding Iowa.”

Kendrick founded Feed Iowa First, a non-profit organization designed to help feed the hungry and encourage new farmers in Cedar Rapids and Linn County.

“We need to grow two-and-a-half cups of vegetables daily for each person in Cedar Rapids – for the 26,000 people who are food insecure,” she explains. “To do that would take 500 acres. There are 800 acres surrounding churches alone.”

Feed Iowa First currently has 25 acres of land in production, producing 30,000 pounds of vegetables annually, with the goal of expanding to 500 acres within the city limits of Cedar Rapids. Seven “faith gardens” are located on church properties; three more are on the campuses of Rockwell Collins and other corporations. Plots are tended mostly by volunteers – and Kendrick herself – and all of the fresh produce is donated through food pantries, halfway houses, Meals on Wheels, and in collaboration with ISU’s Linn County Extension and the Blue Zone project.

Kendrick has become a full-fledged food activist. She was honored in March 2014 at
the White House as a women veteran leaders “Champion of Change.”

“I believe in food democracy,” she says. “Food is not just for people who can afford it. If I can show that we can feed Linn County with this model, we can feed every county.”

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Farming by Square Foot
By now, the afternoon heat is sweltering. At the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program warehouse in nearby Hiawatha, Jason Grimm (’09 environmental studies / landscape architecture) is fully immersed in his role as a coordinator for the Iowa Valley Food Co-op producers.

Local growers are dropping off this week’s produce in carefully labeled boxes: kale, zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, raspberries, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes. This is not big ag; it’s food production by the minivan-full. And the food is not traveling across the continent; it’s staying local. It will soon be heading to Cedar Rapids-area Hy-Vee grocery stores.

Grimm is a food system planner for Iowa Valley Resource Conservation & Development, a nonprofit organization serving Benton, Iowa, Johnson, Linn, Poweshiek, and Tama counties. His ISU senior thesis on food urbanism informed the way he views food production.

“Food should be incorporated into civic planning like electricity and utilities,” he says. “There should be a plan for community gardens, for operating farms within the community, for school gardens. The production of food needs to be part of the infrastructure.”

Although he hasn’t yet seen much change in urban agriculture policies in the state of Iowa, Cedar Rapids is an exception.

“Cedar Rapids changed its zoning code to allow urban agriculture to happen,” he explains. “The 2008 flood helped – it made so much land vacant that they couldn’t figure out what to do with it all.”

He says urban farms are “farming by square foot, not by acre.” Even big-city dwellers can find creative ways to grow food, he says, by using pots, hanging plants off of decks and canopies, and creating vertical trellis structures.

Grimm is also involved with a more traditional farming operation. He helps run his family’s farm, located south of Williamsburg, with his parents and grandparents. Grimm Family Farm Raises poultry and grows black turtle beans, potatoes, and other produce.

Community organizers can launch their own projects by first educating their citizens, he said. “People don’t even know how much they CAN do,” he said.

communitygarden_howto

How to start a community garden
By Tess Romanski

What are the key benefits of growing a community garden?
Community gardens are a great way to cut down on food costs at the grocery store and allow access to more diverse types of produce. They also offer educational opportunities for children in the area as well as a place for community relationships to develop and deepen. It can also be helpful to turn an unused plot of land into a community benefit to increase quality of living in the area.

What’s the first step to starting a community garden?
The most important first step when thinking about starting a community garden is making sure that there is a solid support system behind the garden. A planning committee is a great place to start. Get some different members of the community involved in a discussion about why/where to start a garden, assign duties, and create a yearly plan so the garden stays organized and productive.

Tip: Make sure there are enough people passionate about the project that if one person leaves, the garden won’t fall to pieces. Get neighbors, community organizations, the local school, religious organizations, and local businesses involved.

How do we choose the site?
The best way to choose a garden location is by looking at sunlight, soil quality, and proximity to water. A garden should usually get a minimum of 6-7 hours of sunlight per day, so stay away from tall trees or large buildings if possible. Soil quality tests are available through the ISU Extension Office, local libraries, or most farm supply shops. It is best to start small, but leave plenty of room for expansion if the garden does well in its first years.

Gardens need a lot of water in the summer months, so consider where the caretakers will source water. It’s not fun to carry heavy buckets of water four blocks in 90-degree heat! Ask around and see if a nearby building would be open to allowing the community to use the water spigot in exchange for a small fee.

Also make sure the site is accessible to the majority of the population the garden is created for. If the garden is two miles away from the neighborhood, people are less likely to become involved. Try to keep the garden within easy walking distance, and make sure it is in a safe spot.

How do we do this if we live in an urban core?
There are a lot of undeveloped green spaces in urban centers, so contact the local city government and inquire if there is a lease agreement that could be reached. Some city governments allow community members to rent out park space to establish community gardens.

If you live in an apartment building, inquire with the landlord to see if there is any small plot available for tenants to use. If the landlord is hesitant, bring a list of all the interested tenants to show support.

With both city and apartment land, make sure you take into consideration mowing and landscape concerns. Make sure there is enough room to get a large lawnmower around, or offer to cut the grass around the garden to make it easier for maintenance crews.

What are the basic elements of the garden that we should consider as we make our garden plan?
Besides selecting the site, the planning committee will also need to decide what types of plants to grow, if it should be organic or if chemicals are allowed, how the division of labor will be divided, and where funding will come from. Pick a “garden build day” where all the heavy labor will be done, and start publicizing that date early and often so lots of people can make the work go quickly.

How should we plan the budget?
The budget should include items such as tools (shovels, wheelbarrows, buckets, hoses, etc.), mulch and compost, signs, seeds, and fencing. Donations can cover some of these costs in many instances. Check the local solid waste agency for rates on mulch and compost; most places charge about $10 per ton of compost, although it varies by location and availability.

Sponsors are also a way to cut down on cost for participants. Churches, schools,
local private businesses, or the parks and recreation department are all possible  sponsors that could cover some of the start-up cost. Fundraisers around the community and grants are also helpful in getting some seed money to start the project.

When looking at a budget, make sure to factor in both one-time costs (renting a tiller and purchasing other tools, compost, and fencing) as well as yearly costs such as renting the land, water usage, seeds, and tool replacement.

What about the division of labor?
Division of labor really depends on each community garden. The number of people, who is involved, and how invested each group is all influences whether a plot or communal system would work best. The planning committee would have to make that decision dependent on who is interested in participating.

Individual plot rentals work well in places such as apartment buildings or other primarily residential areas. In this case, each plot could be rented out at a set price and cover some of the cost of land rental and water usage, and each group working the plot would keep all the produce their plot grew.

For a more diverse group of members, a communal system can work better. If a school, local business, or community organization is involved, a weekly work schedule may be the easiest way to handle distribution of labor and make it cheaper for families to participate. The planning committee would have to assign specific duties to specific groups and plan the division of the produce, but this system would cut down on the overall labor per person.

strawberriesShould we have rules?
Expectations should definitely be set, but it is up to the members on how formal these are. Because it is a communal space, there needs to some agreement (“What are the consequences if you pick someone else’s produce?” “If you are on the watering schedule, you must show up.”). The planning committee should work with the members to set up expectations and make them clear at the beginning of the gardening season.

What are some good resources for additional information?
The American Community Gardening Association and the Let’s Move! website both have some great resources online for starting and maintaining community gardens. For more specific gardening questions relating to your area, the Iowa State Extension Master Gardeners are one of the most helpful resources.

Five Things

Here are five things to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week:

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1) It’s April 6, and Cy’s Days of Service is well underway. This monthlong service initiative is designed to engage Iowa Staters worldwide in community service in the name of ISU. If you have a project you’ve already planned or regular community service activities in which you’ll engage this month, be sure to log your impact as an Iowa State volunteer on our website. April is also a great month to do something special or engage with a group. There are several planned ISU service activities listed on the website, including one tonight in Chicago, and we’d be more than happy to help you plan and publicize a new activity, too.

Oh, and be sure to send us a picture of yourself or you group in action. If you’re planning something in Iowa, let Carole Gieseke (cgieseke@iastate.edu) know. She is looking to photograph a nearby Cy’s Days of Service project for VISIONS magazine.

2) Coach Otz is back. Last week, just a day after ISU announced the departure of key men’s basketball assistant Matt Abdelimassih for St. John’s, Fred Hoiberg announced that he was bringing back longtime assistant TJ Otzelberger, who worked with both Greg McDermott and Hoiberg from 2006-2013 before leaving for the University of Washington. Otzelberger is a star recruiter who brought both Craig Brackins and Melvin Ejim to Ames, among others. Otzelberger also happens to be married to former all-Big 12 Cyclone women’s basketball star Alison Lacey, so the Homecoming is a happy one for the whole family.

“Returning to Iowa State is a dream come true for my family and me,” Otzelberger said in a released statement. “We are truly passionate about this university and the Ames community. I couldn’t be more enthusiastic to get back to work with Coach Hoiberg and the excellent staff he has assembled. It feels great to be coming home.”

Otzelberger will have his work cut out for him right away; this weekend ISU announced that star recruit Darien Williams, who had been courted by Abdelmassih, has requested a release from his national letter of intent.

3) Spring football practice is winding down and will culminate with the annual Cyclone Gridiron Club Spring Game Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium. The scrimmage starts at 1 p.m., and the Club will host a tailgate for all Cyclone fans ($10/adult, $5/high school and younger) starting at 11 a.m. in a tent north of the stadium. The weather forecast looks good, so come on out and get a sneak peek at the Cyclones — and at those impressive stadium renovations!

4) Last week we announced the 2015 class of recipients of our Young Alumni Council’s annual Iowa STATEment Makers recognition. As always, we are humbed by the accomplishments of these awesome young alumni. Check it out for yourself!

5) Guess who made the top 10 on BestColleges.com’s list of best colleges for veterans?

Catering Spotlight: Valentino’s

angelaCheck out some great event-planning tips from our ISU Alumni Center team. This piece was written by Angela Horner, ISU Alumni Center Program Assistant. For more tips and assistance planning a special event at the ISU Alumni Center, call Angela, Lexi, or Brooke at (515) 294-4625 or visit www.isualumnicenter.org.

Over the next several weeks, we will be putting each of our approved caterers in the “spotlight” and giving them a chance to answer a few questions about their food, beverages, and services. This week we are putting Valentino’s in the catering spotlight. Who’s hungry for pizza?

  1. Who or what influences your catering?

Our catering goal is always to provide exceptional service, fresh food, and plenty of it. We always overestimate your numbers and bring more food than we need so we don’t run out.

  1. What sets your catering business apart from others in the industry?

A personal touch and the ability to truly cater to your needs (we do far more than pizza and pasta! We can do a carving station, full breakfast or brunch cater, box lunches, baked chicken dinner, mashed potatoes and sides, desserts and more).

  1. What is one thing most people do not know about your business?

side-image-foodMost people don’t know that 99% of the items on our menu are made from scratch…including our pizza dough that is made by hand. We use 100% real cheese and make all of our sauces and other buffet items ourselves. This is unusual in the pizza industry. We could cut our food costs by using pre-made items but we won’t.

  1. What is your chef’s favorite entrée to make?

Our incredible cherry dessert pizza….it’s addictive!

  1. What is your most popular menu item?

It’s a toss-up between our Mac & Cheese pizza and our Bacon Cheeseburger pizza. Both are unique and so delicious!

For more information about ISU Alumni Center approved caterers click here.