Cultivating More than Veggies In Belize City

Tucked away on a long street in Belize City, lies the first Urban Garden in the country.  Belize, for all its lush landscape, actually imports a disproportionate amount of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Which makes The Urban Garden for Food Security and Peace, more than an urban garden, it is also a project which aims to empower residents to not just eat healthily, but also locally while becoming independent of costly imports. After visiting their garden, we interviewed the principal gardeners/activist to learn more.

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E.C.  When was the garden founded, was it the motivation of residents, city officials?

UGFSP As children we always had backyard gardens so gardening is not a new concept to some of us. The Urban Garden for Food Security and Peace is a Belize Action Community project that seeks to grow both people and trees to mitigate poverty. This idea was extended to other organizations and individuals in 2006, when Belize began holding mutual improvement alliance meetings at Liberty Hall in Belize City.  Many old and young people have participated so far and we continue to look for more organizations and people to step up to this task.  In 2015 after a youth summit, where we had young adult youth leaders from 5 Central American Countries, we found several passionate young Afro Belizean adults who wanted to be a part of a program that could positively influence their social, economic and environmental ambitions for themselves and Belize.  At this particular time food security and peace is of vital importance. All over the world and in Belize we are experiencing many diseases at alarming rates because of the food we eat that is harming the human body.

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E.C. How did you come up with the name?

UGFSP It was created by Louis E Guild of the Belize Action Community who has been involved with human and environmental development issues all his life.

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E.C. How many working members do you have and tell us a little bit about how you and others gave up paying jobs to be a part of this project?

UGFSP The UGFSP is a vocation for ten people. I (Emerson Guild) have had no greater joy than volunteering for this UGFSP Project.  Now our primary support comes from EmergentCorp, Belize Youth Department and The Ministry of Agriculture. These agencies along with others, continue to support the volunteers of the UGFSP. And yes there are four people, including myself, volunteering at the UGFSP who have given up paying jobs to be a part of this noble idea that continues to demonstrate self-reliance and team work.

Here is some of their feedback

  • Sheryl Joseph I joined the Urban Garden for Food Security and Peace because my sister introduced me to the garden, I was very inspired the very first time I stepped in the garden…learning about our vegetables and fruits was such a simple but yet, eye opening change. I’ve felt liberated to share the little info that I’ve learned.  The garden allowed me to do I always say to think right, you must eat right.
  • Jamal Reid In August 2015, Emergent Corp facilitated the 11th CABO youth summit, held at UWI (University of West Indies) in Belize City. Two to three weeks later we decided to embark on Our Urban Garden for Food Security and Peace mission with Kadeem Bennett the founder of Belize Volunteers Club and Mr. Emerson Guild Manager/Director of Emergent, I realized that it was something that I liked to do plus I really do enjoy teaching other people that come to visit the work we have done, especially the children that visit us from the schools since it shows them something important & meaningful that they can be doing with their lives.
  • Shenyl Joseph I gave up my paying job to be a part of the Urban Garden because I was tired of the call center and wanted something more, at the garden I see and feel creativity because I am creative.

E.C. What is the underlying issue in Belize City with fresh food that this garden aims to resolve?

UGFSP Creating food security and peace as a catalyst for environmental harmony in troubled communities.

E.C. We noticed that you have a composting area, tell us about that.

UGFSP We are composting and creating organic teas for fertilizer on our garden site with materials such as dry grass, fruit and vegetables peel, leaves, anything natural that can biodegrade and be used in a different way.

E.C. What have been the key successes so far and what do you hope to improve?

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UGFSP Here is our short list:

  1. The Urban Garden for Food Security and Peace is still active, especially since the flood that had destroyed/drowned almost 400 of our plants
  2. We have already harvested since the garden started Hot peppers, Bell/sweat peppers, and harvested almost every day is our Spinach, Callao and tomatoes.
  3. We have motivated a few people to start their own gardens.
  4. We have found different ways to do gardening with either vertical, raised beds or self-feeding boxes, using recycle materials such as empty plastic bottles etc.
  5. One of our members Kadeem Bennett visited Grenada to participate in an open forum about agriculture.
  6. Some of our members will get the chance to participate in a 2-week permaculture course which is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.

We hope to improve in all aspects of us working together, whether it is in our personal development or in our everyday work at the Urban Garden, we’re definitely striving to improve in everything we do.

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E.C. What would you say is the most rewarding aspect?

UGFSP The most rewarding aspect of is harvesting the food from the plants, you learn something new each day, working together in unity.

E.C. How has the community responded?

UGFSP We have and continue to receive invitations to visit schools and community centers to deliver our message and also many residents have visited our Urban Garden.

E.C. What is the next step for your group, what is your biggest goal/aspiration?

UGFSP Our goal at UGFSP is to create and explore good practices and examples for food security and peace. Our daily work activities may seem casual but are very scientific in nature and geared to the pursuit of “LIFE” the activity in harmony with nature.

To learn more or offer support follow UGFSP on Facebook

Street Art Beautifies Construction Site

The city is ever changing. Established builds comes up against new construction in a continuing cycle of growth and improvement.

Sometimes this creates conflict. Other times it ignites inspiration.

In Pacific Park Brooklyn, a new neighborhood with many pending mix-use buildings underway, 10 Murals went up in 1 day (lead by artist Mike Perry). Setting up artistic eye candy to camouflage a huge construction eyesore.

Would you rather look at a cranes and dump trucks or art? We agree!

Photography Credit: Fabio Cuzzi

Building with Legos, Building the City

Above the din and noise of New York City
Monotone white Legos
Provide fodder and fun
Inspiring the art of building

All takes place
Beneath the scaffolding of construction workers
Their drills and machines
Raise the level of life
And living

Building community
Is not easy but possible
Using one Lego or brick at a time

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“Please Touch the Art”

The best way to experience a city is with all our senses.  It we are lucky, we continually have chances to see dynamic places or spaces within the urban landscape.  Too often we can only enjoy these aspects visually.

Jeppe Hein wants to change that in his open-air exhibit titled Please Touch the Art, presented as part of the Public Art Fund at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Program.

A review of this exhibit in Gothamist states:

“Likely to be the most heavily “touched” piece is “Appearing Rooms,” set on a platform right at the entrance to Pier 1 and, basically, acting as a water attraction, with impressively powerful jets building and collapsing walls to make four separate chambers over and over again. Time it right and you can enter the work without getting (too) wet. Time it wrong, as most of the dozens of kids were deliberately doing, and you’re sopping.”

Literally, you can see, touch, taste, smell and hear this exhibit.  Ready for summer everyone?!

Discover more here from the Public Art Fund.

Photography Credit: James Ewing

Crossing Borders: Oakland and San Francisco

SPUR, Ideas and Actions for a Better City

San Francisco 6:00 p.m. | Monday, May 4, 2015

Though physically separated by the San Francisco Bay, Oakland and San Francisco are inextricably linked through their economies, housing markets and the hundreds of thousands of people who cross the bay each day. Come hear both cities’ planning directors in a conversation on some of the topics that link (or divide) them.

+ Rachel Flynn / Oakland Department of Planning and Building
John Rahaim / San Francisco Planning Department

Can’t make it in person? Check out the Live@SPUR webcast of this event.

SPUR Urban Center

654 Mission Street

94105-4015 San Francisco, CA

Walking New York City – Urban Art at its Best

The French artist JR describes this Manhattan based project:

“Last month the New York Times Magazine reached out to me to think about a project together… I told them I have been working for a year on Immigration and I would love to continue what I started on Ellis Island in the city.  So, we started looking for people who arrived less than a year ago.  We chose 15 coming from all over the world. I photographed them walking in the city … all of them completely unknown… living in the shadows of the city and learning English slowly.  We pasted Elmar, 20 years old who came from Azerbaijan, on the floor of Flat Iron Plaza in New York City.  The image was 150 feet high.  People walked on him all day and no one really noticed him… Today he is on the cover of the NYtimes magazine… while everyone else is in the shadow.”

Read more at the NYTimes.

 

A Seedling Grows in Pittsburgh

A Seedling Grows in Pittsburgh

Reclaiming abandoned homes that leave behind empty lots, for the creation of fresh veggies and fruits is a growing trend in urban centers nationwide.  Further, this trend is comprised of hopeful urban farmers, who want to revitalize their communities.

This is the story of Mindy Schwartz.  She lives in Wilkinsburg, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh and she works hard to product amazing seedling plants and serve her community.

How did her story begin?  In 1994, she moved into a 3-unit apartment house and built raised gardens to grow produce.  She was so successful that she grew more than she could ever eat.  At first, she gave them away to friends, and then she began charging for them, finally she began selling to local restaurants.  “Next thing you know, I have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of seedlings,” she said.

Mindy turned her passion into a business, paving the way for the once abandoned to become fully alive.

Read more from our friends at the Post-Gazette.

 

Make a Wish Upon a Tree in Potrero Hill

Some were new; some were old. All were personal.

In January 2014, I visited San Francisco and discovered a small, dense neighborhood on a steep hill.  It became a fast favorite, Potero Hill.  Together, my husband, daughter and I, standing outside on the street, discovered a tree filled with small hand-written notes tied to the branches like ornaments.

Some were new; some were old. All were personal.

We had no idea who started this creation. There was no signage, no credit taken. Just tons of notes filled with things each writer was grateful for, simply expressed.  How wonderful.

We immediately found a pen and paper and wrote our joint note.  With surprise and pleasure a year later almost to the date, the tree still stands. The notes are more plentiful. Some damaged by rain but the majority, surviving in the ideal Bay Area climate.

This small and modest tree stands as a huge and enduring testament to the vitality of community life, the desire we all have to connect – and to the fun and creativity a city can experience in free yet priceless ways.

Why not consider starting a similar tree in your neighborhood?

 

Photography Credit: Aminah Ricks

Jean-Michel Basquiat | The Unknown Notebooks

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April 3–August 23, 2015 

The Brooklyn Museum is excited to present this in-depth survey of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s rarely seen notebooks.  Learn about his motivations, inspirations and conceptions prior to creating his legendary artwork.  

Filled with “poetry fragments, wordplay, sketches, and personal observations ranging from street life and popular culture to themes of race, class, and world history” this exhibit is a must-see if you are in the New York City/Brooklyn area.

Painting Credit: Untitled – Jean-Michel Basquiat

Photo Credit: Brooklyn Museum Catalogue Cover

https://www.artsy.net/artist/jean-michel-basquiat

Living Roof by Renzo Piano

Sitting in a packed classroom at the Università Degli Studi Roma Tre in Rome, Italy five years ago, I was first introduced to the Living Roof project built by Renzo Piano.  Seeing the work in a simple slide show, I appreciated the boldness and majesty of his design and its significance to our cities. Recently, while living briefly in San Francisco, I was able to fulfill the dream that erupted that day — to see this green roof with 1.7 million living plants.

Renzo Piano is one of my favorite architects and urban planners.  On the day I visited this landmark, there were grey clouds and minimal color in the sky.  Yet this could not dimmer my enthusiasm.  It was a joy and privilege to try to imagine all the details that went into the design of creating an entire ecosystem that will live for years to come.

It is beautiful, sustainable, literally and conceptually green. It contributes to making our urban cities healthier.  I hope he inspires more living roofs on this scale, all over the world.

Read more on this phenomenon here

Elevating City Life