Why Urban Agriculture?
There is an increasing need to:
- teach urban communities to grow, eat and demand fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
- create awareness around food production.
- address food access issues and make nutritious and affordable foods available to all Delawareans.
- improve sense of community as well as aesthetics of urban spaces.
The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s Lawn and Garden services include (ongoing) and on-site technical assistance to individuals and communities interested in growing fruits and vegetables, as well as soil testing and plant diagnostic services. We offer extensive educational programming with the help of our well-trained volunteer educators to include the Master Gardeners, Composters, and Food Educators. Programs include community presentations, home gardener and commercial grower workshops, and on-site and community demonstrations. Additionally, our demonstration and display gardens throughout the state have been designed to serve as an example of small-scale vegetable and fruit production (whether backyard, community, or small-scale commercial production) and to demonstrate good growing techniques. We have strengthened our programming and outreach efforts by working together with others, to include Nemours, the Food Bank of Delaware, the Delaware Department of Agriculture, and the Delaware Center for Horticulture.
Just one way in which we’ve responded to this growing need for vegetable and fruit production information and education is by developing new workshops and demonstrations.
In 2009 and 2010, the New Castle County Extension offered numerous Grow your own Food workshops and demonstrations, in varying formats, and locations, in our community. The Master Gardener Home Gardener Workshop Series featured the following topics: starting vegetables from seed, growing your own food, fruit production, composting, open houses and demonstrations in our teaching gardens, edible landscapes, and more. A Back to Basics workshop series was developed and offered to help people learn skills that they could use to save money, expand their resources, and live more simply; this series featured a basic vegetable gardening workshop alongside other topics such as organic production, small-scale growing techniques, and food preservation and preparation. Special events included a Day in the Garden event planned and offered by Master Gardener and Master Food Educators in the teaching and demonstration gardens to educate the community in vegetable gardening, and vegetable preparation.
In 2009 and 2010 there were more than 15 workshops that focused on the Grow your own Food theme, educating nearly 400 community members.
This Grow your own Food theme continued into 2011 and 2012. Thus far, in 2011 and 2012, we have worked with and educated more than 500 community members. Additionally, in March 2012, a Community and School Garden Information Session was offered, in partnership with the Delaware Department of Agriculture, the Delaware Center for Horticulture, and Healthy Foods for Healthy Kids, for educators, community members, and gardeners starting or maintaining a community or school garden. This event attracted more than 50 participants from across the state. As a result of this session we continue to work closely with community and school gardens statewide, providing support and guidance as well as educational programming throughout the growing season. A similar community and school garden information session will be offered at the Sussex County Extension office this winter, 2013.