27

Dec

Strawberry Hoop House


Fresh, nutritious, organically grown strawberries will be finding their way into the diet of kids in the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Kids Cafe program next spring thanks to a new project that Urban Harvest has been working on this past fall. The project has involved many hours of renovating the hoop house, installing special vertically stacked grow pots onto poles, installing an overhead drip irrigation system and planting strawberries.  This was all completed with the generous help of volunteers.

The “Strawberry House” protects the plants from extreme weather and is heated and cooled by rolling the sides up and down in response to the outside temperature.  Inside the house there are five 40’ long rows with twelve to thirteen poles per row.  Each pole supports seven stacked special pots that are able to grow 6 plants per pot, or 42 plants per pole, which equals about 546 plants per row.  We are able to grow over 3,000 plants using this system.

The overhead drip watering system will efficiently and economically feed the plants nutrients from a combination of water from the aquaponics system and worm compost from the worm farm.  Additional growing space below the pots will support more strawberries and other companion plants for attracting beneficial insects.  Another benefit of growing in this system is that the plants will produce berries earlier and higher yields than traditional ground grown plants – with fewer disease issues.

Urban Harvest made growing food for the Regional Food Bank’s kids feeding programs its primary mission in 2010. Other fresh food, such as tomatoes, peppers, okra, lettuce, sweet potatoes and fruit from the orchard, will join the strawberries on the plates of thousands of kids during 2011, supplementing foods purchased for the programs.

Urban Harvest is looking for motivated and dedicated volunteers to help grow food for kids in the 2011 growing season.  A special volunteer group will be organized in February (date to be announced in January). This group will receive classroom and hands-on training on how to plant, grow and harvest fruits and vegetables with Urban Harvest.  The volunteers will work with the new strawberry system, the aquaponics system and traditional field crops on specified days convenient for the each volunteer.

For more information on volunteering for this special group, contact me (Bruce Edwards, Urban Harvest Director) at bedwards@regionalfoodbank.org or call 405-604-7108. This is a great way to help us further our mission of “Fighting Hunger … Feeding Hope!”

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards is the Director of the Urban Harvest program, an urban agricultural program of the Regional Food Bank that works to increase food security by making fresh fruits and vegetables available to hungry Oklahomans.
Read more articles by Bruce


09

Jun


Great story on Urban Harvest in the Oklahoman today! Check out the video featured on NewsOK:

Read the full story here!

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards is the Director of the Urban Harvest program, an urban agricultural program of the Regional Food Bank that works to increase food security by making fresh fruits and vegetables available to hungry Oklahomans.
Read more articles by Bruce


29

Mar


The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is one of the few food banks in the nation that utilizes an aquaponic system. On Saturday, the Urban Harvest program offered class to teach the community how to build and maintain the system in their own backyard.  Aquaponics is a system of growing fish and edible plants in a closed, circulating system. It creates a bio-system in which fish waste provides nutrients for the plants, and the plants clean the water for the fish.

The Regional Food Bank has been experimenting with two different aquaponics systems since 2006 and has had great results. The current system consists of a tank that can hold up to 800 tilapia, connected to two 50-feet-long floating grows beds that accommodate up to 800 plant units. Typically, lettuce grows to harvest size in five weeks in this system. The system can be smaller or larger, based on needs and goals.

Tilapia is the fish of choice for most growers as they grow from fingerling to 1.5 pounds in as little as nine months.  The leafy greens and herbs grow quickly, producing nutritious food faster than field growing.

The class, which was in such high demand that a waiting list was created, consisted of 30 students who worked to construct a “low-tech” aquaponic system that could be adapted to home or small business with a relatively small financial investment. The system will be used as the Urban Harvest nursery for baby tilapia.

More photos from the aquaponics class on Flickr!

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards is the Director of the Urban Harvest program, an urban agricultural program of the Regional Food Bank that works to increase food security by making fresh fruits and vegetables available to hungry Oklahomans.
Read more articles by Bruce


11

Mar

Urban Harvest Offers Aquaponics Class


Aquaponics is a system of growing fish and edible plants in a closed circulating system that creates a bio-system in which fish waste provides nutrients for the plants, and plants filter and clean the water for the fish.

Urban Harvest is offering an aquaponics workshop to introduce the basic concepts of the system. The class will help people decide if they want to invest in establishing one of these systems through hands on learning. It will be held on March 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The cost to attend is $25.00.

The aquaponics class will consist of two components (lunch on your own between 12:00pm and 1:00pm; Urban Harvest will provide beverages if you want to brown-bag-it):

  • 9:00–12:00: Introductions followed by a film and lecture based upon the Urban Harvest experience of building and operating a greenhouse aquaponics system. A walk-and-talk will introduce the students to the commercial system located in the greenhouse.
  • 1:00-4:00: Students will assist with the construction of a “low tech” aquaponic system that could be adapted to home or small business with relatively low financial investment. The system will become the Urban Harvest nursery for baby Tilapia.

At the Regional Food Bank, we have been experimenting with two different systems since 2006 and have had great results. Our experience has come from formal training and a lot of trial and error! The first system was based upon the low-tech Growing Power model from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This was a vertical system of plant beds connected to a tank that held 100 tilapia. The system worked well, successfully growing out both fish and various edible plants and herbs.  Later, a larger commercial system modeled after a concept developed by the University of The Virgin Islands was established. Our current system consists of a tank that can hold up to 800 tilapia, connected to two 50 foot long floating grow beds that accommodate up to 800 plant units. Typically, lettuce grows to harvest size in 5 to 6 weeks in this system. This type of system can be smaller or larger based on needs and goals.

Tilapia is the fish of choice for most growers as they grow from fingerling to 1.5 pounds in as little as 9 months while leafy greens and herbs grow quickly, producing nutritious food faster than field growing.

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards is the Director of the Urban Harvest program, an urban agricultural program of the Regional Food Bank that works to increase food security by making fresh fruits and vegetables available to hungry Oklahomans.
Read more articles by Bruce


16

Feb

Urban Harvest Sustainable Home Gardening Classes


Learn the basic knowledge and skills you need to get a home garden started with Urban Harvest Sustainable Home Gardening Classes. Urban Harvest is an urban agriculture program offering a series of basic home gardening classes to help Oklahomans glean the skills needed to grow food in their own yards.

urban harvest

Students learn in both a theory (classroom) and hands-on setting, while exploring everything from basic seed starting and composting to building their own home aquaponic system.

Classes range in cost from $10-$25 and take place at the Regional Food Bank, located at 3355 S. Purdue in Oklahoma City. All payments go to further the work of Urban Harvest in its sustainable organic gardening projects. Because limited space is available, advanced registration is required and early signup is encouraged.

Class scheduling and pricing is as follows:

February 2010
Basic Raised Bed Gardening: February 20, 1-4 p.m. $15
Basic Home Composting: February 27, 1-4 p.m. $10
Basic Seed Starting: February 28, 1-4 p.m. $10

March 2010
Basic Raised Bed Gardening: March 6, 1-4 p.m. $15
Basic Seed Starting: March 13, 1-4 p.m. $10
Drip Irrigation for Sustainability: March 18, 1-4 p.m. $10
Basic Raised Bed Gardening: March 20, 1-4 p.m. $15
Intro to Building a Home Aquaphonic System: March 27 9 a.m.-4 p.m. $25

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards is the Director of the Urban Harvest program, an urban agricultural program of the Regional Food Bank that works to increase food security by making fresh fruits and vegetables available to hungry Oklahomans.
Read more articles by Bruce


22

Jan

Volunteer with Urban Harvest!


Urban Harvest is designed to make fresh fruits and vegetables more readily available to hungry Oklahomans and increasing food security through the core components of the program. Volunteers are needed to help with various Urban Harvest projects!

urban harvest

Red Dirt Soil Builders is a specialized volunteer group that meets Saturday mornings from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Volunteers receive training on composting techniques and help move spoiled produce to the composting areas. Here the waste becomes a valuable soil amendment. A willingness to learn, get dirty and to do something green is required for volunteers.

This month, Urban Harvest will begin starting seeds in the greenhouse. Individuals and groups are needed to help start, propagate and care for greenhouse seedlings. In May, thousands of these plants will be distributed to our community gardens at no cost.

Are you interested in production gardening? Urban Harvest will begin planting cool weather crops starting in Mid February and will continue into summer crops through June. Get your hands dirty planting, caring for and harvesting vegetables that are used in the fight against hunger in Oklahoma.

To sign up to volunteer, contact Bruce at bedwards@regionalfoodbank.org or 604-7108.

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards is the Director of the Urban Harvest program, an urban agricultural program of the Regional Food Bank that works to increase food security by making fresh fruits and vegetables available to hungry Oklahomans.
Read more articles by Bruce


21

Dec


Garden greetings from Urban Harvest!

Urban Harvest originally was developed to help start and sustain community gardens in the Oklahoma City area. Community gardens are gardens that are established by churches, schools, civic organizations or just neighbors who work together to grow food and plants on empty lots. Currently we are working with 28 active community gardens and have several that are in various stages of organization for the spring of 2010.   The program helps with organization and developing solid plans for gardens, provides on-the-ground assistance during the building process, looks for funding and bulk gardening materials and provides free seedlings and seed when available (last year several thousand plants were started in our greenhouses and given to gardens).  We also host quarterly meetings for networking and education.

While the philosophy “build it and they will come” makes a great movie, it does not always happen so easily in reality! The key is organizing and having a strong nucleus of dedicated gardeners. Those interested in establishing a community garden can contact Bruce at bedward@regionalfoodbank.org for more information.  And anyone can make an impact by donating gardening materials or by making a financial gift to support community gardens.

Urban Harvest has been very busy the past few months expanding its composting activities in our demonstration and production gardens located at the Regional Food Bank’s Community Garden.  We use several techniques to compost waste materials such as spoiled straw, dead leaves, grass and spoiled produce. At times, the Food Bank receives produce that is spoiled or near spoilage on arrival. Instead of throwing this raw material away—and paying someone to haul it off—we add it to our compost piles or feed it to our worms, which also produce a high quality plant food with their castings.

We use the compost to build our garden soils while diverting waste from the Oklahoma City landfill.  This helps us reduce the Food Bank’s waste removal bill. When a donation of $1 provides seven meals to Oklahoma’s hungry, this is not an insignificant act. Over the past five weeks, our composting efforts have had a financial impact of $3,000 on our organization.

Check out this video of our compost pile:

We have formed a new volunteer group called the Red Dirt Soil Builders, and you are invited to join! This group meets most Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon to learn about composting and help with the labor of making compost. Volunteers may qualify for free compost next summer. Those interested can contact Bruce at 405-604-7108 or bedwards@regionalfoodbank.org.

- Bruce Edward, Urban Harvest Director

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards is the Director of the Urban Harvest program, an urban agricultural program of the Regional Food Bank that works to increase food security by making fresh fruits and vegetables available to hungry Oklahomans.
Read more articles by Bruce