Flannel Farms is the name I gave my farm venture from the very beginning, the name is an extension of a silly joke from high school where my friends and I wore flannel every Friday Flannel Friday. It had a nice ring, so I thought Flannel Farms sounded good as well.
I became interested in urban issues when I wrote a paper on the Youngstown 2010 plan during my freshman year of college. I interned with a Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation who was working on neighborhood beautification and community development through a series of neighborhood gardens. While I was working there, we started their flagship urban farm which is an impressive example of a productive urban farm. Being involved with their urban agriculture efforts, I became interested in the field that was taking over vacant lots in cities across the country.
When I was first learning about urban agriculture, I read two pieces that set the framework in which I still think about food. The first is The 25% Shift, a study done by Northeast Ohio Food Web that stated the economic potential of eating local food. If NE Ohio ate a quarter of its foods from local farms, it would put 1 in 7 unemployed persons back to work. The other book I read was The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, who introduced the Christian-Libertarian-Environmentalist-Capitalist-Lunatic Farmer, Joel Salatin, a grass farmer in Swoope, VA. His ideas about healing the earth, producing good food, and making a profit while doing it resonated with me.
Those ideas of employment and profitability stuck with me as I continued to read about the urban agriculture projects happening all over the country, especially the Rust Belt.
Luckily, loads of research of research and development have been done on urban agriculture. Growing Power a non-profit farm in Milwaukee has incredible aquaponic systems raising tilapia with salad greens without any need for the ground soil to be clean because of the raised bed system. They emphasis growing compost from food waste which gives them incredibly rich soil that they use to grow everything. This system is high yield per square foot, and can be located just about anywhere on any scale. Earthworks Farm in Detroit is one I’ve been told is especially impressive and they span almost 2 blocks to cook at their soup kitchen run by a Catholic organization. The methods of these farms have been developed and are replicable for other farmers, so the goal of Flannel Farms is to take these ideas to another sphere. The private sector.
The Flannel Farms Experiment is to create an easily replicated model for a profitable urban farm on the smallest possible area. So those vacant lots at the end of your block can create a well paying job for you. I believe this will require a mix of aquaponics, unheated hoop house, small livestock, worms, compost, fruit trees, vegetable beds, and easy outlets for small scale growers to sell their produce.
Flannel Farms will upscale significantly at the Canfield, OH site we grew on last summer to grow using biointensive methods. During the summer, developments will begin on our urban farm which will be located on the lot of the recently torn down school on Garfield and Hillman Streets.
After I graduated from Brown University May 26th, I plan on moving back to Youngstown to develop this project and grow delicious local food for the Youngstown area.