Urban Agriculture & Local

BAD Farms doing GOOD things for our drinking water

by Beth Garcia

Rice farm cows

Rice farm cows

Where can you find yogurt, cheeses…and mounds of manure?  At Beth and David Rice Farms (AKA “BAD Farms”) in Berks County, Pennsylvania. This dairy farm is part of the Maiden Creek watershed which supplies drinking water to 1.5 million people downstream, including the cities of Reading and Philadelphia.   Recently I had the chance to visit the farm to celebrate the announcement of the latest round of Schuylkill River Restoration Fund (SRRF) grants. That day, over $274,000 was announced for nine projects that will conserve land and reduce agricultural pollution, stormwater runoff, and abandoned mine drainage.

dry manure storage

dry manure storage

The recently installed 6-month concrete liquid and dry manure storage basins at BAD Farms were funded in part by past SRRF grants. Farm improvements like the storage basins prevent microbiological pathogens from entering the watershed, protect groundwater, and allow farmers to put higher-quality nutrients on their crops at the right time.

liquid manure storage

liquid manure storage

This farm, like many, wouldn’t be able to make these improvements without the help of many partners in the Schuylkill Action Network (SAN). EPA is part of the SAN and SRRF advisory committees, helping the group achieve its mission of protecting and restoring Schuylkill Waters by bringing together partners of all levels.  Over the past ten years, the SRRF has distributed over $2.5 million, and leveraged another $2.5 million, to complete 73 projects that protect and restore the Schuylkill River for recreational use and as a source of drinking water. This year, The Coca-Cola Company joined several long-time partners in funding projects to protect the Schuylkill.

The proof is in the pudding: when partners from all sectors – non-profit organizations, government agencies, and private companies – come together, we can achieve greater water quality protections than any one partner could do alone. Check out some ways that you can do good things – like BAD Farms – to protect drinking water sources in your area.

 

About the Author: Beth Garcia is a member of the Source Water Protection and DC Direct Implementation teams in EPA Region 3.  Beth lives in a lake community where she enjoys swimming, kayaking, and fishing all within walking distance from her backyard.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Garden with your Elders!

By Leon Latino

One of my oldest gardening memories is picking Japanese peapods for my grandfather, a 2nd generation Italian-American who moved the family from Worcester, MA to rural East Brookfield, where he had room to plant massive gardens. Though I did not really enjoy picking peas or watering cucumbers at the time, I now find gardening to be one of my favorite outdoor activities.

As part of the Environmental Careers Program at EPA, I was encouraged to join an “action learning team” along with other new employees. Building on our common interests in gardening, food security, and community-building, we decided to document examples of elder-accessible community gardens, gardening plots thoughtfully designed with elders in mind.  Most have raised beds that bring the gardening surface closer to waist height, to allow for easy use. These gardens represent a great opportunity to involve elders in community-building activities, while also providing low-impact exercise and improved access to fresh food.

My team looked for examples of elder-accessible gardens on former Brownfield sites. Can you imagine a blighted or underused parcel of urban land being redeveloped as a garden? How about a garden where elders can enjoy time outdoors in the shade while imparting gardening knowledge and cultural knowledge on younger generations? It is quite a transformative idea!

EPA’s “Urban Agriculture & Local, Sustainable Food Systems” website provides information that empowers both urban and rural gardeners to properly assess and mitigate potential contaminants in their soils. Their mantra is “test your soil first,” especially if you do not know the history of your gardening site.

The Brownfields “Urban Ag” website features my team’s new publication on elder-accessible gardens.
Here’s an example from Philadelphia, where gardens have become a place of cultural exchange for a diverse group of elder immigrants.

Do you know of other examples where gardens are “growing community” or revitalizing under-used sites? Share your stories below!

About the author: Leon Latino has been with EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management since 2009. He and his wife have modified their pavement-heavy urban environment with raised-bed and container gardens, plus a rain garden and rain barrels.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.