Real Roots Food Systems is a company based around increasing the viability of urban farming and it’s ability to feed communities. It seeks to do this by
- a.) Offering installation services to those who are ready to start growing food in their urban/peri-urban contexts.
- b) Offering workshops and presentations teaching people different strategies for growing fruits or veggies in their urban/peri-urban contexts.
Small-scale vegetable growing
Our services are meant to provide small-scale vegetable growing installations in homes, businesses, and small apartment complexes. This could be something as us building a SIP (Self-Irrigated Planter) to put in the sunniest area of your balcony, installing a tower on your patio to grow herbs vertically, or tilling a sunny patch behind your house that you always thought would be good for growing. All installations are done in a sustainable and affordable way which makes us different from our competitors. We believe that high price points are the main thing that stop normal, everyday people from considering a service like ours. For that reason we like to keep all installations reasonably priced, and educate our clients on how to keep the price down for its maintenance. In other words, we would love to install a compost bin or an irrigation system for you as well! These systems save you from unnecessary spending on water bills, expensive potting soils, and fancy fertilizers. Anything we can do to help you conserve resources and close your waste loop would be our pleasure.
The workshops are based around all kinds of topics related to small-scale food production in an urban or peri-urban setting. They generally last for 1-3 hours, and can be given at all types of locations throughout the city. Libraries, school multi-purpose rooms, retirement homes are all examples of places where RRFS workshops have been given. There are usually 10-20 participants in each session, and sessions usually consist of a guided PowerPoint presentation, a utilitarian building demonstration (planters, compost bins, tire beds, etc), soil test analysis skills (critical!), Q&A, snacks and more!
Both the installations and the workshops are led by Mark Davis C.U.A, a dedicated horticulturalist and student of organic urban agriculture from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Mark was one of nine Fellows selected to be a part of one of the first USDA-NRCS funded Urban Agriculture Certification programs in the nation. He has also worked to found and run a community garden at Howard University, cultivating and re-purposing the empty lots around the university’s dormitories. He is an Eagle Scout and a self-taught herbalist, who has a very strong passion for inspiring others to cherish and value the Earth and to make use of whatever space they may have to do it! He may be young and lack formal farm management experience, but he is truly a student of his craft, and is dedicated to using what knowledge he has gained thus far to uplift and strengthen his community and anyone else ready to take the next step towards sustainability.
1. Our Mission
The Black’s Law Dictionary defines sustainability as continuing growth or development without affecting the environment negatively. As citizens, we should be preparing to contribute to a newer, more sustainable system. One of the ways we can contribute is to start growing what food we can ourselves. Real Roots Food Systems has a mission to help shift the collective mindset to where everyone in a community is growing a small (if not considerable) portion of their own food, whether they live in the city or not. Within this system, people would grow the types of food that fit into their context (people in small apartments could grow microgreens, people in the suburbs grow tomatoes and cucumbers, more rural could grow potatoes and onions, etc). We could feed our own families or trade with other people who have different produce. We would save ALOT of money at the store. We would know what went into the food we grew, and develop an appreciation for what we eat and put into our bodies. These are all examples of food system sustainability, and it’s hard to make an argument against a future like that. Real Roots Food Systems believes that we have left the production and quality of our food in somewhat dubious hands for long enough. The sooner we can relearn the skills it takes to care of ourselves and our communities, the better!
2. Our Objectives
Our society’s current model of industrial agriculture and importing food from far away countries is not built to last. It is of utmost importance to understand the process of growing our own food. Our responsibility is to ourselves. It’s to our family and friends. It’s to our planet and the various species that work so hard to keep everything in balance. We are not separate from nature. We have to understand that we have a right to consume what we need to live, but if we fail to do our part in replenishing it we won’t last very long.
3. Our Workshops
Food production in an urban setting is something that can be researched and studied for years. Our workshops highlight a host of different topics that will prepare you to begin producing food in your backyard or urban space right away.
Urban Agriculture: A General Overview (2 hours)
This workshop is the most broad of the workshops RRFS provides, and attempts to touch briefly on all of the aspects of Urban Agriculture as a way to viable feed our communities. This workshop addresses an important concern: Should urban agriculture be looked as the solution to our weakening food system? The answer isn’t a simple one. We at RRFS believe that urban agriculture cannot and should not be the only answer, but it absolutely has to be a part of it. The workshop goes over all the different styles of urban agriculture (small-scale market farms, rooftop farms, urban bee keeping, aquaculture, etc), success stories from cities all over the country, ways non-farming individuals can contribute, programs and opportunities available, and much more. You will leave this workshop with a better understanding of how critical urban agriculture is to our survival, why it IS truly viable, and what it’s place should be in our vast agricultural system here in the US.
Vermicomposting: Indoor and Outdoor Strategies (1 hour)
This workshop focuses on fully understanding the concept of using multiple different species of worms to invigorate traditional thermocompost, rid it of potential pathogens and foul smells, add enzymes and plant growth hormones, and add almost every element of the soil food web to your soil, from bacteria to micro-arthropods. Vermicomposting can be done on a very small scale in ones home, apartment or small business. It can also be done outdoors on a larger scale to actually provide home grown fertility to an outside garden or small scale farm. This workshop addresses cheap, sustainable strategies for building and maintaining both styles of operation.
Soil Remediation: Fungi, Worms, and Compost (1 hour)
This workshop focuses on how to get food growing on a seriously challenged soil as soon as possible. “Challenged soil” could range anywhere from abandoned lots filled with the debris of a demolished house, patches of city land that is contaminated with lead or harmful chemicals, lifeless soil of what was previously an over fertilized lawn, and multiple other unique situations. The workshop focuses on what RRFS feels like are the most cost-effective and sustainable ways of getting a challenged soil back into production: introducing mycorrhizal fungae, combining the efforts of multiple species of earthworm, and using compost grown on-site. Combing these methods can bring a challenged soil back to production level, sometimes within a single growing season. This workshop explore what makes this possible, and more importantly, how to get it done in a cost effective and sustainable way.
Urban Agriculture (Intensive): Urban Food Production (2-4 hours)
This workshop is an augmented version of the Urban Agriculture: A General Overview workshop explained above. This is a one day intensive workshop for 10-12 participants where they will learn the steps it takes to get started growing food in an urban context. Participants in this workshop should have a potential place where they plan to grow food, and are generally ready to get it into organic food production in the current growing season. This workshop goes over soil testing and amending, how to properly compost/vermicompost, establishing an IPM system, seed propagation and growing healthy transplants, crop planning & rotation strategies , reducing you weed seed bank, and addressing unique challenges that exist particularly in an urban/peri-urban setting. It consists of a guided powerpoint presentation, building demonstrations, soil test analysis, Q&A, snacks, and much more. Generally only given on weekends, due to the length of the workshop. The most comprehensive workshop provided by RRFS.
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Urban Agriculture is gaining popularity all across the country.
Check out what Pittsburgh is doing in their community. Real Roots Food Systems would love to see this in every city!