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On Friday, March 5 and Saturday, March 6, I attended an Urban Agriculture Workshop at Lynchburg Grows in Lynchburg, VA, facilitated and lead by Will Allen‘s team–Growing Power. Professionals, farmers, high school students, food security advocates and homemakers from the Mid-Atlantic region gathered in the warmth of a greenhouse at Lynchburg Grows to learn about aquaponics, compost, vermicompost, and the basics of starting an urban farm. Below are a few images from the 2 day workshop and a brief description of each workshop activity. All the materials and handouts that were used during the workshop are now available for free at Lynchburg Grows. To view all the images from the workshop, click here.



The workshop began with introductions and an inspirational speech by Will Allen. Following a strict urban agriculture time protocol (translation: a very loose agenda with little attention paid to the clock, and all attention focused one of several hands-on activity, relationship building, and the enjoyment of delicious, freshly prepared food that featured local farms and businesses), the workshop commenced with the hands-on building of an aquaponics system.




After an amazing lunch featuring grass-fed beef burgers and a savory sweet potato salad with fresh herbs, Will Allen provided a hands on compost and vermicompost lesson to eager and energetic participants.




The evening concluded with another fabulous meal – vegetarian and omnivore lasagna options and apple crisp – and a presentation about Growing Power. The second and final day of the workshop included a presentation by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Ann Carroll and Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality’s Meade Anderson about the importance of testing not only the nutrient quality of the soil before beginning any type of urban agriculture activity, but most importantly the testing for contaminants, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, asbestos, heavy metals, solvents, lubricants, acids, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Brownfields, or abandoned or underused sites where redevelopment or reuse is complicated by the presence or perceived presence of contamination, can be found in the commercial, as well as in some residential, areasĀ in most cities, suburbs and towns across the country. Lynchburg Grows discovered early on in the redevelopment process that much of the land within the existing greenhouse structures was contaminated. Through a remediation process with EPA funding, Lynchburg Grows was able to clean up the soil and use the existing structures to create a successful urban farming operation. For more information about brownfields redevelopment and urban agricultures see How Does Your Garden Grow? Brownfields Redevelopment and Local Agriculture and Cornell Waste Management Institute’s Guide to Soil Testing and Interpreting Results.

Following the presentation, Martin Bailkey, Co-Coordinator of Metro Ag: Alliance for Urban Agriculture and Growing Power Consultant, lead the workshop participants in a discussion about the importance of planning (developing a vision, goals, objectives, and implementation strategies) for a successful urban agriculture program.


The 2 day workshop concluded with a tour of an adjacent brownfields facility that is scheduled for redevelopment in the next few years.