Category Archives: Urban Agriculture

What is permaculture?

Quite simply, permaculture is the human-constructed partnering of plants into communities that produce the greatest human benefit with the least amount of maintenance through emphasizing symbiosis.

raspberries-from-the-vine

The websites Permaculture.orgPermaculturePrincipals.com, and a fun thread at Permies.com, offer great tips and techniques for building an environment based on permaculture principles.

Much of permaculture is based around designing to fit the climate of the landscape so there are resources oriented to promoting techniques designed for specific biomes of the world. These are great go-to sites for the basic biomes of the United States:

Permaculture is based on seven principles.

1. Food Forests – Designed plant communities based around companion planting that match species based on nutrient and bacteria sharing and meeting other land use needs for insects, fungi, animals and people.

2. Living Machines – Taking a foundation from practices like xeriscaping and rainwater capture, living machines also clean waste water from other uses on the site to create irrigation and ultimately a potable source.

3. Soil Improvement – Burming up and submerging (or folding in) an additional nutrient base/decomposition layer to expand humus and enhance water percolation. This technique mimics the natural production of humus in grassland areas. The Ohio State University Extension Office lists some factors of soil health.

4. Nutrient Cycles – Imitating biological processes, biomimicry, symbiosis. Poultry, or pork depending on the size of your site, is nature’s nutrient distributor and contributors, and cows are the compactors. To separate the nutrient producers (animals) from the organisms that require nutrients (plants) by inappropriate scaling creates two problems from a natural coexistence. Allowing animals to share the land with the food forest also increases the value of the land by increasing its yield.

5. Biodeversity – Plant and animal responses to environment are the evolutionary regulators to speciation and variation. This is the importance of seed banks and polyfarms. Cultural appreciation for seasonal and locally produced goods increases the value of a food forest yield and decreases the transportation costs. Specialized products will always be in the global market, but the quantity and quality of importation is reflected in Tom Friedman’s glocalization. A kitchen without olive oil is where some aspects of the 100 mile diet are just illogical (kitchen humor), and one should rely more on a 100 mile market for non-specialty items. Flavorless winter strawberries are the flagship; solar-powered greenhouses provide the only vine sweetened strawberries in winter.

6. Ecobuilding – “The function of what I call design science is to solve problems by introducing into the environment new artifacts, the availability of which will induce their spontaneous employment by humans and thus, coincidentally, cause humans to abandon their previous problem-producing behaviors and devices.” – R. Buckminster Fuller, from Cosmography

7. Environmental Economics – A systems symbiosis. In the traditional economic model, externalities and ecosystem services are not factored into the equation. Environmental Economics teaches that system efficiencies directly result in economic efficiencies, and juxtaposing the two is a farce. A permaculture example of economy from environment is using a biodigester for waste: costs of waste disposal are reduced and profit can be generated from energy production. Herman Daly has long been the champion of Environmental Economics.

Food Desert Mapping

Near West Side Site Food Desert Mapping

Near-West-Side-Site-Outline-web

Site Closeup

The inventory of food provisions in the area confirm Gallagher’s study that Near West Side surrounding UIC is a food desert. Specific to LBC, this inventory can serve as a list of potential businesses that might have waste to process by the plant and/or sell the food and products that are created in the plant. This would serve to imbed the building within the existing marketplace and provide access to wholesale production by local residents.

Population Density around site.

Population Density around site. Data Source: Census Dot Map, Brandon Martin-Anderson

Zoning-1-mi-rad

Zoning Map of area around site. Data Source: Second City Zoning

Method

1. Target area set to approximately 0.5 mile radius (2640.5 ft) from center of site, also measured as a 10 minute walk. Businesses located along both sides of the perimeter streets are included.

-Bounding Box: Lake St (N border), Taylor St (S border), Leavitt St (W border), Loomis St (E border)

Target area set to approximately  1 mile radius

(5280 ft) from center of site, also measured as a 20 minute walk. Businesses located along both sides of the perimeter streets are included.

-Bounding Box: Grand Ave (N border), Roosevelt Ave (S border), Western Ave (W border), Halsted St (E border)

2. Three search engines to identify restaurants and stores in the area – Google, Bing, Yelp

3. Three search terms used: grocery store, market, farmers market

3. All results were categorized into three groups: prepared foods, wholesale foods, retail sales. Specialty vendors were excluded (cakes, candies, toffees, prepared diet plans, etc.)

– Prepared foods are predominantly restaurants

– 50% or greater menu items prepared from fresh foods

– 50% or greater menu items prepared from frozen or packaged foods

– Special category for businesses already selling and incorporating local food and produce

*note that Gallagher uses chain grocers, small grocers, all grocers, and fast food. Her target area is much larger, the entire city has that variety, this is more of a case study to identify the site within the existing market.

4. Basic premises that fresher food has greater nutritional value, locations are quantified not by whether they have  “good” food “tasty” food or other categories. “Fresh” food is the metric in a food desert study.

Results

Food Desert_1 mi_categories

Mapping of all food locations around site. A clear food desert.

The legacy of meatpacking lives on in this district, represented by the large proportion of wholesale food distributors located in the area. Only restaurants that also have a food market were included in this preliminary assessment, but, outside of their specialty imports, these locations serve produce that likely comes from a GFS or SYSCO type of provider and do not meet standards for fresh food sources. A few grocery stores exist, but they are on the edge of other neighborhoods, and at the maximum distance residents of the new site should be expected to walk for groceries.

1 mile radius

Count

Food Provision Type

0

Store sells local produce

7

Store sells produce

11

Store does not sell produce

28

Wholesale produce

0

Restaurant sources from local

0

Restaurant menu items 50% or more fresh ingredients

4

Restaurant menu items 50% or more frozen/packaged ingredients

5

Closed Grocers and Wholesalers

17

Specialty Food Services

The general standard for pedestrian accessible food locations is 0.5 miles or a 10 minute walk. Using this definition, it is very clear that the site is at the center of a food desert.

0.5 mile radius

Count

Food Provision Type

0

Store sells Local Produce

0

Store sells Produce

2

Store does not sell produce

2

Wholesale produce

0

Restaurant sources from local

0

Restaurant menu items 50% or more fresh ingredients

2

Restaurant menu items 50% or more frozen/packaged ingredients

1

Closed Grocers and Wholesalers

0

Specialty Food Services

This can also be represented by comparing the total area of the study region to the count of businesses in each.

Ratio of neighborhood area to Total Business Count

Regions Area in sq ft Total Businesses Area to location ratio
0.5 mile radius

27878400

7

1:3982629

1 mile radius

111513600

72

1:1548800