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Urban Farms: Growing together, building community

Hayes Valley Farm in San Francisco raises awareness around sustainability and urban agriculture by offering opportunities for people to learn about gardening. It is a great place for the community to get together and beautify the neighborhood.

Photo of Nhu Vuong
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I grew up on a nursery. My parents own a business in Orange County that specializes in tropical fruit trees, mainly catering to people in the Vietnamese community there who miss the trees of their native land. I spent most of my youth watching customers come in, often staying for hours to chat with my parents in the dusty field just to be among the plants. Customers would share the fruit of their trees that my parents sold to them and taught them to grow: exotic dragonfruit, crisp pomelos and spiny bitter gourd. Many of these would end up on families' alters during the Lunar New Year as traditional offerings to their ancestors. This was one of many ways I saw how plants could build and strengthen a community. 

I missed the nursery when I moved up to San Francisco. When I came across Hayes Valley Farm, I was reminded of home. Built on a former freeway, it offers a place for the community to restore a vacant lot while learning how to grow food crops. There are volunteer days where adults and children can learn about urban agriculture, fruit tree care, worm care, bee keeping and other green topics. Even in dense cities where yards may be scarce, spaces like this one can be created for people to spend time outdoors and learn to grow crops together, and perhaps even experience the vibrant, mossy scent of a greenhouse that I had grown to love so much as a child.

For more information: Hayes Valley Farm

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Photo of Phirany

As an Asian American living in Chicago, I wish our climate can accommodate exotic fruits and vegetables! This is a great idea especially for anyone who misses familiar produce in their home country. People can utilize their skills and teach others about farming.

Photo of Nhu

Thanks! Yeah, the snowy winters in Chicago can make it tricky. I'm not sure if this will help at all, but I thought I'd throw it out there -- a trick I remember my dad teaching me was to plant a tree near a brick or cement wall, if at all possible. The brick absorbs the heat from the sun during the day and releases it at night, helping to keep the plant warmer.

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