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Vacant Lots to be Urban Minifarms

ESF landscape architecture project to make land productive
11/23/2010

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ESF is involved in a project to transform about a dozen vacant lots at Bellevue and Midland avenues in Syracuse into an urban farm.

"Jubilee Homes decided we would make it happen because it coincides with our broader goal to expand our Urban Delights Project," said LaRhonda Ealey, associate Director of Jubilee Homes, referring to the project that involves inner-city youths in growing and selling produce. "The garden idea came from an ESF student, Sue Windom, several years ago as part of her capstone project. She identified several lots on the southwest side that would be ideal for an urban garden and she was gracious enough to turn over her plans and explain it to the community."

The idea was generated several years ago as a class project to make productive use of vacant property. Other partners include the city of Syracuse and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

"It will be raised bed, outdoor crops for awhile but we are hoping we will eventually have greenhouses and we can do year-round controlled environment agriculture," said Emanuel Carter, a faculty member in ESF's Department of Landscape Architecture. "One goal is to bring nutritious food to the neighborhood and another is to augment the Urban Delights program which is basically a farm stand operated by Jubilee Homes and Cooperative Extension employing Syracuse high school students. We think we can expand that to make it a year-round school program so the students come out with a set of marketable skills. They can decide what to plant, how to manage it, harvest it, sell it and maybe later some aspect of value-added, like making apples into applesauce."

An ESF alumna is involved in the project on behalf of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

"When I came to visit to see if ESF was the right school for me, this was one of the projects Professor Carter talked about and that was my motivation for attending ESF," said Jessi Lyons, who earned a master's degree in landscape architecture in 2009. "I wanted to be involved in projects like this and it's great now that I've finished the program I'm part of this particular project."

Lyons is a resource educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension.

"Saying this is exciting is an understatement, everyone we've talked with has been excited about it," she said as site preparation was under way this fall. "Not only because we'll be growing food in the city again and increasing their food security but, it's also the neighborhood involvement and reclaiming this vacant land and doing something productive with it. I mean, we've got at least 50 people here, if not more, this is beyond exciting."

Site preparation was the focus Nov 20. Planting will begin in the spring of 2011.

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