Nearly two weeks ago (I’ve been busy, did I mention I was in NYC, and now NC en route to Knoxville at the moment?) I had the pleasure of meeting with Mary and Bill Dennis to discuss Agricultural Urbanism. The day began with Mary giving me a tour of her neighborhood’s edible gardens.

Mary and Bill’s abode.

Mary’s garden.

raised beds and pots of one neighbor.

the well manicured grape vines of another.

Lincoln School’s community garden.

pea pods and herbs of another neighbor.

We discussed a lot about Victory Gardens, which I hope to devote a whole post to; some of their past projects such as New Town St Charles and Southlands; the difficulty of including agricultural land in a project; and the Transect. The Transect is a New Urbanist concept that Andrés Duany, a colleague of Bill’s, created to model how development should relate to different zones collated from the metropolis to the most rural. Of this Mary said,

“ …from a planning point of view, just as farmers need certain density of population to support a market, they also need a certain density of farms to support farming services, such as processing centers, feed and seed stores, tractor equipment, etc. Farms isolated from this density and network of services will fail to thrive.

“Farmers don’t necessarily want to be isolated and out in the middle of ‘nowhere’, so the concept of re-localizing food production also addresses the farm as part of community building.

“Like an Escher tessellated drawing, what we are looking at is to weave the farm houses in closer to the town fabric, retaining the fields in the back. This way the farmer has closer proximity to community and neighbors but still has access to the acreage needed to grow certain crops. In the tessellation process, a range of farms from large to small, from market garden to edible yards and streets, from flower pot to roof garden, gives people a wider range of choices while still building walkable and sustainable communities.”

I like thinking about how farmers need community. Similarly on the subject of how difficult it is to keep agricultural lands free for agriculture, “You tell an architect that this farm plot needs an acre for compost, and they’ll tell you that’s absurd. They can fit 20 units on that acre plot,” she said.

Bill and I discussed the importance of mixed use, from Agriculture to the proximity of amenities. “The more reasons you can have for green space – such as stormwater management, wildlife habitat, food production, community gathering, etc. – the more likely it is to be robust and preserved,” he said.

From their house, I went on to the Brown Community Garden’s on their suggestion. I enjoyed the aesthetic of density in it, as well as it’s use of elevated plantings (not to be confused with raised beds) to allow for more hydration around high water need plants.

Lastly I stopped by the Westminster Community Gardens on my way home, which was just as lovely, yet denser, than the previous gardens.

these posts are for tomato support.

speaking of compost piles.

Before I left Providence I had a chance to photograph two more community gardens. The Space Garden and the Peerless Loft’s rooftop garden. I will post the photo’s for these soon, hopefully tonight from Tennessee.