Classes on Urban Farming, Fishing, Foraging, and Food Preservation Begin on June 30th
June 15, 2010 – Start with increasing environmental awareness, add high food and gas prices and a global recession, and you have ideal growing conditions for a new movement. In cities across the U.S., backyard gardens, livestock and bees are on the rise, chick and vegetable seed sales are skyrocketing, and community gardens are being flooded with applicants.
"The growth in community gardening and urban farming over the last couple of years has been incredible," said Claire Uno, Executive Director of Wasatch Community Gardens. "We're up to a six-year waiting list for some of our gardens."
This summer, The University of Utah will roll out a new, comprehensive program to teach the lost arts of finding, growing, hunting and preserving one's own food. "We're helping people relearn what was common knowledge just two or three generations ago," said Mandy Self, Director of Lifelong Learning at the U.
Titled "The Urban Homestead"¸ this new Lifelong Learning program includes classes on backyard chicken and beekeeping; foraging for wild edibles in the Wasatch; herbal medicine making; fly fishing; food preservation; and more. Open to anyone — from aspiring localvores to those serious about gathering and growing all of their own food — this class series adapts traditional farming, foraging, fishing and food production practices to modern urban life.
The series of eleven summer classes kicks off on June 30 with How to Raise Backyard Chickens, an in-depth look at preparation, breed selection, housing, feeding, egg collecting, legalities, and everything else you need to know to get started with your own coop.
"We want people to realize they don't have to give up city living to enjoy clean, healthy, homegrown food and a strong connection with the land," said Self. "New city ordinances, technologies, and a growing wealth of knowledge and support in our community are making it easier and easier to trade the supermarket for your own backyard."
Cities and counties across the Wasatch Front have recently eased restrictions on backyard chicken coops and beehives. Also, Salt Lake County launched the Urban Farming Initiative last year to turn unused public lands across the valley over to commercial growers and community gardens.
"People are worried about the way our food is being produced," said Celia Bell, a local gardening expert and instructor for Lifelong Learning. "Pesticides, hormones, genetic engineering, inhumane animal treatment — all of these are driving people to buy organic, shop local, and ultimately grow their own food."
The National Gardening Association estimates that the number of homes growing vegetables has increased more than 40% since 2007. Seed sales for Burpee, the world's largest seed company, are up nearly 50% since 2007, and sales of chicks have also shown double-digit growth.
"These are essentially the 21st century Victory Gardens," said Self. "Only this time, victory means fewer chemicals in our meat and eggs, fresher fruits and vegetables, natural stress relief, family bonding, a lower carbon footprint — the list goes on and on."
"Not to mention, the food simply tastes better," Self added.
The Urban Homestead launches in late June, with new classes starting throughout the year. Advance registration is required. To sign up or for more information, visit lifelong.utah.edu or call 801-587-LIFE (5433).
Upcoming Urban Homestead classes:
Lifelong Learning at The University of Utah provides high-quality evening and weekend classes that challenge, inform, entertain and generally enrich the lives of adults through learning and social interaction.
Salt Lake County eyes public land for gardening: SL Tribune
The Urban Farming Initiative: SLCO.org