Growing Cities Blog

Q & A with Emily Snyder from Food Day

October 1st, 2014
Sophie Brinker

This last week Growing Cities had the opportunity to talk with Emily Snyder about Food Day 2014! Emily joined the Food Day team in August of 2013. Prior to this, Emily worked on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Nutrition Action Healthletter. Emily earned a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University, and completed the Cornell Dietetic Internship. She is a Registered Dietitian, and a member of the Board of Directors of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Area Dietetic Association (DCMADA). Click the photo below to learn even more about how you can get involved with Food Day!


Sophie: What is Food Day ​and how do you​ ​all ​support local and sustainable agriculture?

Emily: Food Day inspires Americans to change their diets and our food policies. Every October 24, thousands of events all around the country bring Americans together to celebrate and enjoy real food and to push for improved food policies. October 24 is a day to resolve to make changes in our own diets and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level. In 2014, Food Day will have a special focus on food access and justice for food and farm workers.

Food Day aims to support sustainable and organic farms. Currently, sustainable farms receive little to no federal support and often lack market access to keep them competitive. Meanwhile, the largest 10 percent of industrialized farms—which contribute to poor health and severe environmental degradation—receive 75 percent of all farm subsidies.

Sophie: How long has Food Day been happening, and where did it get its start?

Emily: Food Day was created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) in 2011, but it is powered by a diverse coalition of food movement leaders and organizations, including student leaders, public offices, school districts, and local organizers.

Food Day invites you to be a part of the movement that seeks to transform the way Americans eat.

Sophie:​ How can people get involved with Food Day in their community?

Emily:There are a number of ways to get involved depending on your time, interest, and resources. Here are a few:

•Spread the word about Food Day to your friends, family, and network, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

•Advocate for a food or nutrition policy in your community. 35 Ways to Change the Food System: The Essential Food Day Toolkit is a great resource.

•Host an event or organize an activity, whether large or small.

•Coordinate Food Day activity for your area.

•Attend events in your community.

Sophie: ​What’s your favorite part of our film, Growing Cities, and why?

Emily: I first saw Growing Cities in April 2014 at a film screening that Food Day hosted in Washington, DC, and I loved it.

While it’s hard to pick a favorite part of the film, I think it has to be the part about Windowfarms. I live in an apartment building in Washington, DC, on the sixth floor. I have no yard for a garden.It’s neat to see innovative ways to grow food wherever we are. From the film: “Instead of blinds [in windows], why don’t we use that space for farming? … They can also be something beautiful that we live with.” I have a windowsill herb garden, but now want to get a Windowfarm also!

Sophie: What’s one issue in the food movement you wish people were more aware of?

Emily: Justice throughout the food chain—from farm workers to child consumers. And that is one of the reason’s that Food Day 2014 will have a special focus on food justice, as well as increasing Americans’ access to healthful food.

America’s food system is extraordinarily productive, but aspects of it represent injustices to workers on farms, in slaughterhouses, and in restaurants; to child and adult consumers; to farm animals; and to the environment. To find out more, check out this infographic we created as part of Food Day’s focus on food justice.

Sophie: Anything else you’d like to add?

Emily: Please get involved in Food Day! However you and your community chooses to celebrate, the key is participation. For more information, please get in touch with us at or202-777-8392.

These good food interviews are part of Growing Cities “Grow Where You Are” campaign to inspire and empower people to get more deeply involved in their local food systems and create healthier, more sustainable, and just communities.

Reflections on Urban Farming in Russia

April 17th, 2014

When we started making Growing Cities, a new documentary about urban farming in America, we never imagined where it would take us. As a road-trip film, we knew we’d be traveling across country meeting farmers, innovators, and community organizers from New York to New Orleans – but what we didn’t know is the international interest the film would garner upon completion.

The film has screened in communities across the world, including in the U.K., Croatia, Iceland, Portugal, and Australia to name a few. We’ve found the issues in the film, such as community revitalization, food deserts, and land use are not unique to the US, but are the same problems communities across the world are struggling with.

Most recently, we had the opportunity to travel to Moscow, Russia, as part of the Ecocup Film Festival and with the support of the US Embassy. I spoke with many students and citizens there about urban agriculture, which is a relatively new concept for Russians. However, that isn’t to say they don’t have a long history tied to the land.

Almost every time we showed the film, someone would ask, ‘have you heard of dachas?’ At first, I had no idea, though by the third or fourth time I had a pretty good understanding. Dachas (literally meaning ‘something given’ in ancient Russian) are peri-urban seasonal homes, which usually have small land allotments attached. These plots were first given out to loyal vassals starting in the late 17th century with Peter the Great, though now Russians from all classes have these plots.
Many Russians, especially of the older generation, spend their summers at their dachas cultivating their favorite fruits and vegetables – not just beets and cabbage, but many others such as apples, carrots, leeks, and mushrooms. In fact, some estimate close to 40% of Russians food is produced by dachas, including half of the milk, two-thirds of the vegetables, and more than 80% of the country’s fruits and berries. So maybe it’s the rest of the world who should be learning from the Russians when it comes to food production?

The best equivalent I could come up with in the U.S. is the community garden, except these are obviously much closer to where people live and usually smaller. Since many Russians were very concerned about contamination of urban soils and air, I stressed techniques such as raised beds or bio-remediation in order to avoid soil contaminants like lead or petroleum.

Though I don’t expect my visit will start a wave of community gardens or aquaponics farms, it is my hope that Russians took as much as I did from our interactions. And who knows, maybe a rooftop farm in Moscow will sprout up sometime soon … let’s just call it a dacha!

To learn more about GROWING CITIES or to HOST A SCREENING  in your community visit: 

Classes to Help Connect With Gardening

February 27th, 2014

The Urban Farm School of Seattle is a small farmhouse in the city that allows people to grow within a 4,000 sq. ft. area.  Below are some up coming classes for those in the area!  Here’s an excerpt from their post in regards to the classes.  The post is by Seattle Urban Farm School .

Urban Farm School

Urban Farm School

Hello, friends of Urban Farm School!

Spring is so close now I can taste it, so it’s time to get some spring classes on the books! I’m super excited about all the ideas I have up my sleeve for farm school this year! Not only that, it looks like I’ll be able to start construction on the farm schoolhouse any time now, so it is very likely that this spring’s classes will be held in our brand new schoolhouse classroom!!! Words cannot explain how excited I am about that possibility! Expect a post with updates soon! Until then, here are the upcoming classes I’ve posted so far! Sign up, friends! Let’s get growing!

Saturday, March 15th at 10:00am: From Lawn to Lunch

Missed this class at the Flower & Garden show? Didn’t get to sign up for the now SOLD OUT version of this class I’m teaching at the Pantry at Delancey? Now’s your chance to sign up! Topics will include preparing the site (including an explanation of the sheet mulching process to kill grass and build soil); general raised bed information, including dimensions and tips for construction; preparing the bed for square food gardening (tips for installing the grid system/philosophy); seed sowing 101 (general tips for sowing seeds for maximum germination); and thinning/transplanting techniques to give your veggies room to grow. Click here to register.

Saturday, March 22 at 10:00am: Space Saver Gardening

This class is all about the secrets of space saver gardening so that you can grow the largest yield of food and beneficial flowers that you can in a small space! You’ll learn square foot gardening basics; information on what vegetables, flowers and herbs grow well together (companion planting); container gardening suggestions and strategies for growing vertically. You’ll leave this class armed with strategies for making the most of your space! Click here to register.

Read more HERE!

Ted Talk on Healing and Our Land

November 26th, 2013

Thanks to The Green Horns blog, for presenting this Ted talk.  Take a look!

Allan Savory

They ask that you…

Join us for this two-day conference in beautiful Chico, CA. We have an amazing line-up of speakers. Super-star Robb Wolf, New York Times best-selling author of The Paleo Solution, will be talking about eating the way humans were designed to. Our very own Allan Savory will be talking about how properly managing livestock can reverse desertification, restore grassland ecosystems and stop climate change. We’ll also have world-famous blogger and author Jenny Mcgruther who is the amazing woman behind one of the most popular food blogs in the world, Nourished Kitchen. Jenny will be talking about bringing these concepts home and how to implement them in our daily meals. We’ll have Dr. Cindy Daley, of Chico State, who has done incredible research, that’s being touted all over the globe, on the nutritional benefits of grass-fed meat and milk. We’ll also have a panel comprised of grass-fed livestock ranchers from around the north-state sharing a bit of their lifestyle and talking about how to make grass-fed meats more available to the masses.

Read more HERE!

Creative Carvings!

October 31st, 2013

Inspired by today’s spooky holiday, here are some nifty garden-themed pumpkins that caught my eye!

flower pumpkin

From the blog Riding NYC With Amy

From the Food Network - VEGGIE MONSTER


And one that might be fun for the kiddos by City Girl Farming.

Happy Halloween Everyone!


Food Day 2013: A Look at Happenings on a College Campus

October 24th, 2013

This post is presented by Civil Eats and written by Kate Klein.  This post comments on the journey of students reaching out, trying to make changes for a more sustainable food economy.

photo courtesy of Civil Eats

photo courtesy of Civil Eats

Cutting Food Stamps? No GMO labeling? More ethanol subsidies? Last Farm Bill 5 years ago?

Congress can’t get their act together, but young people can. Real food policies must start from the ground up — and today on Food Day, students are making that happen.

In the fall of 2010, students at Johns Hopkins University came together under a common vision: What if they could get their university to invest its purchasing power, much larger than any of theirs individually, in building a sustainable and just food economy? It was a powerful idea, one thousands of other students across the country united by Real Food Challenge were imagining as well. So in the spring of 2011, they dug in and began auditing their university’s food purchases for products that qualified as ‘real’: sourced from farms and food producers with fair labor practices, grown within 250 miles, raised in an ecologically sound manner, and humanely raised. The result? Only 7 percent real. Determined to increase this percentage, in the fall of 2011, they gathered over 500 petition signatures in support of a real food policy and engaged in conversations with university administrators about how to make their vision a reality. After 3 years of building their case, their university president has agreed to officially commit Johns Hopkins to purchasing 20 percent real food by 2020.

This is Real Food Hopkins’ story. And they’re not alone.

At 2 other major universities — The University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Northeastern University — students also just won big campaigns to achieve sustainable and just food policy.

These three universities are all formally signing on to Real Food Challenge’s Real Food Campus Commitment, pledging to source 20 percent of their food from local, fair, sustainable and humane farms and food businesses. Together, these institutions bring the number of signatories to 22, representing over $55 million in annual purchases devoted to ‘real food.’ Each school will also inaugurate a new food policy committee on campus that will adopt rigorous new transparency standards regarding product origin and vendor social responsibility.

Read more HERE!

Get Ready for Food Day!

October 21st, 2013

Get excited for all of the Food Day events happening on the 24th of October!  Find out how to get involved here!


If you are in New York City, participate in the BIG APPLE CRUNCH!

“The Big Apple Crunch is an attempt to set the world record for the “Most Participants in an Apple-Crunching Event.” This event will take place on FOOD DAY – October 24, 2013. New Yorkers can participate by finding a crunch near you: at any of GrowNYC’s Greenmarket Farmers’ Markets or another location near you or by hosting a crunch yourself! We want it to be the crunch heard ’round the world! Please pledge to take a bite with us at 12pm or at any time during the day that works for you.”

Big apple Crunch 2013


Of course, this isn’t just going on in New York! Find out more about events near you or learn how to host your own event at


Remember! To Use Your Voice!

October 12th, 2013



Just a bit of re-posting and reminding here. This is super important for small farmers!

NYFC is led by an Advisory Committee of farmers and farm service providers. (photo from website)

What follows is an excerpt from a post on the NYFC Blog, all about the proposed Day of Action.

New food safety regulations are coming to a farm near yours!  (Actually, they’re coming to your farm too.)

As we have previously reported, the FDA is writing an entirely new set of food safety laws.  There are a lot of huge changes, many of which will have an impact on beginning farmers, organic growers and local farms alike.

Join the National Young Farmers Coalition for a National Day of Action to protect local farms!

Read more HERE!

Also, take this survey to show NYFC how these impending rules could impact your farm by filling out this survey.  Consider making a donation! :D

Contact Tracy at to get more info and to sign up.



ARUNDEL, ME: Southern Maine Young Farmers Coalition Kick-off Mixer! – September 28th 
Come learn how to build a high tunnel at Frinklepod Farm at 12pm and join us for a potluck celebration with Allagash beer, Green Bee Soda, live music, a bonfire and fellow young farmers! 5pm at Neverdun Farm in Arundel.  Click here for more info.

ATLANTA, GA: Southeast Young And Beginning Farmer Alliance Lunch Mixer – September 28th 
Join us for a series of monthly post-market lunches on Saturdays.  The first one is at the Wrecking Bar Brewpub in Atlanta, GA.

FRANKFORT, KY – Kentucky Beginning Farmers Conference- October 5th
A one-day statewide event for beginning farmers, including workshops, great food, and networking opportunities.  Stay tuned for more details!

OKANOGAN, WA: Washington Young Farmers Mixer – October 6th
Fourth annual WAYFC Mixer, to be held at Filaree Farm, in Okanogan, WA.  Details to be released soon. Visit the Washington Young Farmers Coalition website for more information.

BURLINGTON, VT Vermont Young Farmers Coalition Tractor Maintenance Workshop and Mixer at the Intervale Center – October 6th
Join VYFC in gathering for a tractor maintenance workshop and mixer.  Starts at 3pm. Email Brittany at to get involved.

SEBASTOPOL, CA: North Coast Young Farmers Guild Meeting – October 8th 
Join other farmers from the North Coast for the monthly Guild meeting at GrowKitchen, 245 Ferguson Rd. Sebastopol, CA.

JOHNSTON, RI: Young Farmer Nights Farm Tour – October 10th 
Join other young farmers for a tour of Tour of Freedom Food Farm in Johnston, RI.  Contact for details.

PALISADE, CO: Beginning Farmers and Ranchers of Mesa County Hoe Down and Harvest Party – October 13th 
An end of season celebration with the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers of Mesa County!  Food donated by Field to Fork CSA and Roan Creek Ranch.  Wine provided by Mesa Park Vineyards.  Apples for bobbing, pumpkins for picking. Live music, fun and games. Contact Brooke at for more info.

WILLITS, CA: Mendocino County Young Farmers Guild Meeting – October 15th 
Get together with other young farmers in Mendocino County for this inaugural guild meeting!  At the Willits Grange Hall.

AUSTIN, TX: Texas Young Farmers Coalition Meetup – October 16th 
Blackstar Coop. Come join us for our monthly- 3rd Wednesday farmer meetup! Beers and conversations abound.  Contact for more info.

AUSTIN, TX: Texas Young Farmers Coalition Farm Tour – October 19th 
Join us as we head to A+S Farm and Ranch for a skill building workshop on sheep. Sean will cover grazing,processing  and shearing topics among others. Contact for more info.

JAMESTOWN, RI: Young Farmer Nights Farm Tour – October 22nd 
Join other young farmers for a chicken processing training with Pat’s Pastured at Windmist Farm, Jamestown, RI.  Contact for details.

CONNECTICUT: Farmland Access and Affordability Forum – October 25th 
The purpose of the forum is to brainstorm strategies to address farmland access and affordability in Connecticut and to engage an expanded coalition of key individuals, businesses, organizations and agencies in developing a common agenda around these issues. For more information contact Susan Mitchell, New Connecticut Farmers Alliance, at

SOUTH CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA: Young Farmers Mixer – October 26th 
In the Harrisburg area, details TBA. Contact Emily at to get involved!

SONOMA COUNTY, CA: Sonoma County Young Farmers Guild Meeting – October 27th 
Get together with other young farmers in Sonoma County for this inaugural guild meeting!

FALKVILLE, AL: Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network Young and Beginning Farmer Potluck – October 27th 
Join other young and beginning farmers for ASAN’s potluck!  Click here for more info.

AUSTIN, TX: First Annual Moontower Agricultural Coop Harvest Party – November 9th 
Grab your ticket and join farmers and farmer friends alike for a dinner and homebrew beer feast. Other events include Farmer Olympics and a panel discussion involving inspiring people in the Texas farming and food community. Contact for more info on tickets.

Advance Film Screening: Growing Cities

September 11th, 2013


                                                                        Thursday, September 19

Good Morning Everyone,

Get ready for a special, advance film screening of Growing Cities, next week from 7:30-10pm on Thursday, September 19th at Skidmore College in New York!

Some facts about the evening:

  • Filene Hall at Skidmore College  815 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY (This is Skidmore College’s official address. Filene Hall is pinpointed in the Google Map link.)
  • Presented by Farm Aid and Skidmore College.  Join us for an advanced screening (doors at 7:30pm, film at 8pm), followed by a panel discussion featuring the filmmaker. Popcorn will be provided by Yolo! Snacks.
  • Free parking is available in Skidmore’s Arts Quad Lots A and B. Lot A directions: From Skidmore’s main entrance, take a left onto Perimeter Road, then a right into lot A, near the Arthur Zankel Music Center. Lot B directions: From the main entrance, continue straight across the intersection. Lot B will be on your right.
  • Free, but please register here –> (Once on this page, register at the bottom.)

Thanks to Skidmore College and Farm Aid for sponsoring the event and thanks to all of you for supporting Growing Cities and your local urban farmers!


Vermont Sail Freight Launches in October!

September 9th, 2013

Forward: Since this post is based in personal experience, I figure I would introduce myself to avoid confusion. My name is Kim and I’m happy to say I’m working as an intern for Growing Cities! I am very excited to be blogging with you all from now on!

During World Water Week last week, I could not help but be reminded of an amazing project that I’ve been following for the past year. I was lucky enough to go to college in beautiful Vermont, where there are so many people rethinking our food system. One of whom I have had the chance to meet on a couple of occasions (he’s a real “diversified” farmer, experimenting with rice, using draft horses, milling his own grain for the delicious bread he sells at local markets, the list goes on!). His name is Erik Andrus and the first time I met him, some classmates and I were making a film about his farm and about why he does things the way he does ( and the second time I was helping him bale hay (which was one of the most fun experiences in my life). But I remember him, even at that time a couple years ago, talking at length about the newest project that had been buzzing around his head. It was fairly simple: using solely water and wind power, carry and sell Vermont products down the Hudson Valley waterways, all the way to New York City.


Last fall, he launched his Kickstarter campaign for Vermont Sail Freight, and along with partnership from the Willowell Foundation in VT and the Greenhorns, the project was soon a GO! To see the building process, look at their blog

I’m excited for this project for many reasons, but two of which stand out in relation to urban agriculture and meeting the food demands of urban centers. The Vermont Sail Freight Project is one that connects city residents with good food from producers – whose main concerns are quality of their products and health of their land, communities, and children – in a sustainable manner. The vessel has a practical design: “the Vermont Sail Freight Project’s synthesis of these new and old influences led to this prototype design, 39 feet long, 10′ wide, and capable of carrying 12 tons. She’s suitable for lake, canal, river and harbor navigation, adept at handling and sorting cargo, and is an attractive means of delivering produce directly to our customers” and only needs a small crew. If the vessel, named Ceres, proves to be as cost and energy effective as she seems through her upcoming voyage, maybe we could be seeing more sailing barges pop up on our waterways. As Greenhorns put it:

“As we conceive of the next 10 years in local food system development, and the entry and scaling of next generation farm operations– distribution is a keystone issue. We’ll be working on the vast re-design of processing, aggregation, transportation, and value-adding, for a regional food system that is fair, transparent, and synchronizes product flow without pinching the farmers unfairly. As we embark re-building a regional food system, we’ll do well to recall our history, and the trends that have disempowered producers and served to centralize and concentrate control of the supply-chain– this sail boat project is a perfect vessel for a tremendously important conversation about distribution.”

I couldn’t agree more! (More on the VSF website


Another thing about this project is that it uses technology to its advantage. It was an internet-based startup, which will pre-sell its goods through an online market called (also started in VT) and will allow customers to track Ceres’ progress on Google maps as she sails downriver. I think it is the perfect marriage of something old and something new. There is something very physical and personal about this project, reminding us of the old trading routes and maritime history, and at the same time, it uses the internet to both facilitate the public’s connection to the project and to create a system that is easy for customers to get involved. I enjoyed how the Greenhorns dubbed the project on the website, as a “poetic water-shed connection to the marketplace and eaters.”

Ceres launches in October! For more information, visit

The images on in this post are from the VSF blog.