Growing Cities Blog

Growing Cities March Newsletter!

March 19th, 2014

Growing Cities Newsletter

A monthly update on our documentary and your chance to meet a few of the many inspirational people we’ve gotten to know in the urban farming movement.
Still time to Host-a-Screening for Earth Day!
As you start your seeds and prep your beds for Spring, there isn’t a better way to get some extra inspiration than by hosting a screening of Growing Cities to kickoff the gardening season at your farm, school, or local foods group!Remember, sponsoring organizations get…

  • Educational DVD with closed-captioning, Spanish subtitles, and bonus materials
  • Publicity materials (e.g. posters, postcards)
  • Discussion guide
  • Right to use film to promote your work

Dan InterviewDiscussionSt. Basil's Cathedral

Great screening success…

After returning from a great tour in Russia as part of the Ecocup Film Festival, we received ‘Best Feature Film’ at the Green Lens Film Festival! It was a very interesting time in Moscow presenting the film to many Russian students and citizens, as well as meeting filmmakers from around the world. Thanks to the US Embassy for sponosoring the visit!

It was ‘butter week’ while I was in Russia, including a day where we ate pancakes three separate times before lunch!
Awesome upcoming screenings…
The film continues to roll out cross-country including some upcoming premieres in D.C., San Francisco, and even Thailand:EcoFocus Film Fest – Athens, GA
March 23rd, 2014 at 3:00pm, tickets hereDC Environmental Film Fest- Washington, DC
Mar 26th, 2014 at 7:15pm, info here

Food and Farm Film Fest - San Francisco, CA
April 5th, 2014 at 4pm, tickets here (filmmaker in-attendance!)

…More upcoming events (updated daily). Not an event where you live? Then host-a-screening in your community!

Educational DVD now available on website…
If you want to bring Growing Cities to your local library, college, or K-12 school but don’t want to put on a big shin-dig, then visit our shop page to order an educational DVD today!
Thanks for your support and good luck with those seedlings!
-Dan, Andrew, & the rest of the Growing Cities Team
PS Join us on our Website or by following us on Facebook and Twitter, watching our clips on YouTube, or by adding a farm in your city to our Map!

How the sun can be another tool utilized in your urban garden

January 28th, 2014

Good morning,

It may seem strange to mention the sun when many areas of the country are iced over and cloud ridden, but utilizing the sun’s full potential can help your urban farming experience.  Read the blog below written by Greg Peterson on the Urban Farm Blog for more details and explanation.


Sunlight—we all get some or a lot, but besides turning it into a nice tan, heating water or making a few hundred watts of electricity, what else can you do with the brilliant sunshine? How about channeling it into a cost-effective, energy-saving tool for cooking? Yep, I am talking about one of the greenest practices custom-made for us: the solar oven.

I am often asked in puzzlement, how hot can a solar oven really get? Well, there is that old anecdote about cooking an egg on the sidewalks of Phoenix in the height of summer…all joking aside, it really does get hot enough to cook in a solar oven. Sunshine can cook, steam or boil anything you can prepare in your conventional oven – all for free!

Believe it or not, solar cookers can be as fancy or as simple as regular kitchen ovens. Well, OK, most kitchen ovens are not quite as simple as an insulated cardboard box pointed at the sun, but there is quite a gamut of solar ovens available. In fact, my first solar oven was made by the Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center in Taylor, Arizona. Talk about basic: it was a cardboard box inside another cardboard box with insulation in between. But boy, did it work. Its internal temperatures regularly exceed 325° F. A little fancier and made from sturdier materials, my new solar oven is a Sun Oven, and can easily get up to 375° F.

Even better, solar ovens are a little like a two-for-one deal. They can serve as either a crockpot, where the temperature rises slowly, slow-cooking food throughout the day, or as a regular oven, baking, steaming or boiling all types of food. Plus the even temperatures of a solar oven help prevent overcooking. In fact, using my solar oven almost feels like cheating – no electricity, so no fear of burning my dinner and it couldn’t be more natural.

I know we’ve had some interesting weather, but don’t be fooled. Even though the sidewalks aren’t hot and it is brisk outside, the sun is bright enough to cook food. In fact, “a 40-degree, low-humidity day will allow food to cook faster than a 100-degree day with high humidity,” according to the makers of the Global Sun Oven. But remember that the days are getting shorter, so cooking hours will be somewhat limited.

If you’re considering a solar oven, here are some points to consider:

  • Sunlight is free. This goes without saying, but it’s important to consider as the economy continues to shift. The initial investment can vary from under $100 up to $300 or $400, depending on type and model, but there’s absolutely no cost beyond that.

Read more HERE!


Grow Where You Are!

November 8th, 2013

Check out our brand new infographic co-created by Sustainable America. You can always grow something somewhere, Grow Where You Are! Here are some ways you can get involved in growing in your community!

Grow Where You Are

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


Food Waste Rework and Disco Beats

October 17th, 2013
Courtesy of Feeding the 5000

Courtesy of Feeding the 5000 (via NPR)

I ran across this article on NPR–post World Food Day–and I felt a need to share it here, as food waste in large part is tied to urban farming and our necessity to not only grow new foods in the urban environment, but to also take advantage of those foods we have readily available that have not yet passed the point of no return.  We should be utilizing our land and what the land has provided us.  Here’s one interesting look at how some are doing this.

This piece was written by Eliza Barclay, an NPR reporter

This year, activists are trying to make the day a little spicier with pots full of disco soup to highlight the absurd amount of food thrown away that could feed people: one-third of all the food produced every year.

What is disco soup, you ask? It’s the tasty outcome of a party designed to bring strangers together to cook food that would otherwise end up in the trash. Oftentimes, the soup is donated to the hungry. Oh, and as the name suggests, there’s music involved, too.

The first disco soup party was held in Germany in early 2012 by some folks affiliated with the . The organizers collected discarded fruits and vegetables from a market, blasted some disco music and made a huge pot of soup.

Two months later, a group in France threw a disco soup party and attracted 100 people. More parties followed, in Australia, South Korea, and beyond. You can check out an earnest little video of another French disco food event here:

Read More HERE!!





Government Shutdown…and Food?

October 2nd, 2013

I figured I would pass along this article that came out in The Daily Meal. It was written by Jessica Chou and looks into how the Government shut down will affect our food/food system.

“First and foremost, the USDA is mostly dark, Reuters reports. The website is down (“Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available,” the homepage says), crop reports may be delayed, and there is no access to USDA’s data. Inspections of meat, however, will continue, as meat inspections are considered essential services. The FDA, in the meantime, will reportedly continue monitoring recalls and conducting investigations, although activity will be limited, USA Today reports.

Meanwhile, the SNAP program will still be distributed to those in need, CBS reports, but other programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as smaller feeding programs, could shut down without the money to operate. CBS also notes that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney noted that senior nutrition grants for 2.5 million elderly Americans would also not be funded.

On the other end of the spectrum, traveling might be more of a hassle in the upcoming days, if the furlough continues. Federal air traffic controllers will reportedly remain on the job, as will inspectors to ensure safety and security. Foreign applications for visas, and U.S. passport applications, could continue, as the fees collected in these processes help fund the department. Unfortunately, if the fees do not support operations, these could all shut down. CBS notes that during the last government shutdown for 27 days, somewhere between 20,000 to 30,000 applications for visas went unprocessed, and some 200,000 passport applications went unprocessed.

Embassies and consulates abroad, however, will continue functioning. And stateside, to ease the pain, The Washington Post notes that plenty of D.C. bars are offering discounted bar bites and boozefor folks with a government ID.”

Original Posting at The Daily Meal

A Smattering of Roof Top Gardens

September 14th, 2013

Inspired by a recent twitter exchange with the Netherlands’ Grown Down Town, here’s a bit of a compilation of what kinds of systems roof top gardeners are using. The fact that most of these examples stem from the rooftops of New York City shows that it really depends on the circumstances and specifications of the roof and operation that determine what to use.

Replicating the Earth…On A Roof: Eagle Street Rooftop Farm (NYC, NY) –


Details on how they grow:

“• The green roof base system is comprised of 2” of built-up components: polyethelene, drainange mat, and retention and separation fabrics.

• With the approval of the building’s engineer, 200,000 pounds of growing medium were lifted onto the roof by crane in “super-sacks” over the course of a single day. The growing medium, laid directly onto the green roof base, is a mixture of compost, rock particulates and shale and is manufactured in Pennsylvania. It is a green roof component that at the same time retains water, allows for air circulation and is lightweight.

• The green roof can hold over 1.5” of rain, providing a significant reduction in storm water runoff. The captured water, in turn, can help to cool the warehouse below yielding a reduction in cooling costs.

• Installation cost was approximately $10 per square foot. This is significantly lower than most green roof installations due in part to two main factors: the three story building and open expanse of roof were very accessible, and that recycled materials such as used rafters were utilized for edging.

• Upon completion of Goode Green’s base system installation, the growing medium was moved into by place by a team of farming volunteers over the course of three days. It was arranged into 16 north-south beds measuring thirty inches to four feet in width and divided down the middle by a single long aisle. The beds have a soil depth of 4-7”. The aisles were filled with mulched bark.

• Since overhead watering on a rooftop often evaporates or blows away, irrigation was inititally provided via black plastic drip lines, using city tap water.  In 2010, the drip irrigation system was de-installed, as the root systems of the crops rotated and intercropped through the farm during the growing season were incondusive with drip watering (e.g. carrots, microgreens, radishes).

• Currently, the Farm relies on hand watering (via hose) for seedlings and transplants, and rainwater for established plants (e.g. kale, chard, tomatoes).”

Simplifying the System: Gotham Greens

*Jun 12 - 00:05*

Check out their short video about how they grow their greens with hydroponics

How they grow:

“The greenhouse in an impressive hydroponics growing facility that yields 20-30 times more produce per acre than conventional field production and uses 20 times less water in the growing process. Hydroponics allow for water to be recycled and go directly to plants meaning no water is lost to soil.

Additionally, Gotham Greens’ products are free of chemical pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, and their packaging is high quality, food-grade, tree-free, GMO-free compostable containers made from renewable plant fibers.”

Computer-Monitored Container Gardening: Grown Down Town


 How they grow:

“Irrigation system is integrated into crates, where you put inserts with sprouts from herbs, veggies & fruit.

The inserts take water from beneath and computer system knows when it’s dry or wet.

It grows very well on flat roofs all over the city.”


Bus-Gardens! (Originally from Pop-up Cities)


“It is surprising that no one thought of it much earlier. Luckily, greening the city has gained a huge fan community. Landscape artist Marc Grañén, in collaboration with Grupo IRACO, takes it to the next level by using vehicle roofs as flower beds, turning unused space into little oases.

In order to make rooftop gardens on vehicles possible Marc Grañén uses IRACO’s Aquapro SkyGardens which are phytokinetic gardens made of aquaponic foam embedded in a steel grid. The flower bed is kept moist by a sedum carpet of small succulents that are planted in addition to small shrubs and ferns. The whole area is then covered with a protective mesh. Interestingly, the plants on the vehicle’s rooftop are watered with the waste from its air conditioning unit and, in addition, buses can be cooled down by 38.5° F through rooftop gardens and, thus, save on air conditioning as a whole.”

Gardening for everyone, anywhere!


If you want to grow food without setting up large scale or expensive systems, use cheaper, available materials to create a garden nearly anywhere. Urban Garden Solutions

One method of growing:

“The plastic wading pool is the most cost-efficient container available. A 4 – 6 ft diameter pool of 12 – 15 inches deep, provide a decent size growing area and costs under $10. They are known to last for more than 6 years in harsh climate regions like Chicago. The topsoil, peat moss, and manure that fill the pool can be bought for under $20.

Wading pools can be placed in any area that could not be used for conventional gardens, such as rooftops, black tops, along fences and railroad tracks.

On contaminated surfaces, such as brown fields, vacant lots and abandoned industrial sites, wading pools can be used to isolate the growing medium from contamination.

As the wading pools are above the ground they tend to dry up quickly. Therefore water the wading pool gardens as often as you see the need. You can stop watering when you see the water dripping from the holes on the side of the pools.”

A good reference for finding green roofs and rooftop gardens, also check out

September 7th, 2013

Hi Everyone, Check out some images from the film festival!

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The premiere was a beautiful night with over 500 people in attendance, including the filmmakers.



2013-09-01 17.50.02Before the screening the audience was able to meet urban farmers and taste some delicious local food as well as talk to us. We met a ton of folks who were really excited about urban agriculture and the potential it has to revitalize cities.

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After the screening we got a ton of great feedback, including a lot of “I’m so inspired!” so that felt really great. We’re excited to roll it out in more cities this Fall!

World Water Week: Farming First

September 4th, 2013



This post is from Farming First, about water use across the world and its tie to agriculture.


This week, from 1 – 6 September, world leaders, NGOs and businesses will gather in Stockholm to discuss the future of water security at World Water Week.

Taking place during the UN’s International year of Water Cooperation the week will focus on ‘Cooperation for a Water Wise World’, which will include discussions on international cooperation, sanitation and community ownership of water.

Issues relating to water scarcity have been moving up the development agenda in recent years as more pressure has been placed on this resource than ever before. World Water Week will occur just under a month after World ‘Overshoot Day’, a day that marks the moment when the world has officially consumed more natural resources than the biosphere can replace this year. ‘Overshoot Day’ has been reached two days earlier than last year, demonstrating the increasing pressure on the world’s resources.

As the world works to achieve sustainable development, cooperation between sectors is essential to address the unprecedented pressures on natural resources.

Members of the Farming First coalition believe that:

  1. Water is a precious resource so improving its use is essential.
  2. Adopting proven sustainable agricultural practices reduces water use per bushel.
  3. Research, innovation, and access to improved technologies, seeds, and improved irrigation techniques are essential to increasing the efficiency of water use.
  4. Agriculture needs to be part of watershed management.

Read more of this post on Farming First Blog

Growing Cities August Newsletter!

August 15th, 2013

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You can make a tax deductible donation to help us finish the film and inspire more people to start growing food in their city!




Growing hope by Growing Cities/April 2012


Filming the urban agriculture movment/April 2012


Filming the good food

revolution/April 2012


Omahans create documentary about urban farming/April 2012


Growing Cities:  A film about urban farming in America/Sept 2011

Urban Farm Magazine

Growing for Good/Oct 2011

Omaha World Herald

Putting urban farming on  film/Sept 2011

Food Chain Radio

What’s eating what/Oct 2011


Growing City Preview/July 2011


Growing Cities Newsletter

A monthly update on our documentary and your chance to meet a few of the many inspirational people we’ve gotten to know in the urban farming movement.————————————————————————–

World Premiere in Portland, OR…

Well, it’s been over three years in the making, but here we are … our World Premiere, yes, WORLD PREMIERE, is happening at the Portland Film Festival over Labor Day Weekend!The screening will take place Sunday, Sept. 1st at 8pm. You can RSVP to the event here.

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We’re working on getting some Portland urban farmers out for a pre-screening event, so if you are one (or know one), get in touch ASAP! Non-profit partner summit in NYC…   

Last month, we had a wonderful gathering with fifteen national good food and sustainable farming organizations to discuss how the film can support their work.

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Facilitated by Working Films, the meeting helped us focus on specific strategies for how we can work with different partner organizations and encourage people to get more deeply involved in their food system and grow where they are!

Fall screenings and social media intern…

If you or someone you know is a social media whiz or just crazy about good food, apply for our fall internship! It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the urban farming world and help engage more people in the good food movement.

More festival screenings this fall…  

We don’t have our schedule solidified yet, but if you’re lucky, we’ll be coming to a city (and festival) near you! We’ll send updates, but you can also watch the screening schedule on our website. Again, we can’t tell you all how excited we are to start this phase of the process and get the film out in the world. Whether it’s by plane, train, car, or bike we hope you can join us in Portland!

-Dan, Andrew, & the rest of the Growing Cities Team

PS Join us on our Website or by following us on Facebook and Twitter, watching our clips on YouTube, or supporting our Kickstarter campaign!

Forward to a friend!

                   Dan Susman, producer/director | Andrew Monboquette, co-producer/director photographyweb:

email:| phone: (402) 960-1779

© 2012 Elmwood Motion Picture Company