Purdue’s New Extension Program Hopes to Expand Urban Agriculture in Lake County | Lake County News


Urban farmers face a unique set of challenges, Koetz said. Classes will look at creative ways to cultivate in small spaces, such as vertical farming, container growing, and raised planting. Urban growth also involves specific environmental considerations. Decades of construction and industry have left some plots of land devoid of topsoil, nutrient-poor and heavily contaminated. The class will teach farmers how to monitor pollutants and how to restore soil health with cover crops and organic matter.

Small-scale farmers can also implement creative pest control tactics, Koetz said. Participants will learn the ‘lasagna method’, which involves covering the ground with cardboard or newspaper and then layering a mixture of soil and compost to help the paper materials decompose over time before planting. The lasagna method helps control weeds while enriching the soil.

The courses will guide farmers through the social element of urban agriculture. Koetz said attendees will learn about relevant city ordinances that may limit permitted structures and pesticide use, as well as how to build relationships with neighbors.

“Community buy-in is really important because you’re not in the middle of nowhere,” Koetz said. “It is important to recognize urban agriculture as a legitimate way to strengthen local food systems. ”


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