Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Penn State Outreach video series explores urban gardening

In this age of highly publicized food contaminations, energy anxieties and global warming, concerns about where and how our groceries are produced and distributed are emerging worldwide. With those concerns in mind, Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education, recently produced "The Urban Side of Green," a series of online videos that discuss the benefits of greening up city landscapes. Part one of the series, featuring an interview with Penn State's Dr. Dorothy Blair, can be found on YouTube (click here for link).

Blair, an assistant professor of Nutrition, is a longtime advocate of eating locally—a lifestyle sometimes described as "localvore." She has been studying and teaching about global food production system for 30 years. While serving in the Peace Corps early in her career, she said she saw firsthand how the global food production system perpetuated poverty, funneling money away from the people producing food, and into the coffers of distant conglomerates. Later, through her academic research, she was able to pinpoint "fatal flaws" that would render that system ecologically unsustainable.

In contrast, "if you're producing food in a urban area, it's very diversified—many producers on tiny plots," Blair points out. "It's very energy-efficient, and you have people eating food that is good for them—extremely fresh—with the kind of nutrients they might find difficult to obtain because of their low budget. And you have people locally making money."

Blair sees three main benefits to city farms and gardens: personal health, economic health and environmental health. To learn more about Dr. Blair's research, visit her Web page.