Urban Farms Across America

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09 September, 2013

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From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

Farms are spreading to unused city lots and old properties across the United States. These urban farms grow crops in areas where people rarely buy fresh fruits and vegetables, they also have the power to change what people eat and the power to influence troubled neighborhoods.

Eco City Farms is an educational nonprofit organization in Prince George county, Maryland. It seeks to empower the community by teaching economic development, job training and a healthier way of living.

The group has set up farms near automobile repair businesses and fast food stores in urban neighborhoods.

Social activist Margaret Morgan-Hubbard founded Eco City Farms. She says the the lack of fresh produce is a major health problem for children and their families who live in nearby Bladensburg, Maryland.

"What's critical is that 70 percent of the people in these towns are either overweight, obese, have diabetes or other kinds of diet-related ailments because they don't have access to healthy food."

Eco City Farms offer several programs, including educational activists on agriculture, food, and finding jobs with environmentally-friendly businesses.

People can also learn how to cook healthier foods and teach others how to prepare meals. On a recent day, Philip Sidibe demonstrated his cooking skills. He prepared Aloco, a popular food in Cameroon where he grew up.

He and other young people not only cook their food, they also grow it in a large garden next to the Autumn Woods Apartments. The apartments are home to 1,000 people, but the community has just one small store.

Tameka Barbour-Gaskins lives in Autumn Woods. She says her whole family is eating healthier meals because of the local produce.

"I like junk food. I like quick meals. Not easy to just go from eating a certain way all your life to switching over to being healthier... With the garden here, with my son learning, he can help me switch around my style of eating. I want a healthy family."

Margaret Morgan-Hubbard says the urban garden is an agent for change and the young people are its newest supporters.

"Our program is about planting seeds. It's about planting seeds not just in the ground, but in other human beings so that the movement can grow and it's really exciting because... these young people will be working with us throughout the year to help plan the actual farm and to ultimately own it."

She says this means not only farming food, but also making that food available to people who live in the community.

And that's the Agriculture Report from VOA Learning English. I'm Christopher Cruise.