Program, Videos, Slides – Cambridge 2015 – Urban/Suburban Farming

Urban and Suburban Carbon Farming to Reverse Global Warming

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Urban and Suburban Carbon Farming
to Reverse Global Warming
Sunday, May 3, 2015, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Morning session, 9:00 – 12:00:

9:00 Opening Remarks

Quinton Zondervan, President, Green Cambridge and Michael Green, Program Director, Climate Action Business Association (CABA), will welcome us all on behalf of their organizations, which are sponsoring this conference.


9:15 The Climate Imperative

Adam Sacks, Executive Director, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate

Adam Sacks will introduce carbon farming for cities and suburbs, using green plants to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the soil. It’s by far the most promising means to tackle global warming, and it’s something that everyone everywhere can help with.  He will suggest how we may address the pending food and water crises, and move climate action and local self-sufficiency toward creating biodiversity, planetary regeneration and abundance.

Video     Slides

9:25     Part 1: Inventory of Biodiversity

biodiversity - olmsted park
Ward’s Pond, Olmsted Park, Boston

The Ecology of the City
Nathan Phillips, Earth and Environment Department, Boston University

An overview of our modern urban ecology, shaped and profoundly altered by human actions. Our relationship with our urban ecosystem can be improved if we recognize the threats that we bring through development and  technology and the ways to increase resilience and biodiversity. As climate challenges intensify, carbon farming methods can support this resilience and protect living systems in our cities.

Video      Slides

Biodiversity in the City
Eric Olson, Brandeis University

Biodiversity contributes significantly to our resilience and quality of life. Eric Olson will address the presence of countless non-native species of plants and animals in our cities, how we can take steps to re-establish healthy ecological species relationships one yard at a time, and how our local climate can benefit.

Video      Slides

A Walk in the Urban Woods
David Morimoto, Biologist, Lesley University

The extraordinary wild spaces that still remain in our cities benefit our spiritual and mental health, not to mention the quality of the air and water.  David Morimoto will share slides of the nature walk that some of us attended yesterday at the Alewife Reservation, our largest local urban wild area, home to crucially important wetland and biodiversity resources.  

Video      Slides

City Trees
David Lefcourt, Arborist, City of Cambridge

David will discuss how a municipality, with active citizens and volunteers, can get the greatest benefit from its trees for climate and biodiversity.

Video      Slides

10:25    Q&A

Our Q&A periods will be an opportunity for members of the audience to comment and/or ask questions.  Two-minute time limit per person, please.


10:45    Break

11:00    Part 2: Urban soil

handful of soil

Cover Crops
Thomas Akin, State Resource Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Cover cropping is soil health-building practice gaining currency in cropland agriculture but also well suited to improving urban soils. Soil-incorporated cover crops provide large volumes of soluble carbon, the best fuel for the soil food web.  Tom Akin will give a brief introduction to suitable cover crops to improve urban soils.  

Video      Slides

Compost Tea Time
Eric ‘T’ Fleischer, Consultant, Harvard Landscape Services,

There are many challenges in improving urban soils.  Eric Fleischer will review them and focus on Harvard’s successful soil-enhancement project using compost tea applications.

Video      Slides

Biochar Basics
Charlotte O’Brien, Biochar Entrepreneur

Biochar is soil amendment made from biomass that leads to fertility and improved plant health and growth.  It was developed by indigenous people in the Amazon hundreds of years ago and has excited broad interest worldwide over the past decade. Charlotte O’Brien will describe how urban dwellers can make and use their own biochar for increased soil, plant and human health.

Video      Slides

Permaculture gardens
Allison Houghton, Permaculture and Gardening Teacher

Permaculture methods for ecological design are especially useful for bringing productivity and biodiversity to urban settings. Allison Houghton will share some methods for planning and growing successful garden spaces.

Video      Slides

12:00    Q&A


12:15   Lunch

Informal social/educational activities including lunch, networking, ad hoc poster sessions, and meeting exhibitors.

Afternoon session, 1:15 – 5:00

1:15  Blue carbon – The Shore Less Traveled
Phil Colarusso, Boston Office of the EPA

Wetlands and coastal waters are exceptionally effective at storing carbon as well as performing many other ecosystem functions.  Phil Colarusso will tell us how cities and the global climate benefit from offshore seagrass beds, one of the richest of ecological resources and carbon sinks and part of the Boston area’s native habitat.  Eelgrass survival is entirely dependent on effective management of water resources for human use, especially intact healthy wetlands and efficient sewage disposal.

Video      Slides

1:40    Part 3: Urban and Suburban Agriculture

Mystic Housing Community Farm
Photo courtesy of Sarah Howard

From Bare Ground to Urban Paradise on One-Tenth of an Acre
Jonathan Bates, Permaculturist, Co-Author of Paradise Lot

A neglected Holyoke house lot is re-born as a thriving edible forest garden with a wide variety of edible plants and trees.  Jonathan Bates will offer an overview of how he and his collaborator, Eric Toensmeier, applied principles of permaculture to transform their back and front yards, and how you can do it too.

Video      Slides

Enabling and Protecting Urban Agriculture
Luisa Oliveira, Landscape architect, City of Somerville

Luisa Oliveira led the team that developed an urban agriculture ordinance for Somerville, the first in New England. She will speak on the traditions, benefits and value of growing urban food, and the challenges of regulating agriculture in a densely populated city.


Urban Farming for a Shelter and a CSA
Joy Gary, Urban Farm Grower, Revision Urban Farm, Dorchester, Massachusetts

Revision Urban Farm is an innovative community-based urban agriculture project that grows produce in its own fields and provides access to affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food to residents of the ReVision Family Home and its extended community.


Compost for a CityPhoto courtesy of Bruce Fulford
Bruce Fulford, Owner, City Soil

The linkages between urban farms, conservation foundations, and municipalities can all reinforce the power of urban agriculture.  Bruce Fulford will describe creating agricultural land in an urban setting.

Video      Slides

2:35    Q&A 


2:55    Break

3:10    Part 4: What We Can Do – Community Scale Solutions

Panel: Local Eco-Restoration as Climate Activism


Jennifer Lawrence, Sustainability Planner for the City of Cambridge, will speak on the City’s ongoing Vulnerability Assessment on climate change, and some possible measures the City can take to improve its climate resilience.


Duke Bitsko, landscape architect with Chester Engineers will describe a large-scale project he worked on in the Alewife Reservation, transforming a degraded low-quality upland habitat into a constructed stormwater wetland and park.The interdisciplinary team incorporated green infrastructure strategies to create diverse upland and wetland native plant communities.


Lenni Armstrong will talk about the Depaving Parties she organizes in collaboration with Somerville Climate Action. She works with residents who want to transform paved areas of their yards into green spaces or permeable walkways and driveways. Urban depaving helps keep the watershed clean and promotes healthy neighborhood ecosystems. Also, Depaving Parties are fun and build community!


Ellen Mass of the Friends of Alewife Reservation (FAR) will speak on what citizens can and must do to help their communities plan for climate change. FAR has been active for years in protecting and maintaining the Alewife wetlands and wild space, and will urge city dwellers to stay informed and involved in the public review process regarding development proposals, and to advocate for our environmental resources.


4:00    Q&A 

4:20    Part 5: From the Past, Into the Future
Mel King, Community Activist, State Legislator, Affordable Housing Advocate, MIT Faculty

As a State Legislator, Mel King was a leader in the effort to preserve agricultural land in Massachusetts. He founded the South End Technology Center and led the fight to stop development of land that later became Tent City, affordable housing in the South End. Mel taught in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and started its Community Fellows Program. He is currently a board member of the Urban Agriculture Institute and speaks to us from a broad understanding of land use and community issues.


Youth Panel
Local teens will give you their perspectives on today’s events, and where they think we should go from here.

Closing Remarks
. . . and now we go out and do it!

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