The Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville believes that working together to grow and share healthy food helps cultivate healthy communities. Since 2007, we have been using urban agriculture as a catalyst for social change by bringing people together across racial, economic, and cultural barriers. We work to empower one another and build a more equitable community. On just of over half an acre of urban land, volunteers and UACC staff produce an annual average of 10,000 pounds of fresh organic vegetables and fruits. Everything we grow is distributed free of charge within the neighborhoods where it was grown, serving between 40 and 60 people per week during the growing season. We are committed to the idea that healthy food should be available to everyone, regardless of wealth. We work hard to ensure that our produce makes it to the tables of those who need it most in our community.
About this project
After seven bountiful seasons, UACC is starting to outgrow some of our old infrastructure. This project is focused on updating two crucial components of our growing and distribution system: seedling production and post-harvest storage.
A Passive Solar Greenhouse: UACC grows all of the transplants we use in the gardens. This amounts to thousands of seedlings per year. When we first started out, we grew seedlings on back porches and parking lots. Then we graduated to a homemade indoor grow light system and a collection of cold frames. Our grow light system provides just enough space to get our seedlings off to a good start, but our cold frame space has become insufficient to house all of our seedlings once they are ready for hardening off outdoors. Fortunately, we have an excellent location upon which to build a greenhouse that will provide more than enough protected space for our seedlings!
$5,000 from this campaign will fund the construction of a passive solar greenhouse. Our goal is to build a structure, using non-toxic, long-lasting materials, that will require no electricity for heating or ventilation. In early spring, it will provide our young seedlings just enough protection from the cold weather to grow to transplant size. In the late summer, we will be able to remove panels and add some shading to create a well-ventilated, insect-excluding area to start fall crops. Below is a Google Sketch Up rendering of the intended final product.
A Cool-Bot Powered Walk-in Cooler: Each year we produce and distribute an average of 10,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits. Keeping all that food fresh can be difficult. During the first year, we stored produce in air-conditioned offices and basements and occasionally borrowed space in a walk-in cooler at the local tech school or from a generous local grocer. A few years ago, we acquired a used refrigerator that holds 10 of the typical 30 or more harvest bins we fill on any given week. We make the most of our refrigerator by harvesting most of our greens on the day of distribution, refrigerating only the most perishable items, and covering the other crops with wet burlap. This system works pretty well in the spring, but it falls short once it gets hot and the big harvests of potatoes, onions, and other long-term storage crops come in. They too need a cool space in order to last into the fall. In 2011, we moved into an old garage and are now lucky to have enough space to build a large insulated box to create a walk-in cooler!
$5,000 from this campaign will fund the construction of a free-standing insulated box and the purchase of a Cool-Bot and an air conditioner. Never heard of a Cool-Bot? This ingenious device allows a conventional window unit air conditioner to be used to cool an insulated room down to around 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Better yet, it is more energy efficient than a standard walk-in cooler compressor. It also costs less and is easier to maintain. Below is a picture (albeit a bit fuzzy) of a Cool-Bot controlled air conditioner chugging along in a friend's homemade walk-in. There are lots of great photos on the Cool-Bot website as well.
Risks and challenges
UACC is very fortunate to have a wonderful support network here in Charlottesville. From the property owners who have trusted us for the past seven years to be good stewards of the land where we garden, to the neighborhood volunteers who come back to help year after year, UACC simply could not do what we do without our community supporters.
That said, we still face risks and challenges. As an urban farm located on valuable downtown real estate, the potential for encroaching development is always on the horizon. Your support will not only help us fund two very important construction projects, it also demonstrates that you value what we do. As our support network grows so does our ability to advocate for the interests of our neighbors who live near the gardens. Thanks for helping us ensure that we can garden together for another seven seasons!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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