Food Forward: Urban Agriculture Across America is a half-hour, character-driven survey of urban farming across the country. The pilot episode for a 13-part series greenlit for PBS starting 2012, we meet the food rebels who are growing food right where we live–in cities. Lively animation starts us off asking some tough questions of industrial agriculture. Then, onto the streets of New York City with Dr. Dickson Despommier, author of The Vertical Farm Project. “Most of us live in cities now, over 50% and up to 80% in 20 years. We love each other, we like to be with each other, we like to sit down to a good meal together and we all know want to know what’s in our food. So why not grow it, where we live?” he asks.
Our first food rebel, John Mooney has a hydroponic rooftop farm on top of a one-hundred and five year old historic building in the West Village of Manhattan. Mooney tried conventional farming and felt that the technology of soil-less rooftop farming was, “just smart. It made sense.” Next, Andrew Coté, President of the New York City Beekeepers Association hawks his honey at the Tomkin’s Square Farmer’s Market in lower Manhattan. Coté explains how urban beekeeping helps to pollinate the urban farms and community gardens scattered throughout the city.
Our tour of New York’s vibrant urban agriculture scene continues up into the Bronx where Karen Washington, owner of the Garden of Happiness, decides to take back empty and decaying lots to start growing food. Brooklyn is our next stop where hoards of hipsters are getting reacquainted with the sources of their food and getting behind the good food movement.
Leaving New York, we head to Milwaukee where the biggest name in urban agriculture, Will Allen, inspires a new generation of innovators. Will motivated the folks at Sweetwater Aquaponics into action, scaling up his Telapia farm to more of a commercial operation. We follow the flow of fish from 8,000 gallon tanks in an abandoned warehouse to plate at La Merenda restaurant. Moving on to West Oakland, we get an in-depth look at urban farmer Abeni Ramsey who came from the mean streets of West Oakland but is now running her own crew at City Girl Farms.
Finally, we finish in the food deserts, Detroit, MI, where we spend time with eighteen-year-old Travis Roberts, who grew up in Detroit, watching the city watching the city struggle with increasing urban blight. In trouble and more than 100 pounds overweight, he was headed in the wrong direction. But since then, he’s discovered the city’s urban agriculture movement and found a new purpose in life and is out to become an urban chicken rancher. Travis is joined by a cast of powerful characters in Detroit that are rebuilding their city, block by block.
Food Forward is presented by KQED Presents.