April 24, 2019

Urban ag a growing idea

New grant promotes farming, conservation in cities

Jacob DeRochie/contributing photographer

Robert “Bobcat” Bonagura, an owner of Main Street Farms in Cortland, said he would like to promote urban agriculture with different ideas, like a backyard garden. Last week, the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District announced it was awarded an urban agriculture conservation grant totaling about $27,000.

Robert “Bobcat” Bonagura wants people to start thinking about how they can start growing crops even in a urban area.

A grant to the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District will help support that plan.

“Let’s think outside the box,” he said. “Maybe inspire some people who live in the city to turn their lawns into gardens.”

The grant opens a project which will help expand agriculture and conservation into the urban setting, said Amanda Barber, manager of the conservation district.

Last week, the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District announced it was awarded an urban agriculture conservation grant through a partnership with the National Association of Conservation Districts and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The grant is around $27,000.

Part of the grant would not only aim at establishing urban farming, but also keep conservation in mind. It will look at keeping soil healthy and make sure people are using the appropriate nutrients and pesticides, Barber said.

The plan branches from the recent trend to promote local foods and people growing their own, Barber added.

Everything is still in the planning phases.

Robert Bonagura said he will be looking to host workshops to get people into urban growing.

“This new project will help us to create resources that will enhance our program and services, while establishing partnerships that will sustain our involvement in this new area of conservation opportunity,” Eugene Wright, chairman of the Soil and Water Conservation board, said in a news release.

Barber said the district is looking to work with four community partners including:
• Main Street Farms.
• The Cortland Youth Bureau.
• Loaves and Fishes.
• The Town and Country Garden Club.

Each partner will have its own jobs, Barber said.

Main Street Farms will be looking to host workshops to get people into growing.

“Grow food, not lawns,” Barber said.

Bonagura said when the farm first started greenhouses on South Avenue in Cortland, there wasn’t much traction. Teaming with the county Soil and Water Conservation District could change that, he added.

Besides having a garden, where the lawn once was, Barber said there are other options. Those include raised bed gardens and even a community garden.

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