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Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week

Permalink Can you give me some resources on purchasing horsedrawn plowing or cultivation equipment?


Answer: First, you may be able to find antique equipment through antique dealers or by networking with landowners in your area who have older farms with extensive junk piles. If you're buying antique equipment, there are a couple things to be aware of: key pieces of it may be missing (which can jeopardize both safety and performance), and it might be hard to find equipment that is the right scale for your operation. Lots of old equipment is really large, and plows in particular often have shares that are too big to be pulled by a single horse or even a team, but are sized more for three or four horses. They also may plow deeper than you would want to go. A further consideration is that modern plowing equipment has some design features that improve its safety and riding comfort, like shear bolts.

On the other hand, antique single-horse cultivator equipment is sized about right for a lot of modern market garden applications, and there shouldn't be much problem in getting an older piece back into usable shape.

There is some information on equipment and equipment suppliers in ATTRA's new publication "Draft Animal Power for Farming." Currently we have a PDF version online, and you can request a hard copy if you want by calling our toll free line (800) 346-9140.

Some manufacturers of modern horsedrawn plows and cultivation equipment that are comparatively near your area are:

Pioneer Equipment Inc.
16875 Jericho Road
Dalton, OH 44618
(330) 857-6340
(330) 857-0296

Manufactures a broad line of horsedrawn wagons, forecarts, PTO carts, harrows, plows, and eveners. Available from a network of local dealers, or from the manufacturer.

I& J Manufacturing
5302 Amish Road
Gap, PA 17527
(717) 442-9451

Horsedrawn plows, and a range of three-point attachments for carts, such as harrow, rototiller, and mower.

White Horse Machine
5566 Old Philadelphia Parkway
Gap, PA 17537
(717) 768-8313



Permalink What information can you give me on cover crops for vegetable production that can be grazed by livestock?


Answer: I am pleased to provide you with information on cover crops that will act as a cover crop for your vegetables as well as provide winter grazing for your hogs and sheep.

Your question is a bit difficult to answer, as there really isn’t a perfect crop to meet all of the criteria you are looking for. There are several tradeoffs that you will need to make in the system you describe. While the crop must compete with weeds, it also must not be so competitive that it decreases your vegetable yields. In addition, while you need a spring-seeded variety with prostrate growth profile, you also need a long-standing perennial with fall and winter grazing potential. Together, all of these criteria make for a very interesting research topic!

In your first inquiry, you had mentioned rye as a potential cover crop. This might work, but be aware of the pros and cons. Rye is very cold and drought tolerant and requires the least fertility of all grain crops. In addition, rye will be very competitive with the weeds. But it may be so competitive that is hurts your vegetable yields. There is some debate on the allelopathy of rye. Some say that rye inhibits weeds by exuding chemicals from its roots, while others suggest that rye chokes out weeds because of its rapid structural root growth. (Stoskopf, Canadian Organic Growers) Either way, it’s safe to say that rye could be a real problem for your direct-seeded vegetables. In Montana, rye is rarely grown as a cash crop for this very reason. Once it is planted into a field and is allowed to mature, it is nearly impossible to get it out in following crop years. It becomes a major weed problem in subsequent wheat or barley crops.

I would recommend barley as a better option in your case. I had a chance to speak with Bruce Bosley at the CSU Logan County extension office, and he agreed with this idea.

Barley will germinate at 35F, and in your area can be planted in February, and no later than March 15th. Barley is fairly tolerant to low-fertility, drought, and saline soils. You can plant it early and it will bring nice, lush growth for grazing. In addition, the cost of seed is very reasonable. You might want to experiment on your seeding rate. The SARE manual recommends “25 to 50 pounds per acre if overseeding as a companion crop or a higher rate (140 pounds) for very weedy fields,” which is a very wide range.

Make sure you use a winter variety of barley. Typically, winter barley is planted in the fall, overwinters, and then sets seed and is harvested the following summer. In your case, you do not want the barley to set seed. You want to control its growth so that it doesn’t compete too much with your vegetable plants. Planting a winter variety in the spring means that the barley will put out lush vegetative growth and not put out a seed head. If you notice the barley grows taller than 6 inches, you may need to consider mowing or grazing the plant to control its growth.

Researchers in North Dakota did some interesting research on spring barley and hairy vetch as a cover crop in an irrigated vegetable system. In these studies, they found that the barley needed to be kept between a height of 6 and 14 inches in order to allow for good vegetable growth. You can view their findings at:

In the North Dakota study, the barley was planted on the same date as the direct-seed carrots (May 16). Then in June and July, a mix of vetch and clover was planted. In your case, you are planting your cover crop first and it will get a head start on your vegetables. You will need to be very careful that your cover crop don’t take too much water, nutrients, and sunlight away from your vegetable crop.

Planting a winter cereal in the early spring should give you some weed competition and grazing forage for the first part of the year. The drawback is that the crop will die off after a few months, which doesn’t help you during the fall and winter months.

I spoke with Dr. Phil Bruckner, the winter wheat breeder here at MSU to confirm some of the science behind keeping a winter cereal in its vegetative state by planting in the spring. For your situation, you will need to keep in mind the idea of vernalization. Vernalization is the requirement of a winter cereal before flowering. It needs a certain length of cold temperatures for flowering to occur. Winter wheat in Montana generally needs soil temperatures less than 40F for a period of 5 or 6 weeks. At your location, this will probably not be an issue. However, if you get an unseasonable long cold snap after seeding, your cereal cover crop may go to seed later in the season.

Dr. Bruckner said some of this ability will depend on the variety you select. There are some varieties that require more vernalization than others before flowering can occur. He also noted that he will be traveling this week with Dr. Scott Haley, the winter wheat breeder in Colorado and will chat with him about your situation.

In order to get the perennial qualities you are looking for, you might want to consider establishing a legume along with your annual cereal. There are two options that might be well-suited for your situation: black medic and cicer milkvetch.

Black medic is very well suited to our northern plains climate of harsh weather and low rainfall. Farmers in Australia have used it for many years in their ley farming system of rotational grazing and cropping systems.

For an in-depth article on black medic, look at The Sustainable Agriculture Network publication Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 2nd Edition (2001) which has an entire chapter on using black medic as a cover crop. This publication can be downloaded from the SARE website as a PDF file. This is the most comprehensive book ever published on the use of cover crops to sustain cropping systems and build soil.

The advantages of black medic are several. It grows low to the ground, competes with weeds, and fixes nitrogen. While it is an annual, it has a high reseeding rate and produces abundant amounts of hard seed.

The disadvantage of black medic is that it has the same bloat potential as alfalfa for grazing sheep. (Conversation with Dennis Cash, MSU extension forage specialist, assuming grazing a stand of 100% black medic.) However, proper management of your grazing should prevent this from being a problem. Linda Coffey, the ATTRA small ruminant specialist compiled some information on grazing black medic to avoid bloat in sheep.
1. Purdue article on grazing legumes to prevent bloat in sheep.
2. Information from Oregon State:
Annual medics are excellent winter forages for domestic livestock and wildlife. In the Midwestern USA annual medics are being evaluated as a summer annual as intercrops for small grains and corn.
Anti-quality: Often times, the annul medics will have a higher protein content and a lower fiber content that clovers, and this contributes to a potential for bloat if over consumed. However this can be overcome by proper management of livestock and providing other forage to the grazing animals such as frosted mature grass, hay, or planting ryegrass or small grains with the medic.

3. Western SARE research on grazing cattle on black medic in Montana

In addition, Linda would recommend offering dry hay along with the pasture. A producer in AR was grazing alfalfa with his cattle and had great success, but then one morning he turned them out while the dew was still on and the cattle were very hungry. He lost several animals to bloat that day. He advised giving them something else to eat first and then turning them on to the alfalfa.

I have found various opinions regarding the vigorous nature of black medic. Dr. Dennis Cash of MSU commented that black medic can often become a weed. However, he was assuming you would be growing a different crop the next year in a large scale operation. In contrast, Dr. Merle Vigil of the USDA-ARS station at Akron, CO commented that black medic isn’t very vigorous and will take some time to establish. Dr. Vigil’s opinion may be more correct for your situation, as his experience with the crop was closer to your location.

The key to growing a good stand of black medic is to not graze the plant during seed set in September. Make sure enough seed has dispersed before grazing.

Another legume option for your situation is cicer milkvetch. Dr. Merle Vigil (Vee-hill) in Akron, CO suggested this crop for your situation and offered to speak with you if you’d like more information. His phone number is (970) 345-0517.

Cicer milkvetch is well-adapted to your area and was the research object of a local scientist for over 20 years. At the Akron station, they have an experimental plot that is over 15 years old. Dr. Vigil suggested you drive up to the station if you would like to look at this plot.

Like black medic, cicer milkvetch is an annual that can be managed as a perennial, due to its ability to reseed itself. The disadvantage compared to black medic is its growth habit. Cicer milkvetch grows more upright, with the seedheads at the very tip of the plant. This makes the seedhead more likely to be eaten during grazing. However, the advantage of cicer milkvetch is that it is bloat-free. Less management care is needed when grazing this crop.

With both black medic and cicer milkvetch, you may find that seed is difficult to find and expensive. Please feel free to contact me if you need help finding a reliable seed source for either of these crops. As with any legume, remember to select the correct Rhizobium for the species you are planting.

In summary, you will want to look at all of these resources and decide which option will work best for your system. For this spring, I would recommend planting a mixture of barley and a legume as soon as you can. Make sure the growth of the barley doesn’t get too out of hand to out compete with your vegetables. You might want to look into strip tilling for the vegetable rows. Make sure you plant 2 to 3 weeks after the strips are tilled in order to allow enough time for the crop residue to break down in the soil.

After you harvest your vegetables in the fall, wait until the legume has gone to seed before turning in your livestock for grazing. At this point, you could consider overseeding another grass crop in the fall, such as annual ryegrass, or wait until the spring and plant another winter cereal.

This may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for your system. I would be very interested in hearing back from you on what you try and what the results are. Please feel free to call me directly if you would like to follow up with this information. You have a lot of competing criteria, which has made this case challenging, as well as fun, to research.


The Sustainable Agriculture Network. 2001. Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 2nd Edition.

Stoskopf, Neal. 1995. Cereal Grain Crops. Reston Publishing Co.

Canadian Organic Growers. 2001. Organic Field Crop Handbook, 2nd Edition.



Permalink What are some resources for information on switchgrass production, marketing, and processing?


Answer: I am pleased to provide you with information on growing switchgrass, opportunities for markets, and developing local processing plants.

Although recent news has been full of exciting reports about ethanol and switchgrass, producers and processors need to be aware that a market for switchgrass as an energy crop is scarce to nonexistent. There is intense speculation about how, when, and whether these potential markets will materialize. In the meantime, corn ethanol is becoming more popular in the marketplace. In fact, 14 percent of the 2005 U.S. corn crop was used to produce ethanol, and the percentage is expected to grow. Cellulosic ethanol production is, from a processing and distribution standpoint, still in a research and development phase. As further research into cellulosic ethanol production and processing is completed, perhaps switchgrass can become a cost-effective, viable alternative energy source.

… many are optimistic that the cost of producing cellulosic ethanol will eventually drop far below the cost of producing corn-based ethanol. Until recently, the cellulase enzymes used for enzymatic hydrolysis were prohibitively expensive, costing five or six dollars per gallon of ethanol. In 2005, though, two companies—Novozymes Biotech and Genencor International—reported achieving costs as low as 10 to 20 cents per gallon of ethanol, in laboratory trials funded by USDOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Two concerns about ethanol have received more attention than all the others combined: the high cost/incentives issue and the energy balance issue. These concerns are over-emphasized. The more important questions about ethanol concern its possible impacts on air, water, and soils, especially if large-scale corn ethanol continues to dominate the industry and if the U.S. pushes to maximize ethanol production (source: Morris, Mike and Amanda Hill. 2006. Ethanol Opportunities and Questions. Butte, MT: ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service)

Resources on Switchgrass Production and Economics

Rinehart, L. 2006. Switchgrass as a Bioenergy Crop. Butte, MT: National Center for Appropriate Technology.
Switchgrass is a native warm-season, perennial grass indigenous to the Central and North American tall-grass prairie into Canada. The plant is an immense biomass producer that can reach heights of 10 feet or more. Its high cellulosic content makes switchgrass a candidate for ethanol production as well as a combustion fuel source for power production. This publication discusses agricultural production aspects of switchgrass. Varieties, seed sources, crop establishment, management, and harvesting issues are presented. Ecological considerations are also discussed and a case study is presented along with references and further resources.

McLaughlin, S., J. Bouton, D. Bransby, B. Conger, W. Ocumpaugh, D. Parrish, C. Taliaferro, K. Vogel, and S. Wullschleger. 1999. Developing switchgrass as a bioenergy crop. p. 282–299. In: J. Janick (ed.), Perspectives on new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.
Renewable energy from biomass has the potential to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, though not to totally replace them. Realizing this potential will require the simultaneous development of high yielding biomass production systems and bioconversion technologies that efficiently convert biomass energy into the forms of energy and chemicals usable by industry. The endpoint criterion for success is economic gain for both agricultural and industrial sectors at reduced environmental cost and reduced political risk. This paper reviews progress made in a program of research aimed at evaluating and developing a perennial forage crop, switchgrass as a regional bioenergy crop. We will highlight here aspects of research progress that most closely relate to the issues that will determine when and how extensively switchgrass is used in commercial bioenergy production.

Perrin, Richard, Kenneth Vogel, Marty Schmer, and Rob Mitchell. Farm-Scale Production Cost of Switchgrass for Biomass. Bioenerg. Res. (2008) 1:91–97.
The economic potential of cellulosic biomass from switchgrass has heretofore been evaluated using estimates of farm costs based on extrapolation from experimental data and budget estimates. The objective of the project reported here was to estimate the cost of production that would be experienced by farmers on commercial production situations. Switchgrass was produced as a biomass crop on commercial-scale fields by ten contracting farmers located from northern North Dakota to southern Nebraska. Results showed a wide range of yields and costs across the five production years and ten sites, with an overall average cost of $65.86 Mg−1 of biomass dry matter, and annualized yield of 5.0 Mg ha−1. The low cost half of the producers were able to produce at an average cost of $51.95 Mg−1over the 5-year period. When projected to a full 10-year rotation, their cost fell further to $46.26 Mg−1. We conclude that substantial quantities of biomass feedstock could have been produced in this region at a cost of about $50 Mg−1 at the farm gate, which translates to about $0.13/l of ethanol. These results provide a more reliable benchmark for current commercial production costs as compared to other estimates, which range from $25 to $100 Mg−1.

Hintz, Roger L., Kenneth J. Moore, Alison B. Tarr. 2002. Cropping Systems Research for Biomass Energy Production: A final report prepared for the Chariton Valley Resource Conservation and Development, Inc. Iowa State University Department of Agronomy.
As with any new crop, there are many questions related to biomass cropping systems, which need to be addressed through research. While much research has been done on managing switchgrass either as a biomass or as a forage crop, little work has been done on developing systems in which switchgrass is managed for both purposes in a complementary manner. This work may become extremely important. The economics of switchgrass production as a fuel energy source are and will likely remain marginal. Therefore, it is important to find ways to enhance the value of the switchgrass crop beyond its value as a biofuel. Using the switchgrass crop for both forage and biomass production may increase the return per land unit and lessen the risk to the total enterprise.

Babcock, Bruce A., Philip W. Gassman, Manoj Jha, and Catherine L. Kling. 2007. Adoption Subsidies and Environmental Impacts of Alternative Energy Crops, Briefing Paper 07-BP 50. Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.
We provide estimates of the costs associated with inducing substantial conversion of land from production of traditional crops to switchgrass. Higher traditional crop prices due to increased demand for corn from the ethanol industry has increased the relative advantage that row crops have over switchgrass. Results indicate that farmers will convert to switchgrass production only with significant conversion subsidies. To examine potential environmental consequences of conversion, we investigate three stylized landscape usage scenarios, one with an entire conversion of a watershed to switchgrass production, a second with the entire watershed planted to continuous corn under a 50% removal rate of the biomass, and a third scenario that places switchgrass on the most erodible land in the watershed and places continuous corn on the least erodible. For each of these illustrative scenarios, the watershed-scale Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) hydrological model (Arnold et al., 1998; Arnold and Forher, 2005) is used to evaluate the effect of these landscape uses on sediment and nutrient loadings in the Maquoketa Watershed in eastern Iowa.

Switchgrass Processing and Pelletizing Technology

Svejkovsky, Cathy. 2007. Locally Owned Renewable Energy Facilities. Butte, MT: National Center for Appropriate Technology.
This publication discusses locally owned renewable energy facilities—the benefits they provide to local economies and potential challenges of developing such a facility. It describes common business models, profiles several successful facilities, and provides resources for more information.

J.H. Cherney. 2006. Grass Pelleting – The Process, Bioenergy Information Sheet #7. Cornell University.
The purpose of this publication is to describe the steps involved in pelleting biofuels.

Carolan, Joseph E., Satish V. Joshi, and Bruce E. Dale. 2007. Technical and Financial Feasibility Analysis of Distributed Bioprocessing Using Regional Biomass Pre-Processing Centers. Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization.
Research indicates that large biorefineries capable of handling 5000-10000MT of biomass per day are necessary to achieve process economies. However, such large biorefineries also entail increased costs of biomass transportation and storage, high transaction costs of contracting with a large number of farmers for biomass supply, potential market power issues, and local environmental impacts. We propose a network of regional biomass preprocessing centers (RBPC) that form an extended biomass supply chain feeding into a biorefinery, as a way to address these issues. The RBPC, in its mature form, is conceptualized as a flexible processing facility capable of pre-treating and converting biomass into appropriate feedstocks for a variety of final products such as fuels, chemicals, electricity, and animal feeds. We evaluate the technical and financial feasibility of a simple RBPC that uses ammonia fiber expansion pretreatment process and produces animal feed along with biorefinery feedstock.

Porter, Pamela A., Jonathan Barry, Roger Samson, and Mark Doudlah. 2008. Growing Wisconsin Energy: A Native Grass Pellet Bio-Heat Roadmap for Wisconsin. Agrecol Corporation, Madison, Wisconsin.
The study found that switchgrass can be grown successfully and cost effectively in Wisconsin. It does not require any new technology and can be grown with existing farm practices and equipment. It is also a strong candidate for pelleting. Pelleting allows switchgrass to overcome many logistics inherent to agricultural biomass: the uniform size allows it to be handled and stored easily, transported more economically and burned more efficiently.

Compton, Tammy. 2008. Mobile Pelletizing Machine and Switch Grass Could Mean $ For Farmers. Wayne Independent (Pennsylvania).
News report of a project in northeastern Pennsylvania. If you’d like more information on the mobile pelletizing machine, you may contact the Wayne Conservation District at 570-253-0930.

Financial Opportunities

US Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Biomass Program
The Department of Energy is a major provider of funding for basic and applied research for converting biomass resources to biofuels. Many financial assistance opportunities are available for small to large-scale research activities. The Department of Energy (DOE)'s e-center contains information on doing business with the agency. The e-center allows you to search by keyword and view renewable energy funding opportunities, register to submit proposals, and obtain information and guidance on the acquisition and financial assistance award process. This database provides accurate, up-to-date information on all solicitations offered by the Department of Energy, including those offered by the EERE Biomass Program, Office of Science, and others. DOE also provides this information to the central database for all Federal government grants, Both sites' individual postings contain contact information and application criteria details for current solicitations, should you have questions. In addition to independent solicitations, DOE conducts joint solicitations with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as part of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative. Project criteria are specified in each new request for proposals, but information regarding recently-awarded projects may provide guidance for prospective applicants. DOE and USDA encourage you to apply.



Permalink What information can you give me on reclaiming parking lots for farming?


Answer: I am pleased to provide you with information on reclaiming old abandoned asphalt parking lots and the use of soils in urban agriculture.

Farming over asphalt is not new to urban agriculture. The Red Hook Community Farm in Brooklyn, NY is farming on asphalt and the youth who work the farm sell the produce to neighborhood residents at markets in the Reed Hook district. The soil and nutrients for the farm has been constructed through applications of manure from the Brooklyn zoo. You can read a profile of the farm at:

Soil is the most limiting factor in urban agriculture, as buildings, vacant lots, and other infrastructure within your community that can be used for food production may be contaminated. In fact, most urban soils should be assumed to be contaminated by heavy metals and other chemicals unless it has been determined to be safe. Soils used for food production should be held to higher standards of cleanliness than other land uses.

The following is an excerpt from Soil Contamination and Urban Agriculture – A practical guide to soil contamination issues for individuals and groups (see details in the Resources section at the end of this letter):

Ideally, garden soils should have no contaminants, besides the levels that are naturally present in the soil. However, particularly in urban settings, it is inevitable that soil contaminants will exceed natural levels. This raises the question – how much contamination is acceptable? There are standards for acceptable levels of soil contamination which exist at all levels of government. It is important to note that there are different standards– usually pertaining to the industrial, residential, or agricultural use of land. Of these three, agricultural is the most strict, as it is important to have relatively minimal levels of contaminants present in soils that will be used to grow food.

The publication Soil Contamination and Urban Agriculture – A practical guide to soil contamination issues for individuals and groups details methods in evaluating soil contamination, and some options for remediating contaminated soils.

Roof-top gardening can be an excellent option if soils are contaminated. Rooftop gardens are a unique way to use unused and sterile spaces for food production. There are many different types of rooftop garden systems that can include growing crops in containers, in raised beds, or even greenhouses. Rooftop gardens not only provide food, but also help cool buildings and can improve air quality.

Raised bed gardening is another method for dealing with contaminated soils in urban agriculture projects, and can be used over contaminated soils or asphalt. Raised beds can be constructed with non-treated wood or bricks and filled with soil to a depth greater than the rooting zone of the plants being grown. Wood chips can be used in the walk ways to prevent contaminated dust from soil from being kicked up and contaminating the food plots. An example of a raised bed is detailed in the Food Project’s raised bed manual, as referenced below.

If soil is a limiting factor, I would suggest starting a community composting project. This would help to develop a source of organic matter that the whole community could participate in, while reducing the waste stream in your community. The organization Community Compost has a lot of information on this topic and would be a good start. Note: they are a British organization, but many of the issues/considerations still apply.

Consider not only plant crops but animals as well. Vegetables are a very small proportion of most diets. Having chickens, other foul, and maybe some other forms of protein should be considered when growing more local foods, and the animals’ manure can be used to build soil fertility in the gardens.

There is a new movement in urban areas called SPIN farming—or Small Plot Intensive farming. This type of market gardening grows on small plots of land either private or community-based, focusing on succession planting and intensive cropping systems. Thy have several guides, and they are not free of charge unfortunately, but they are nominally priced. Below is a link to the official SPIN web site:

I have listed several resources on urban soils, contamination, and remediation below for your review.


Craul, Phillip J. 1999. Urban Soils: Applications and Practices. Wiley Publishing. See
The soil which is found in large cities offer distinctive challenges to the landscape architect or horticulturist responsible for maintaining these urban plantings. Often compacted, contaminated, or otherwise unsuitable for use in major landscape projects, these soils require practical methods which can insure a successful outcome of a landscape project. This applications-oriented, introductory reference addresses numerous topics in the field of urban soil science.

Flynn, Kathleen. 1999. An Overview of Public Health and Urban Agriculture: Water, Soil and Crop Contamination & Emerging Urban Zoonoses (Includes Institutional Directory and Annotated Bibliography). International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Intern.
This report provides an initial exploration into the potential health hazards associated with various practices in urban agriculture and highlights research which endeavours to protect producers and consumers from these hazards.

Food Project. The Food Project’s Urban Education and Outreach Raised Bed Building Manual.
Includes pictures of many of the steps and descriptions and prices for materials.

Guide to Setting Up Your Own Edible Rooftop Garden. Rooftop Garden Project, Montreal, QC.
This publication contains over 80 pages and is available to download from the website. If you are unable to download the publication, it can be obtained by contacting the organization Alternatives by telephone at (514) 982-6606 x2230.

Heinegg, Alexandra, Patricia Maragos, Edmund Mason, Jane Rabinowicz, Gloria Straccini, and Heather Walsh. 2002. Brownfield Remediation: Solutions for Urban Agriculture. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for ENVR 401 Environmental Research. McGill School of Environment, McGill University.
Due to the history of industrial and urban pollution, many sites that are potentially desirable for urban agriculture are simply too polluted to safely grow food. These contaminated sites are known as brownfields. As a solution to this problem, there are a number of soil remediation techniques available with varying cost, timeframe, accessibility and effectiveness. The goal of this project was to prepare a guide for community organizations addressing the topic of brownfield remediation as a solution for urban agriculture.

Heinegg, Alexandra, Patricia Maragos, Edmund Mason, Jane Rabinowicz, Gloria Straccini, and Heather Walsh. 2002. Soil Contamination and Urban Agriculture - A practical guide to soil contamination issues for individuals and groups. McGill School of Environment, McGill University.
This guide is written as a primer on soil contamination, as it relates to gardening in an urban setting. It seeks to provide individual gardeners or community groups with the necessary background information to address this issue. There are several important aspects of soil contamination which are addressed in this guide, including the dangers of gardening in contaminated soil, the potential sources of contamination, ways to evaluate the level of contamination present in the soil, and your options for addressing the problem. At the end of this document there are several appendices with information pertaining to the topics discussed here. Most of these are Montreal- and Canada–specific, but should provide some good starting points for similar resources in other cities and countries.



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