February 12, 2013 | 8:33am
South Florida is about to see its newest urban farm.
On Wednesday, Oakland Park City Commissioners unanimously voted to to accept a contract for the Urban Farmer's farm park, in the northern part of Jaco Pastorius Park
The farm park, which is to be part of the Oakland Park Culinary Arts District, is going to combine an education center and community garden with a working farm. The Urban Farming Institute - -the non-profit side of the Urban Farmer -- will be running the education side of the project. The institute will teach thirty-nine different classes, which can be book through Oakland Park's Department of Parks and Leisure. In a building on site, the institute will teach students how to grow and store vegetables, as well as cover more big-picture farming topics like sustainability.
The park itself will house a large hydroponics system as well as community plots. Many of the hydro towers will be used for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program and eventually a downtown farmer's market. Stephen Hill of the Urban Farmer admits that hydroponics is not for everyone, but he prefers the sustainability of the system. "Purists don't like hydro," he says, "But you can get a lot of food with very little water, which is a huge problem. Hydro allows us to grow more food in a small area."
Hill expects the property to be ready in about six months. The first stage of the project includes leveling the land, fencing, and preparing the parking lots. The community garden and vertical hydroponics will be installed shortly after the plot is cleared and prepped. However, the education center can be ready earlier. Funding will come from a mixture of grants, sponsorship, donations, and revenue from the classes and garden plots. The institute will begin its fundraising efforts in the not too distant future. According to Hill, "Education could start much sooner. Our vision is to be planting for next year's season starting in September. We're hoping to have classes starting around the same time."
Hill and his partners are ecstatic about the contract's approval by the City Commission. "We're obviously excited about it," he says "It's a big step for the South Florida community; hopefully, other communities will learn from it. That's our goal at the Urban Farmer and Urban Farming Institute."