Teaching Families to Grow Own Food

Photo credit: WFMY

The Jamestown Farmer’s Market is looking for donations of gardening tools as it starts a new non-profit.

Jamestown Farmer’s Market Teaching Families to Grow Own Food

Meghann Mollerus, WFMY

The Jamestown Farmer’s Market’s new non-profit program aims to teach families how to grow their own food. The goal? To alleviate food deserts by capitalizing on a growing trend — container gardening.

“We are going to teach them to grow a garden from scratch,” said Jamestown Farmer’s Market employee Laura Simpson. “They could do a little square in their yard and put something on vines.”

The Jamestown Farmer’s Market opened in April 2015 and shortly after began the process of obtaining a 501(c)3. Market owner Deborah Mitchell said she recognized the need for families to learn home growing skills and saw it as a means of helping alleviate food deserts in the area.

So, the Jamestown Agriculture and Educational Junction — certified by the NC Dept. of Agriculture — will launch early next year, with classes beginning Jan. 25, 2015. Sign up by e-mailing: thejamestownmarket@aol.com, visiting The Jamestown Farmer’s Market’s Facebook page or visiting The Jamestown Farmer’s Market in person on E. Main St. in Jamestown (next to Potent Potables).

Read the full article: WFMY News2



On Feb. 23, 2013, I published an article on food safety on my desertification blog : <http://desertification.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/can-food-crops-be-grown-safely-in-plastic-containers-willem-van-cotthem/&gt;.

Since that day and to the best of my knowledge, no scientific publication showed that BPA or BPS, supposedly leaching from plastic containers, re-used to grow food crops, is absorbed by the roots of those crops, thus making the plants toxic.

Today, Jesse MARANO informed me about the existence of a student study of May 17, 2010, entitled : “BPA plant-growth study yields unexpected results – College student’s independent study project uncovers what happens to plants when they absorb bisphenol A”.

Here is the more important part of Jareau CORDELL’s publication on MNN – <http://www.mnn.com/family/family-activities/blogs/bpa-plant-growth-study-yields-unexpected-results&gt; :

“So when Cordell put together an independent study project to study the effects of BPA on plant growth, he thought it would be a rather cut-and-dried case. He thought the plants exposed to BPA would die — but they didn’t. In fact, they were bigger and broader than the plants in the study that were not exposed to the chemical.

With the help of his biology professors, Cordell tested 144 plants — green beans and Indian mustard seeds. Cordell said the control groups were watered using tap water. The rest of the plants were watered using water heated in a microwave in a plastic baby bottle Cordell bought from a dollar store.

Assistant professor David Jones said this experiment shows that the plants are taking up the BPA-infected water and holding it. Jones doesn’t think Cordell’s results indicate that BPA might be good for plants.

“I don’t think this is a positive thing — I think it’s a dangerous thing,” he said in an interview with Utah’s The Spectrum newspaper.

Since receiving the test results, Cordell has contacted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are apparently eager to see his data.”


MY COMMENTS (Willem Van Cotthem)

Not having read this student’s scientific publication of 2010 itself, I have to accept the “unexpected results” as published by MNN and try to come to some conclusions :

(1) Green beans and Indian mustard plants irrigated with “water heated in a microwave in a plastic baby bottle Cordell bought from a dollar store” (supposed to be loaded with BPA leaching from that bottle at high temperatures) grew better than the same plants irrigated with tap water.  Seemingly, the crops did not show any negative effect of the BPA that was supposed to be present in the irrigation water.  Unfortunately, we don’t have any indication on the concentration of BPA in that water.

(2)  We do not know (on the basis of this MNN-article !) which data have conducted Assistant-Professor David JONES to the conclusion that the plants were “taking up the BPA-infected water and holding it”.  Any sign of it in the fact that these plants were growing “bigger and broader” ?

(3) We do not understand why Prof. JONES “doesn’t think Cordell’s results indicate that BPA might be good for plants”, and “I don’t think this is a positive thing — I think it’s a dangerous thing,”

(4) As the U.S.-FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were apparently eager to see his data in 2010, it would be interesting to know something about their conclusions.  If indeed, CORDELL’s study has shown that BPA (leaching in boiling water from a plastic baby bottle) is absorbed by food crops, stimulating these food crops to grow bigger and broader than the same crops irrigated with tap water, it should be extremely easy to show undeniably that this toxic BPA is present in the food crops, thus rendering them toxic for human consumption.

Why don’t we find any scientific report showing this once and forever ?  Therefore, we continue to make an appeal on the scientific experts to deliver a detailed study, giving a clear answer on my question : “If BPA or BPS is leaching from plastic containers filled with soil, is this toxic substance absorbed by food crops growing in those containers ?”.

Still looking forward !

Follow Urban farmer Perfecto “Jojo” Rom (Philippines)

Read at :



Philippine university graduate practices urban farming to answer food issues

Linked by Michael Levenston

Urban farmer Perfecto “Jojo” Rom, an Agriculture graduate of the Xavier University- Ateneo de Cagayan de Oro, plants vegetables in plastic containers in his backyard in Davao City.(Photo by Bong D. Fabe)

“There is a need for fresh food and urban agriculture, through Urban Container Gardening, gives us the opportunity to provide fresh, organic, nutritious food to the market”

By Bong D. Fabe
14 August 2011

First of five parts

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—“If Nebuchadnezzar had his Hanging Gardens of Babylon, I also have my ‘Hanging Gardens of Rom.’”

With this opening sentence coupled with several pictures of Nebuchadnezzar’s Hanging Gardens of Babylon flashing on the screen followed by pictures of ampalaya (bitter melon or charantia) vines hanging from the roof of his rented two-story house in Davao City, Perfecto “Jojo” Rom effectively drew the attention of the crowd to his lecture on Urban Agriculture, specifically on “Urban Container Gardening” or UCG.

Rom graduated from Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan in 2001 with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Major in Crop Science through a full scholarship provided by the Xavier Science Foundation from 1997 to 2001. He has visited other countries teaching those willing to listen the concept of UCG.

Using discarded, broken plastic containers and even used tires, 35-year-old Rom has embarked on a one-man crusade teaching households and individuals to contribute to the Philippines’ food security program, as well as ecological sanitation and environmental protection through urban farming.



My sincere congratulations go to Jojo for his wonderful achievements in container gardening.  His innovative work is a valuable contribution to the “ home production” of fresh food in containers, an example for all the hungry families, wherever they live.

The “urban container gardening” is also applicable in all rural areas of the developing world.  It is a direct and very effective way to alleviate malnutrition and poverty.

Instead of spending trillions at long-term food aid, it should be envisaged to allocate a part of the available financial resources to emergency aid in cases of famine, but the major part of the funds should go to sustainable local food production through container gardening.

Perfecto ‘Jojo’ ROM’s work in the Philippines shows undeniably that with container gardening most of the food production problems can sustainably be solved with affordable means, e.g. discarded, recycled containers, even by the poorest families.

I strongly recommend to follow Jojo ROM’s example.

Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM

No Green Wall without small-scale gardens for women (Willem Van Cotthem)

My attention was caught by some statements in Mrs. Priscilla ACHAKPA’s interview, referred to a former posting on my desertification blog:

Nigeria: WEP Wants Green Wall Sahara Programme (http://allafrica.com/stories/201002180504.html)

This Executive Director of the Women Environment Programme (WEP) urged the Nigerian Government to speed up the implementation of the Green Wall Sahara programme (GWSP), which she called “an integrated development strategy for combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought and climate change” (see also UNCCD).

Mrs. ACHAKPA observed that the impact of desertification raised security concerns, especially among the vulnerable groups.  She stated that “the impact of climate change is more on women in the rural areas as they have little or no understanding of the issues involved”.  Her NGO, the WEP, intends to conduct a study on gender awareness of climate change issues, because adequate information on climate change is necessary to evolve steps to control it.

Agreeing with some of Mrs. ACHAKPA’s ideas, I want to congratulate her for asking to speed up the implementation of the Green Wall programme.  Indeed, such a nice programme, being a real challenge for all the Sahelian countries involved, merits massive support to speed up its achievement.

On the other hand, I disagree with her that Nigerian and other Sahelian rural women will be better off with “adequate information on climate change necessary to evolve steps to control it“.  Even supposing that there would be a small chance to find adequate information on climate change for rural women, I am not so sure that this will help these vulnerable women to handle their security concerns raised by the impact of desertification.

Even if the Green Wall programme may play a little bit of an interesting role in some aspects of climate change, it will not be tremendously important for the rural families in the northern provinces of Nigeria and in the other countries concerned.  I rather believe that it would be more efficient to invest in awareness building of the local population about the need to combine small-scale agriculture (or gardening) with reforestation in the Green Wall programme (agroforestry).

No doubt, we are all aware of the fact that such an enormous reforestation plan, with billions of trees to be planted in the Sahel belt, can never be achieved without “an army” of labourers for growing seedlings, digging plant pits and planting the seedlings.  These labourers will have to be well fed.  Tons of food will have to be produced at the local level.  By whom ?  By the local women ?  In this case, we would prefer that long time before the activities of the GWSP start all women can get “adequate information on ways and means to cultivate sufficient food for hundreds (thousands ?) of labourers of the GWSP working in their region”.

We can’t imagine that these women would be more interested in climate change issues than in best practices of food production in their dry region.

If well trained in cultivating all necessary species of vegetables and fruits, (dryland farming), they can not only use these skills during the implementation of the GWSP, but also for the rest of their life and that of their children, grandchildren, …

Therefore, just allow me this little piece of advice : start today laying out a small-scale garden for every woman in the northern provinces of Nigeria where the GWSP will be applied, because if there is not sufficient food production in those provinces when the labourers have to start planting trees, there will not be a Green Wall at all. Never, because planting trees with an empty stomach is so extremely difficult.  We all know this, even those strongly interested in climate change.

Seeds do not belong in the garbage bin or on the compost heap (Willem)

Thanks to Diane EROS of CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) I was interviewed on my “Seeds for Food” action.  This interview was programmed on Thursday May 7, 2008.

Seemingly, it got the attention and appreciation of a high number of people.  Some reacted promptly by sending me an email.  Here are a few  of them :

* Beverly Browne

Hello Dr. Van Cotthem,

Congratulations on the good work you are doing with your seeds program. I will begin to save my seeds to send to you. What would  be needed for you to consider repeating this in Zambia, also?  My husband and I are involved in a community development program in remote villages, working with a church. We provide some children with HEPS (high energy protein) once a week, and sponsor some others so they can go to school. We’re just beginning to construct a clinic and library. Adding the garden program would be wonderful, although we would have to overcome the possibility of animals (elephants) dismantling the garden. Your response would be much appreciated.

Beverly Browne
Trade Network Systems (TNS) Intnl.
PO Box 456
Pickering, ON. Canada  L1V 2R7

* Mona Andrée Rainville

Hello Dr. Van Cotthem,

I heard your interview, this week, on CBC where you explain what you are
doing in Africa and how anyone can help by sending you seeds. The idea is brilliant!  I have taken the liberty of sharing this information with the recycling group I belong to, Freecycle-Montreal, and got an overwhelmingly positive response.  Someone has volunteered to be the drop-off point in Montreal and will be mailing you an envelope once a month. Is there specific seeds you need more than others, seeds you don’t want at all, or guidelines you think we should follow for the mailing.  If so, please let me know and I will pass it along to our group. Thank you again for giving us the opportunity to share.

Mona Andrée Rainville
15 McLaughlin
Lachine, (Montréal), Québec H8S 2P7

* Tema Frank

Just heard about your seeds for food project – great idea!! My daughter has decided to get her friends to contribute as part of a volunteer project. We just wanted to check on what kinds of seeds work, other than melons and pumpkins. I’m assuming that apples wouldn’t grow. What about oranges?

Tema Frank
http://www.temafrank.com <http://www.temafrank.com&gt;

* Bhaskar T Hankey

Good morning sir, last night I heard your interview with CBC in Canada and I was very impressed about your project. I have some land in western part of Gujarat near the city of Porbandar India and the land is dry .  I want to grow Oranges in this land I can grow limes but not sure about Oranges.  Can you please help in this regard.  I have seeds of custard apples which gives fruits all year around I got the original seeds from Egypt few years a go.  If you are interested I can send you these seeds.  The fruit is big in size and the crop is year around. Nice to email you.  Please stay in touch.  I do not mind to join your group as part of western India section.  Let me know if you are interested.  I am 61 years old retired person. I have some farm land in India.

* Patti Scott

Hello,  I am very interested in participating in your program, thanks to your recent interview on As It Happens, the CBC program. I have viewed the website, and fruits seem to be what you need most, but what about vegetables, such as kale, peas, beans, lettuce, etc.?  Also, do you accept commercial seeds if I would like to send some of them?

Patti Scott,
Vancouver Island, BC

* Sunny James

Dear Prof Dr. Willem Van Cotthem;

Heard your story yesterday on cbc, great news in a troubled world!!! If I can be of any assistance please let me know asap!!! I am a researcher and developer of SOLAR energy!!! Think SOLAR the sun is freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee every day and very HEALTHY too eh!!! vitamin ddddddddddddddddddddd!!!

Yours truly;

* Joan Chandler

Hello Professor,

I heard you on the CBC radio program here in Canada and was intrigued with your project. I want to help. These are the types of initiatives which I think can really empower people. Would purchased seeds be useful to you? Which are best?

Warm Regards,
Joan Chandler
C&C Software Solutions Inc.

* Caroline

Good morning,

Could you please send me a list of the seeds that you need/would like.  I tried looking on the website and all I could fine was a short list in the introductory letter.  Is that all the type of seeds that you take or are there more?? It can be in French or English, I read both.

Thank you,

Montreal, Québec, Canada

* Christine McCarthy

Hello Dr. Van Cotthem,

I hear your story on CBC radio last night and am interested in participating in your FABULOUS project.  Please tell me you are still accepting seeds.  If so are there any seeds that you would not want to have. Unfortunately being in Canada we don’t have too many tropical species, but as summer is upon us I’m sure to be buying lots of them from the supermarket. Congratulations on such a great project, so simple and so effective.

Keep up the good work!
All the best,


Christine McCarthy, MSc.FS
Forensic Scientist, Chemistry Section
Centre of Forensic Sciences
25 Grosvenor Street, Toronto, ON  M7A 2G8

* Linda and Ed Farkas

Dear Dr. Van Cotthem,

I heard about your “Seeds For Food” programme on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio programme, “As It Happens.”  This was a very fascinating and worthwhile story which you described. Just this past weekend, here in Iowa City, Iowa, USA, my wife and I attended a forum on Backyard Gardening.  Of course, I thought of this program when I heard your story.  If you would contact the “Seed Savers Exchange” directly, you might be able to obtain some free seeds for your ventures in Africa and elsewhere! The main objective of the Seed Savers Exchange is to preserve America’s garden heritage.  They are also conducting this in Canada.  This would be another wonderful way to perserve Mother Earth’s endangered species and feeding people around the world!!! Here is the Seed Savers Exchange contact information, Heritage Farms location:

Website:  http://www.seedsavers.org <http://www.seedsavers.org/&gt;
Location:  Seed Savers Exchange, 3094 North Winn Road, Decorah, Iowa, 52101 USA

By the way, my wife and I love the city of Ghent and Belgium as a whole!    We have been in Ghent two times and Brugge at least three times!!!  We wish you the best of luck in your endevour!


Linda and Ed Farkas

* Laura Hornby

Hi Everyone,

We recently heard about a great initiative called “Seeds for Food”.  It all started when an individual named Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM was invited by UNICEF Algeria as an advisor for the project “family gardens” and “school gardens” in the Saharawi refugee camps in South-East Algeria. At the camps he was told by the people that he worked with that the seeds needed to plant these gardens were very expensive. Upon returning home to Belgium, he decided to keep all the seeds from the tropical fruits and vegetables that he and his family were eating and invited his friends and neighbours to do the same. When he returned to the refugee camps he brought all the seeds he had collected and helped to start many gardens. His story can be found at http://www.seedsforfood.org <http://www.seedsforfood.org&gt; . We have decided to follow his example and collect, rinse and air dry seeds from specific fruits and vegetables (melons, watermelons, pumpkins, peppers, avocados, papayas and eggplants) and send them to the address he has provided. We also would like to share this great idea with you and hope you can help too. On a regular basis, seeds from the above mentioned fruits and vegetables can be rinsed off and left to dry and then placed in a labelled envelope. The seeds can be brought to our house (252 Markham Place, Beaconsfield) and we will collect and mail them out.

This wonderful idea has already helped many families. With your help we do even more!!

Thank you so much!

Gilles, Laura, Jacob, Sam and Aaron

* Susan Walker


I just heard you on CBC radio here in Canada tonight.  I was thinking I could get the students at the school where I teach to save their seeds.  Where do we send them?  I do not see an address on your website.

Susan Walker
Windsor, Ontario

* Janice Blain

Hello Willem,

I heard your interview in CBC radio this evening and went to your website which I then sent to all my friends asking them to send seeds.  However, I cannot locate the address you want the seeds sent to and I guess they will have the same question. Please advise of address in Belgium where seeds are to be sent. Thank you, and congratulations on such a simple yet successful project.

Janice Blain

Urban Agriculture : container gardening (Technology for the Poor)


Read at : Technology for the Poor


Urban Agriculture:

A Guide to Container Gardens

With inexpensive containers and suitable soil mix,
you can create an urban garden virtually anywhere – on roof tops,
vacant city lots, brown fields, and unused portion of parking lots

Job S. Ebenezer, Ph.D.
President, Technology for the Poor, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055.


It is estimated that by 2030 AD nearly 50% of the world’s population may live in urban areas. As a consequence of this many millions of acres of productive farmland are expected to be lost to housing and other usage. Any further encroachment of natural habitat for other creatures may result in serious degradation of the eco-system. In addition to the loss of farmland, the new urban sprawl also creates urban wastelands like: roof tops brown fields and unused paved spaces.

Due to the recent terrorist attacks, food security and safety are seriously compromised. A large amount of the fruits and vegetables consumed by the US population is currently imported. There is no widespread testing of these imported produce for harmful chemicals and biological agents at the border crossings. Urban agriculture has the ability to mitigate this problem as the fruits and vegetable grown in the urban areas can be carefully monitored and safeguarded.

Migration from rural areas also brings into the urban areas many persons with very little formal education. This may result in unemployment and under employment of a sizable number of people. Idleness and frustration of the masses may result in the increase of crime and other problems. Urban agriculture may be a way to occupy the inner city youth, parolees and persons on welfare.

Urban agriculture has the potential for creating micro-enterprises that can be owned and operated by the community members without too much of initial capital. Inner city churches and community service organizations can use urban agriculture as part of their programs for the seniors, homeless persons, parolees and disabled.


Urban farming is not new. Ancient cities like Babylon had their hanging gardens and farms in or in the vicinity of urban areas. During World War II, it is estimated that nearly 40% of the fresh vegetables and fruits in this country were produced in the Victory Gardens. Only recently, the US has started to import much of the fruits and vegetables from other countries.

A few decades ago ECHO (Education Concerns for Hunger Organization) in Fort Myers, Florida, has introduced container garden techniques for impoverished counties like Haiti. In 1993, Dr. Job Ebenezer, former Director of Environmental Stewardship and Hunger Education at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) established a container garden on the roof of the parking garage of the ELCA offices in Chicago. The hope was that the roof top garden would serve as a role model for creative use of urban space throughout the country. Dr. Ebenezer proved the feasibility of growing vegetables in plastic wading pools, used tires and feed sacks. The demonstration garden has proved to be highly successful. Each year since 1993, urban gardeners at the ELCA offices in Chicago harvested nearly 1,000 pounds of vegetables from nearly 40 wading pools and a dozen of used tires and feed sacks.


There are several reasons why urban gardens using containers are effective:

  1. They enable us to practice “intensive” gardening method through maximum utilization of limited space.
  2. It is easy to practice “intercropping” (planting a variety of plants in one container) which ensures the health of plants due to diversity.
  3. It is possible to “conserve” both soil and water as containers prevent run offs of soil and excessive watering.
  4. Urban gardens “make use of urban wasteland” (vacant lots, brown fields, unused parking lots, and roof tops)
  5. Urban gardening provides “meaningful employment” for persons with limited skills and formal education.
  6. Establishing and maintaining an urban garden are very “inexpensive”.
  7. Urban gardens provide creative ways to “recycle” old tires and other containers that otherwise would be thrown into landfills.
  8. Churches and social service organizations can use urban gardening to “rehabilitate, create income generation projects, and provide therapy.