At the suggestion of a farmer who sells in one of the farmers markets I manage, on Friday, I went to a big trade show in Baltimore for the plant and garden portion of the agricultural industry the Mid Atlantic Nursery Trade Show, sponsored by an allied set of associations from Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia.
I got a lot out of it, a lot (not just about agriculture, but marketing, retail operations, and other topics), and I didn't even look at more than 1/2 of the booths because I am not buying construction and agriculture equipment, and I don't represent nurserys and garden centers.
There were two exhibitors focusing on fruit trees. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that we should use the public space to grow fruit trees, for food production reasons, given the likelihood of an apocalyptic future (think the first "Mad Max" movie) after oil production plummets. In any case, it behooves us to accomplish more than one objective with everything we do in the city, so why shouldn't promoting urban agriculture be one of those things?
Anyway, I mentioned this idea to one of the exhibitors, saying this is one way to recapture parks and similar spaces that may be underutilized, and the first thing he said was that kids will climb up the trees and damage them. This may be the case. But why not create managed urban orchards in the city?
After an extended conversation with the other exhibitor, he gave me a copy of the book The Backyard Berry Book: A Hands-On Guide to Growing Berries, Brambles, and Vine Fruit in the Home Garden, which is a companion guide to The Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden, and maybe we'll get him to come out to DC to do a demonstration.
There are a number of urban orchard resources findable via a google search such as Philly Orchard Project, Transforming Concrete Jungles into Urban Orchards : TreeHugger, Tree Folks - Urban Orchard Program, and Urban Orchards : Fruit Development, Ripening & Harvesting.
Did you know that UDC is an "urban" land grant institution?
But instead of focusing their agricultural research services and agenda (they have a research station out in Beltsville I think) on questions of strengthening and extending urban agriculture, their research agenda is scattered and doesn't cover city issues at all.
Also see this past blog entry, "An indication that people really don't understand where food comes from..."
For what it's worth, the entire profession of "community development" grew out of the extension system created by the US Department of Agriculture in association with state agricultural colleges to promote rural development.