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Food Forward: Urban Agriculture Across America

Airs Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 3:30 p.m. on KPBS TV

Credit: Courtesy of Greg Roden © 2012 Food Forward Productions, LLC

Above: A hydroponic rooftop tower farm uses a perfect nutrient blend mixed with water and fed by gravity to grow plants on rooftops in New York City.

How did something so fundamental as food, go so fundamentally wrong? Instead of nourishing us, what we eat and the way we produce it threaten the air we breathe, the water we drink and the dirt under our feet. And yet, too much 'food' television focuses on celebrity chefs and cooking competitions and not enough on where our food comes from and the impact it has on our planet, our country, our bodies, and our souls.

FOOD FORWARD opens the door into a new world of possibility, where pioneers and visionaries are creating viable alternatives to the pressing social and environmental impacts of our industrial food system. Across the country, a vanguard of food rebels-- farmers, chefs, fishermen, teachers, scientists, and entrepreneurs--are creating inspired, but practical solutions that are nourishing us and the planet. These are stories America needs to hear. This is FOOD FORWARD.

Our first food rebel, John Mooney has a hydroponic rooftop farm on top of a one-hundred and five year old historic building in the West Village of Manhattan. Mooney tried conventional farming and felt that the technology of soil-less rooftop farming was, “just smart. It made sense.”

Next, Andrew Coté, President of the New York City Beekeepers Association, hawks his honey at the Tomkin's Square Farmer's Market in lower Manhattan. Coté explains how urban beekeeping helps to pollinate the urban farms and community gardens scattered throughout the city.

Our tour of New York's vibrant urban agriculture scene continues up into the Bronx where Karen Washington, owner of the Garden of Happiness, decides to take back empty and decaying lots to start growing food. Brooklyn is our next stop where hoards of hipsters are getting reacquainted with the sources of their food and getting behind the good food movement.

Leaving New York, we head to Milwaukee where the biggest name in urban agriculture, Will Allen, inspires a new generation of innovators. Will motivated the folks at Sweetwater Aquaponics into action, scaling up his Telapia farm to more of a commercial operation. We follow the flow of fish from 8,000 gallon tanks in an abandoned warehouse to plate at La Merenda restaurant.

Moving on to West Oakland, we get an in-depth look at urban farmer Abeni Ramsey who came from the mean streets of West Oakland but is now running her own crew at City Girl Farms.

Finally, we finish in the poster city for urban blight, Detroit, Mich., where we spend time with eighteen-year-old Travis Roberts, who grew up in Detroit, watching the city fall apart. In trouble and more than 100 pounds overweight, he was headed in the wrong direction.

But since then, he’s discovered the city’s urban agriculture movement and found a new purpose in life and is out to become an urban chicken rancher. Travis is joined by a cast of powerful characters in Detroit that are rebuilding their city, block by block.

“We’ve all heard what’s wrong with the way we eat. Our program goes beyond celebrity chefs, cooking competitions and recipes to reveal the compelling stories and inspired solutions from Americans striving to create a more just, sustainable and delicious alternative to how and what we eat,” said Greg Roden, director of FOOD FORWARD.

FOOD FORWARD is on Facebook, and you can follow @Food_Forward on Twitter.

Trailer: Food Forward

FOOD FORWARD goes beyond celebrity chefs, cooking competitions, and recipes to reveal the compelling stories and inspired solutions envisioned by food heroes across America who are striving to create a more just, sustainable and delicious alternative to what we eat and how we produce it.

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