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The 2009 ASHS Annual Conference

Healthy Foods From Brownfields?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009: 10:20 AM
Laclede (Millennium Hotel St. Louis)
Sabine Martin, Center for Hazardous Substance Research, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Ganga Hettiarachchi, PhD, Department of Agronomy, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Local gardening and marketing initiatives and agricultural activities in urban areas are on the increase – especially recently, due to rising energy costs, demand for fresh, locally grown food, and society’s interest in sustainable practices.  Vacant and abandoned lots may be “re-used” for gardening activities including food production, and many local farms are or will be located on land that may be impacted by previous use.  These kinds of properties, i.e. vacant or abandoned properties with real or perceived contamination issues are called “brownfields”.
Little is known about the number and characteristics of contaminants that can impact local farming activities.  Substances such as lead and other metals, asbestos, chlordane, and other contaminants from previous land use including certain gardening practices may pose threats to gardeners and food safety.  This may especially be true for sites with limited or no previous environmental assessments, unknown institutional controls (for example, deed restrictions), or where organic manures, irrigation with reclaimed waters, and “background” urban or natural contaminants are factors.  Appropriate risk management, if necessary, and education is needed, if brownfields are used for farming/gardening.
In April 2009, Kansas State University (KSU) started to work with select community–based gardening/farming initiatives to evaluate uptake of heavy metals and other contaminants by food crops, and develop recommendations for seedbed preparation and corrective/protective actions to address contaminants.  The goals of this project are (1) to enhance the capabilities of garden/farming initiatives to produce crops locally without potentially adverse health effects to the grower or the end consumer, (2) to contribute to the meaningful revitalization of brownfields sites in a sustainable manner, (3) to increase confidence in urban food production quality and (4) to provide resources for producers, urban land managers, local and state government, and extension agents to implement proposed best management practices for the detection and mitigation of potentially harmful substances in soils on brownfields sites.