The Institute of Urban Ecology (IUE) is a Los Angeles-based center for learning, focused on living ecological solutions for the urban environment. We promote local, resilient, and regenerative food systems, intelligent architecture, appropriate technology, and watershed awareness, as we seek to create, and illuminate the ideas which will convert disconnected communities into symbiotic ecosystems of interaction and benefaction.
The Institute of Urban Ecology (I.U.E.) was founded in 2012 in the heart of the urban sprawl that is Los Angeles. The two founders, Rishi Kumar and Carter Wallace, had been working in LA to bring life into urban centers for the previous two years. Rishi founded The Growing Home, a model of suburban sustainable living in Diamond Bar, CA, and Carter had been working through the Pasadena Learning Gardens, while hosting Focus on Food on KPFK 90.7FM. Through their work, Rishi & Carter felt that the movement towards natural, sustainable systems was growing rapidly and was lacking a center where skills and ideas of natural living could be learned in a hands-on environment.
When they encountered a neglected 23 acre property 15 miles away from LA’s City Hall – perfect for a demonstration center and headquarters for an Institute – the two founders decided to team up to build their dream. This unique site is an ideal location to model the variety of home-scale technologies, and to teach the skills that will be fueling the economy of tomorrow. As urban centers worldwide seek to incubate local economies in the face of rising food, fuel & water costs, and environmental instability, the site stands to offer solutions with local and global applications. The site has unlimited potential considering its size, location, and resources (abundant native plant library, spring water, proximity to urban centers). We are poised to significantly impact the local culture of food and sustainability, while establishing a model for urban centers worldwide.
- To develop a Permaculture Research Institute specifically charged with the task of studying, and advancing the work of Urban Ecology.
- To facilitate the vocational training of tomorrow’s Green Collar Economy leaders.
- To improve the good food access of our local neighborhood by imparting the skills necessary for achieving real food sovereignty.
- To preserve and protect the native plant biodiversity of our local San Gabriel Mountains.
- To inspire local food economies through the widespread sharing of our successful models.
- To work with, and educate our local, statewide, and federal government officials on green technologies, and their urban application.
The Institute of Urban Ecology has already made great strides in accomplishing its goals in its previous incarnation as The Growing Home. Since the founding in early 2011, The Growing Home has been a fountain of hope and knowledge to its neighboring communities – inspiring a host of like-minded projects and developments. Below is a list of just a few of its major accomplishments:
- The design, development, and maintenance of a fully functional suburban farm model replicable on any small parcel of land worldwide.
The Growing Home functions on 10000 sq ft property with 5000 sq ft of arable land. In that space, several thousands of pounds of food are produced every year, which help support a family of four and provide excess for sale. The Growing Home is the largest permaculturally designed suburban farm, with many features such as 50 rare & exotic fruit trees, ponds, wetlands, spiral gardens, terraced gardens, livestock (chickens & rabbits), beehives, and more.
- The introduction to and education on sustainable living to thousands of students on subjects such as organic food growing, beekeeping, water harvesting, healthy eating, aquaponics, and seed saving.
The Growing Home was able to reach and educate thousands of people on a variety of subjects through its many educational projects. These projects have included tours of the suburban farm, a monthly potluck & lecture series, classes held at the urban farm, guest lectures at nearby schools, libraries, & universities (Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona College, Loyola Marymount), & a booth at a local farmers market.
- The creation and development of Los Angeles first radio show focused on food and ecology.
In the summer of 2012, IUE worked with KPFK 90.7FM to produce and air a radio show entitled “Focus on Food.” The 5 part series of 1 hour programs ran for 5 weeks, and brought to light many of the issues surrounding food in our urban environment, such as access to organic food in low-income neighborhoods, the emerging urban food movement, and the threat of GMOs in our food supply. The show also featured interviews with food luminaries such as Vandana Shiva, Raj Patel, and Jeffery Smith.
- The design, development, and maintenance of a food garden at a local elementary school.
Previously a neglected, unsightly, and vacant piece of land, the Diamond Point Elementary school garden is now a 900 sq ft functional, educational, and productive space for young children from predominantly low-income backgrounds to come and learn about nature and growing & eating healthy food. The garden is now run by an after school garden club with assistance from a school teacher.
- The participation in and promotion of Los Angeles first farmers market featuring ultra-local urban farm grown produce.
The Altadena Farmers Market every week features several producers who grow their food in an urban environment. Since the markets opening, The Growing Home has been one of the markets featured producers, showcasing locally grown, organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs, along with informational sheets with the nutritional and medicinal uses of each item.
- The development and incubation of LA’s first urban-sourced organic product line.
The IUE is working closely with other groups to develop Los Angeles’ a completely urban-sourced backyard produce line of products to be marketed throughout the county at health food stores. The line will focus on culinary and medicinal herbs which are already being grown in abundance by gardeners, farmers, and school gardens throughout the county. The product line will be called “Herban LA”.
- The educational and instructional YouTube Channel demonstrating sustainable design principles and technologies.
The Growing Home YouTube Channel currently features over 70 videos with instructions on how to design permaculturally, interviews with leaders in the field of sustainable living, and coverage of green events.