What Is the definition of Urban Farming?Urban Farming is essentially the practice of farming within city limits. This includes growing food, tilling the land, and forming supply networks with other residents in your city. If you have space in your backyard and the right kind of soil and sunlight, you can turn that dirt pile into a food garden or organic chicken farm. The problem for many Americans is we are simply too busy to start a garden or cultivate the land to produce a good supply. So, we buy produce, beef, or chicken from the store to avoid the headache of using our land. Money talks, though. What if Americans could save hundreds of dollars per year by growing food themselves? Men and women already spend hundreds of hours at the grocery store per year, so why not spend that time working in the backyard on a garden or farm? Most people simply don’t know how to garden – it was something their great, great, grandparents did. Or, they don’t want to handle live animals that are not a cat or dog. Fortunately, there are many resources decide whether urban agriculture is right for you and your family.
Useful Resources – Urban Farming BlogsBeginningFarmers.org is a great tool for getting the most basic information about urban farming. The concept of farming is foreign to most Americans who live in big cities or surrounding suburbs. Yet, you do not need ten acres of land out in the middle of nowhere to start your own farm. The Beginning Farmers website also provides blog links to information specific to your area – from California to New York. For Californians, the Family Farm Series Publication includes information on how to get started and determine whether the concept is right for you. If you are looking to turn your backyard into a small business, like creating a food network for your neighborhood, the blog Grow Your Farm from the University of Missouri includes details on how to turn your farming into a “successful business venture.” Another useful resource is the Garden Culture Magazine to get an idea of what urban gardening, indoor gardening, and organic gardening looks like among regular citizens. There are also online resources that explain how to offset the cost of urban farming, such as group discounts, coupons, and cheap seeds. So, if farming can be done in your own backyard and resources are available online and places like Lowe’s or Home Depot, then why doesn’t everyone do it? One of the significant barriers is people not understanding the importance of urban agriculture.
Why Is Urban Farming important?There are two ways of looking at why urban farming is important. One is using our available land more productively to build a sustainable ecosystem. This will ensure quality life and food for generations to follow. The other way of looking at urban farming is reduced dependence on big companies who take food through several different processes, add chemicals, mark up the price, and sell a lower-quality product to unsuspecting customers. The food is simply not as healthy as growing it yourself. The story goes that a man had an orange tree in his backyard. One summer, the tree produced seven or eight oranges. The man’s yardman approached him one day to ask if he could take a few of the oranges for his family. The man looked at the oranges, said to himself that they look ugly and blemished, and said, “Sure, take them all.” But, the yardman replied that these are the best oranges because they are grown naturally. “Don’t look at the outside; take a bite,” he told the man. So, the man took a bite and noted it was the best orange he had ever tasted. The yardman told him that oranges he typically buys at a store have been processed, dyed with orange coloring to look appealing, and marked up for profit. So, use the resources in your own backyard! Urban Farming puts the emphasis back on the individual consumer, not the big corporation making money off our food supply. It’s also good for our ecosystem to use the land for its intended purpose. Plus, communities have access to healthier food to improve the quality of life for its citizens. This is part of a generational shift that could impact future generations in significant ways. For example, Americans went from making their own turkey sandwich at home using locally-grown food to having someone else make a sandwich for them using processed food that was shipped from another state. Americans have become too dependent on other people for food, teaching our children to simply visit Subway for a turkey sandwich instead of using readily available resources to make our own sandwich at home, at half the cost. Urban farming is a way to bring natural food back to major population regions that will help educate children on the importance of sustainability and independence. When land is used for urban farms instead of parking garages, it sends the right message that healthy food is more important than business profit. There is still profit to be made from urban farming – this is America after all! But, too much control of the food supply is concentrated in the corporations that package, ship, and market processed food that is sold at double the cost in national sandwich shops or restaurant locations. Education is vitally important to help future generations understand the importance of farming. This is especially true in large areas where guys and girls can discover ways to produce their own food and learn about the benefits of a sustainable lifestyle.
Major Cities Where Urban Farming Is PopularUrban Farming has become popular in big cities throughout the U.S., especially in California where tax credits and grants are available in cities like San Francisco and Sacramento. Many city officials see the benefits of urban farming as re-purposing lands, such as empty lots in residential neighborhoods, or vacated businesses in run-down areas. They are willing to provide tax breaks or other incentives to individuals who commit to running an urban farm for a period of time, sometimes 3-5 years. If you ask knowledgeable people what the top cities are in urban farming, the list will vary based on the criteria. But, the consensus is Detroit and Chicago are leading the way in the Midwest, Austin is leading the South, San Francisco, and Portland are leading the West, and Boston is leading the East. These major cities have developed a culture of urban agriculture, whether because of tax breaks, consumers deciding to take back power from big food distributors, or the sense of community pride that urban farming collectively creates. Other big cities that have built a reputation for urban farming include Minneapolis and Milwaukee in the Midwest, Seattle, and Denver in the West, New York City, and Philadelphia in the East and Memphis in the South. One big case study is Detroit, which went bankrupt in the early 2010s. The local government in Michigan decided to create incentives for urban farming to fill empty or abandoned property, like parks, trying to reinvigorate the economy. The move has helped Detroit’s rebirth after reaching the lowest point of declaring bankruptcy. There’s also New York City, which seems like the last place you would think farming would take place. We think of Times Square and busy streets filled with pedestrians. But, there is a flourishing NYC urban farm market utilizing rooftops, like homeowners in Chicago, and large parcels of land to grow food and plants. Other unique farming initiatives in big cities include the P-Patch community in Seattle, the Green Healthy Neighborhood Plan in Chicago, the Food Forest Coalition in Boston, the Capital City Farming movement in Washington, D.C., the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm in Atlanta, the Emerald Street Urban Farm Project in Philadelphia, the Urban Farming Guys in Kansas City, the Urban Farm at Stapleton in Denver, Roots Memphis, the Eggplant Urban Farm Supply in Minneapolis, Urban Harvest in Houston, and Growing Power in Milwaukee, which is headed by Will Allen. Urban agriculture is not just limited to food and animals, though, as urban tree farms have popped up in cities across the U.S. In Detroit, the Hantz Farms organization claims to be the “world’s largest urban farm planned for the City of Detroit,” using land for tree-planting to make Detroit more livable with rows of new trees on previously unused land. Also in Detroit, the Earthworks Urban Farm has become a pillar of the community through its work growing food for soup kitchens. Workers know the work they are doing is vitally important for their city and recently-displaced citizens. As part of the healing process in Detroit, people have come together over farming to revitalize their city. What about Southern California cities like Los Angeles and San Diego? They have access to massive amounts of land and sunshine, but they are behind their Northern California counterparts like Oakland, San Francisco, and Santa Rosa. Local government agencies recently implemented policies that allow for urban agriculture to thrive, which has the potential to shift California’s economy.
What Are the Benefits of Urban Farming?One of the key factors in the rise of urban farming is the advancement of technology. No longer is farming just an ox and a plow, or the picture of an old farmer sweating in the sun while covered in dirt. Technology has made it more do-able and beneficial to farm in your own backyard, with neighbors, or in your city. Jobs are being created in cities where technology is being used to create things like vertical farms. You’ve heard of real estate going vertical in big cities that are running out of land to build neighborhoods. In urban agriculture, vertical farms are being built for several different purposes. Included is aquaponics that taps into the relationship between fish and plants to grow food. It sounds like something out of science fiction to grow food without using soil or the ground, but technology has advanced to use available resources to produce real food. The benefits of urban farming are endless by tapping into space that was previously unusable or wasted in previous building plans. If using space that was previously an office building or house built in a previous era, there is concern about the quality of the land. Soil tests can determine if food, plants, or animals can grow and form roots without risk to the consumer. Or, farm industry experts are trying to tap into technology like aquaponics to come up with new ideas for producing food without needing to worry about the condition of the land.
Are Farm Animals Used in the City?Earlier in this guide, we talked about an organic chicken farm right there in your backyard. Yes, this is possible. You should check with your local government to make sure having farm animals on your property is legal and within the deed restrictions of your housing authority, but many governments are becoming more receptive to the idea as the popularity of urban farming has risen. According to Hobby Farms, the six most popular animals used in urban agriculture are chickens, rabbits, ducks, quail, goats, and some forms of cattle. Yes, if your local government allows it, you might be able to make room in your backyard for a small steer that produces milk. The most popular urban farm animal, chicken, can produce eggs and also be turned into family dinner. Chickens can also be raised in your backyard to then sell to other farmers – whether urban or rural. This is all part of a sound business plan – knowing how to utilize your food, crops, and animals for multiple purposes. Modern Farmer, the Top 5 includes Austin, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, and Sommerville, Mass. Austin tops the list because of their friendly zoning laws and allowance for urban farmers to kill their animals on-site. Other cities do not allow animals to be killed and sold in the city limits, but Austin has allowed ordinary people to be part of the entire farming process. In Seattle, city officials have allowed residents to feed and keep all kinds of animals on their property, with the clause that the smell from an urban farm cannot exceed “what a reasonable person could tolerate.” Seattle’s ordinance might force some residents to take their farming indoors to avoid driving away residents who aren’t too fond of the smell from an urban farm.
What Are the Basic Steps to Start an Urban Tree Farm in a City?
When it comes to building an urban tree farm in a city, there are a few basic steps to follow. First, identify a suitable location with enough space to grow and nurture different tree species. Next, secure the necessary permits and permissions from local authorities. Then, prepare the soil and choose the right tree species that can thrive in an urban environment. Lastly, implement a regular maintenance and care routine, including watering, pruning, and protecting the trees from pests and diseases. With these steps in place, building an urban tree farm can bring beauty and numerous benefits to the cityscape.