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Posts Tagged ‘urban farming’

– real urban farming

‘Urban farming’ can mean many things.  For some people it amounts to little more than growing herbs on their window sill — admirable, of course, but hardly what you could call a commercial enterprise.

Other urban growers, though, really are farming — in the sense of raising crops in volume that they then sell on to other city dwellers.

Here’s a recent profile of one such farm in Brooklyn, NY.  As journalist Tracie McMillan points out, the result is not only that environment gets beautified, residents gain a new source of fresh produce, and children get to see where their food comes from — people (often with very low incomes) are also making real money from these enterprises.  No wonder that after years of seeing agriculture and urban life as essentially incompatible, many cities are starting to look upon urban farming positively and developing policies to encourage it.

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What if you want to be an urban farmer, but you don’t have an allotment or even a postage stamp-sized front or back yard to plant?

Well, you can take inspiration from the members of Food Up Front, an urban food-growing non-profit based in Balham, in south London.  Even if all you have is a walkway, a window box or a doorstep, they believe, there’s plenty of food you can grow.

Part of what makes Food Up Front an inspired idea is its membership format.  When you join, you receive a  ‘starter kit’ which includes a container, soil, seeds, a planting guide and details of gatherings where you can meet fellow urban farmers.  Other members will actively help you get farming — answering your emails, visit your planting sites and help you find tools, seeds, good sources of compost etc..

Here’s an article about them and other, similar efforts around the UK.

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Yesterday we wrote about ‘super-micro farming’ as a trend emerging in response to possible threats to our food supplies.

There’s further evidence of the trend in the San Fransisco Chronicle’s most recent ‘Home and Garden’ section. In a multi-page cover feature, the paper does a nice job of surveying current efforts in the city to turn vacant urban spaces into ‘organic-food producing’ gardens. And it makes the point that this is one way for a ‘metropolis that can feed itself.’ Of over 1,000 vacant lots in the city, at least 600 are farmable, landscaper Kevin Bayuk tells the Chronicle.

It also ties in nicely to invocations by the likes of Michael Pollan, Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon to eat (mostly) locally-sourced plants, (mostly) in season.

While it’s perhaps unrealistic to think urban gardens could ever feed an entire city’s population (the main complaint made by people commenting on the articles), they can reduce the need for food to be shipped in from elsewhere. And they can provide city dwellers with a direct (and, for many, uplifting) connection with the food that sustains them.

But in times when much of the rural landscape is turned over to monocultures enforced by the heavy use of pesticides and fertilzers, let’s spare a thought for some of the weeds, bugs and larger plants and animals that would otherwise occupy these vacant lots. Sure, rats and mosquitoes don’t have many fans, but many formerly common native birds, reptiles, pollinating insects and small mammals are losing space to development and intensive agriculture.

If we’re to reclaim abandoned lots for ourselves, perhaps we could be sure to put a good number of them aside as sanctuaries for the plants and animals we’ve managed to threaten so harshly elsewhere.

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