Urban farming is a hot new term for those seeking to bring quality, healthy, and affordable food to cities where it isn’t always easy to get. From everyday people to environmentalists to community groups, the interest is rising, although urban agriculture is nothing new.
At its core, urban farming “is growing or producing food in a city or heavily populated town or municipality.” It’s not community gardening, homesteading, or subsistence farming; it’s growing food that can be sold rather than consumed by one person or group.
Urban farms aren’t just for corporations or landowners. Anyone can start one, either by themselves or with an organization. Food can be sold to restaurants, at farmers’ markets, or donated. But the result is that food is produced and sold from grower to the consumer.
Those who live in cities may feel as if they have no control over the food sold to them. After all, the large farms and food production centers are sometimes located hundreds or thousands of miles away. Urban farming empowers consumers and gives them a say in the way they want their food grown. It cuts down on transportation costs, eliminating the need for companies to consume as much oil to reach distant destinations, and makes it so produce doesn’t need to be injected with preservatives to maintain its freshness during the journey.
Urban farms can be found in inner cities or on the perimeter, or peri-urban areas. Farms can be located anywhere, from rooftops, warehouses, or abandoned buildings. However, one disadvantage when trying to start one is zoning. Zoning plays a large part in urban agriculture, and the laws can vary from location to location. They can dictate the growing permitted if the sale of products is allowed, or any number of intricacies in this practice.
Because many cities have restrictions on raising animals, most urban farms are limited to producing vegetation only. And due to limit space, especially within inner cities, farms may be smaller, which can limit food production and make it harder to make a profit (though with vertical farming, this may not be an issue).
Even with restrictions, urban farms have the potential to be extremely beneficial for city dwellers. They are sustainable, saving up to 4 times as much space and 90% more water than traditional farming methods. This makes it possible to purchase kits to have a farm right at home. Additionally, they make organic produce cheaper and easier to buy, and it is available year-round.
From an economic standpoint, successful urban farms can initiate job creation through promotion, packaging, production, and processing of food. Socially, it can do a lot for community health and well-being by eliminating food insecurities that many people within cities face. Producing food for oneself helps boost feelings of self-confidence and well-being which can be passed on to others. Bringing urban agriculture to areas where it was never thought possible will have lasting, beneficial effects for its residents.