What is urban farming?
Attend a food conference today and in all likelihood there will be a tract on urban farming. There will be participants and speakers referring to themselves as urban farmers. Google “urban agriculture” and you will find thousand of sites.
Urban farming is clearly in the minds eye of many individuals, community groups, food justice advocates, environmentalists, city planners and gardeners. That’s great, but what does it all mean, what is urban agriculture and why all the interest now? After all, growing food in cities is not a new concept.
Urban agriculture is often confused with community gardening, homesteading or subsistence farming. We’re happy to be thought of in such fine company but the fact is that they are very different animals. What distinguishes us is that urban agriculture assumes a level of commerce, the growing of product to be sold as opposed to being grown for personal consumption or sharing. In community gardening, there is no such commercial activity.
You don’t have to be a corporation to be an urban farm or have a large tract of land. An individual, a couple of friends, a nonprofit entity, or neighborhood group can start and run an urban farm. There is no one correct sales outlet for an urban farm. Food can be the sold to restaurants or at a farmers market, given to a local soup kitchen or church, but the food is raised primarily to be moved (through some form of commerce) from the grower to the user.
As more of us begin to understand our food system, more of us seek to have more input into how food is grown, how it is treated after being harvested and how it moves from one place along the food route to another. People have begun to understand how far food travels, and that they, as the consumer, have had no say in what is grown or how it is grown. Urban agriculture can change that and in doing so it can take a rightful place is the larger food system.