Urban farming includes a wide range of projects and activities relating to food production. And with the recent revival of farming in and around towns, through growing food themselves and attending farmer’s markets, people have been reconnecting to agriculture. This rapidly growing trend has the potential to feed communities and generate economic opportunities. Urban agriculture is popular for a variety of reasons including sustainability, affordability, health, and convenience.
There are many types of urban agriculture today, including community and backyard gardens; planting on the rooftop and balcony; increasing in vacant lots, the list goes on in parks.
What is Urban Farming?
Urban agriculture, urban farming, or urban gardening is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around urban areas. Urban agriculture can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping, and horticulture. These activities occur in peri-urban areas as well, and peri-urban agriculture may have different characteristics.
Urban agriculture may represent varying rates of social and economic growth. It can be a social movement for sustainable societies, where organic farmers, “foodies,” and “locavores” form social networks focused on a common ethic of nature and holism of society. Such networks will grow when formal institutional support is provided, becoming incorporated into local urban planning as a campaign for sustainable urban growth called “transition town.” Food protection, education, and producing income for others are the main reasons for the profession. In any case, more direct access by urban agriculture to fresh vegetables, fruits, and meat products will improve food security and food health.
Types of Urban Agriculture
1. Backyard Gardens
This is cultivating food in the homeland. Its produce is mostly shared between friends, family, and neighbors as it typically leads to a harvest surplus. The food can be preserved and conserved as well. Backyard gardens benefit communities as neighbors can share each other’s backyard and use different farming methods leading to better yields.
2. Street landscaping
That is the landscaping of streets for various purposes, such as community gardens, that the local residents prefer to use for. Not only do they make the streets look beautiful but they also purify the air and creates a clean atmosphere. Because they are located primarily along the street, their added advantage is their ability to reduce urban runoff from stormwater.
3. Forest gardening
This relates to the tradition of growing gardens within an urban forest. Forest planting is accomplished by the production of various crops, vegetables, and fruits in urban environments. Forests typically provide an atmosphere conducive to crop production, and for this purpose, they help preserve forests and can render deforestation a nonfactor in urban settings. Forest planting may also be part of afforestation activities, which enables trees to be planted as a step towards mitigating global warming in urban areas.
This includes agricultural practice in greenhouses in residential, industrial, and public urban spaces. They need a considerable land area to be set up depending on the crops being planted. Greenhouses provide farmers with the opportunity to grow a crop throughout the year as they provide a regulated environment in which the crops can be exposed to the different conditions needed for production.
5. Rooftop gardens
Since urban areas have limited space, it doesn’t mean that they can’t practice agriculture. This is where space on the rooftop comes in because they can easily be used to grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs. The downside of rooftop gardens is that it can help to minimize urban heat island and enhance the air quality. Apart from these, gardens on the rooftop can be used to beautify leisure establishments.
6. Green walls
The green wall includes vegetation or food crops growing on a wall’s external or internal area. It does not take up much room as the system used helps to supply sufficient water to the food and it uses soil present on the walls. This is a good way to reduce the runoff from stormwater.
7. Vertical farms
It theoretically entails planting upwards to reduce the footprint of agricultural property. Green walls may be used as a tool for vertical farms as they often use limited space and are performed on the vertical wall sides.
Also, See The Ultimate Guide to Vertical Farming
8. Animal husbandry
For urban environments, this is the method of rearing animals for food. An urban dweller may select a suitable location to hold various animal types or focus on particular animals such as chickens, goats, rabbits, or sheep. Many towns restrict the number of animals that you can keep and even the type of animals that you can keep.
9. Urban beekeeping
This is a possibility but comes with a lot of local government restrictions and regulations depending on the location and the town. Which is to say, beekeeping requirements can vary from city to city. Nonetheless, if done, it does have a lot of advantages for the local community. Bees are important for the ecosystem because not only do they produce honey, they also act as pollinators and promote biodiversity.
It suggests the tradition in urban areas of rearing marine animals such as fish. This requires the use of a device that collects stormwater from inside the town and then produces a self-supporting network of recirculation in tanks or artificial fish ponds. This is an effective crop rearing process and an alternative protein.
Urban Farming Ideas
Farming in towns and cities is not a recent concept – urban agriculture has (at least) been around for centuries. What’s fresh about it today are the opportunities open to urban farmers and the kinds of ways that practically everyone can grow food for themselves, no matter the nature or size of their house.
The concept of developing a sustainable ecosystem inside one’s own backyard is especially common in the suburbs, backyard permaculture is. By combining plants, animals, and the microclimate, enthusiasts of backyard permaculture seek to create a healthy environment that provides a place to relax, enjoy, and probably harvest food.
Raise a Few Backyard Chickens
One of the best ways to reduce the reliance on industrial agriculture and the inhumane conditions in which many chickens and other animals are kept is by making their own meat imports. Backyard chicken keeping is a common way to get into urban agriculture quickly and easily without investing a lot of money or having plenty of room to garden. The amount of eggs and meat provided by chickens needs relatively little space and is easy to care for.
Perhaps the most common way for urbanites to participate in gardening, container gardens are a perfect way to transform a small farm into some outdoor space or window room. Without much time or effort, urban farmers may grow many fresh vegetables and herbs for themselves simply by using containers as a place to plant food crops. There are no legal hoops to go through and there are readily available resources and information for help.
The patio garden, an extension of the container garden, is typically similar but on a much larger scale. Many apartments and condominiums have patios that look out over the neighborhood and have clear access to sunshine, most importantly. These can be transformed into small gardens that grow all kinds of produce. Many patio gardeners combine hanging pots and containers to create a three-dimensional urban farm on their deck.
Polyculture for Small Gardens
Anyone with very little room to grow food would possibly use polyculture as a way to increase crop yields and diversity. Simply put, polyculture is the combining of plants within a garden to provide several plants (and crops) at once. For example, growing lettuce at the foot of corn plants will provide both commodities in a small space. The same allows for the combination of climbing plants on a trellis with bush-type plants at the trellis’ foot. This intensive approach provides high yields for small spaces, which requires a great deal of soil input to make it fertile enough for the plants.
Composting can be achieved almost anywhere and through composting, most kitchens can save 30 percent or more of their garbage. Outdoor conventional compost bins will hold the garden full of nutritious soil additives. And those indoors can use composters designed to go under the counter by vermicompost (worms) and kitchen composters. There are plenty of choices and composting is the most organic, sustainable way of building soil for any garden form.
For urban farmers, another common alternative is to keep bees. Many have beehives on the rooftop, hives on the back yard and flower gardens, and more pop up nationally as people embrace this way of getting fresh, healthy honey.
Benefits of Urban Farming
Urban farming has a lot of advantages, not only for those involved but also for the local city.
Urban Farming Provides Food Security
Organic produce is not cheap in grocery stores. A large number of families can’t even afford to purchase organic food. Food protection means giving people access to healthy and appropriate nutritious food for their families around the world. Urban farming offers families greater access to food security. This also provides people with a way to add to their profits without wasting too much on capitalization. Urban agriculture makes food sustainable so more people can access it.
Urban Farming Creates a Sense of Belongingness
Living in the town is fast. Nearly everybody is on the move and there is barely any room for people to mingle and chat with neighbors. Urban farming is an important way to bring together urban dwellers — like community planting, urban farming brings a sense of belonging to most marginalized people within the city. It’s a perfect way to put together like-minded people for a major cause.
Urban Farming Promotes Public Health
Cities have a growing population, and people suffering from obesity and other diet-related health problems are frequently found. Urban farming beings offer local populations affordable and safe food. This helps the community’s people battle life-threatening conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Urban agriculture is also a healthy form of exercise and also promotes health and wellbeing.
Urban Farming Reduces Carbon Emissions
Localizing the source of a product helps to reduce the fossil fuel consumption required for processing, transporting, and selling food products. A typical meal has to fly from the farm to the table 4,200 miles away. Urban farming reduces the carbon footprint, as well as being affordable.
Urban Farming Introduces Innovative Techniques
Urban farmers face the challenge of finding creative solutions to address urban farming challenges such as land, capital, electricity, and waste, in a city space that lacks large open, fertile grounds conducive to agriculture. Innovative farming methods are implemented to help farmers grow products without losing quantity and quality.
Urban Farming Creates Jobs
Urban agriculture is a growing market. As it rises, it offers additional employment opportunities for city dwellers, particularly in areas where poverty and hunger are rife. The local economy is also boosted by small enterprises engaged in urban agriculture.
Urban Farming Creates Green Spaces
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about urban areas is the tall buildings and massive infrastructures. Evidently, urban areas lack green spaces, which significantly influence an area’s climate and environment. Urban farming enables green spaces to be built which adds a great esthetic appeal, provides calming and relaxing spaces, and reduces precipitation. Green spaces also mitigate the heat island effect by trapping carbon by photosynthesis.
Where Does Urban Farming Take Place?
The term urban agriculture conjures up memories of food being grown right in the center of downtown or inner city. While that is certainly a possibility, there is no characterization on how dense or populated an area needs to be in order to qualify as urban agriculture. Yet in general, it includes property and land right up to the city’s outer edge. Urban farmers are rising in backyards, on top of apartment roofs and skyscrapers, on the vacant or unused property or land, and plenty of other locations. Many cities also set aside sections of parks or other open spaces to be used by urban farmers.
Until you proceed with urban farming, it is important to take into account the zoning and by-laws of your area. What’s permitted can vary from one location to another. Some cities have prohibitions on keeping livestock of any kind within their boundaries, but some areas allow exceptions for chickens, rabbits, or even beekeeping in the backyard. Some towns will let you grow vegetables in your front yard, while others will not. Many locations can restrict what sort of retail sales from homes and other non-commercial properties you can produce. Though states and provinces may have unique licenses and certificates required to operate your urban farms, such as safe handling of foods or WHMIS. Understandably, it comes with a lot of liability and health problems to grow people’s food, and municipalities prefer to err on the side of protecting the consumers.
What Products Do Urban Farmers Grow?
As stated, attempting to raise livestock such as cattle, pigs, and sheep within city limits is much harder for urban farmers, simply because of the legal restrictions.
But most other items which can be produced by any traditional farm are on the table.
Urban farmers produce vegetables, fruit, root crops, and even grains. And herbs and medicinal plants, or purely ornamental plant varieties.
The three of those products are more perishable than many other crop types.
This gives urban farmers a major advantage in terms of freshness and efficiency compared to larger companies that might need to ship their commodity several days before they reach their destination.
It can grow both microgreens and mushrooms indoors and take up very little space. Many urban farmers can grow these crops in converted shipping containers, or anything else that is basically one large room’s equivalent size.
Due to their short shelf life, leafy greens such as arugula and spinach get high prices that need growing outdoors or in greenhouses or wind tunnels.
Nevertheless, market gardening techniques and practices can be used to grow large amounts of food in a tiny room.
What Tasks Do Urban Farmers Perform?
You’ll need to wear a lot of different hats as an urban farmer, so it may be up to you to fulfill all of the tasks your company demands all of yourself.
Aside from just increasing the crop, urban farmers need to be experts in marketing and communicating with buyers.
No matter how great your food is or how much you will expand if nobody wants to buy it!
Pitching your product to shops and restaurants in your town, as well as managing your booth at the farmer’s market each weekend, is up to you.
Generally, urban farmers end up even making all their own deliveries. To deliver all your goods to consumers in a timely manner you’ll need a climate-controlled van.
While some urban farmers also deliver their goods by bike and pull their inventory behind them on a truck.
You will also need to do all the administrative work for your company, such as bookkeeping/accounting, paperwork filing, and more. All these activities can quickly add another 10 hours to your workweek, in combination.
Even if you live in the area, using urban farming techniques, you can earn a full-time income from your passion for agriculture.
Growing crops such as edible mushrooms and microgreens take up very little space, but they deliver high margins.
Techniques such as vertical farming and aquaponics can transform small spaces like shipping containers or rooftops into full-scale operations that can provide food to communities nearby.
Not only is urban agriculture profitable, but urban farms often provide a range of advantages for the neighborhoods they are in.
They improve food security and give people access to fresh, healthy food that they would otherwise not be able to afford.
Urban farms can also help boost economic growth and job creation in a region. Also, they can help build a sense of community.
If you’ve ever wanted to start farming but can’t see yourself abandoning city life to move to the country, urban farming offers a great alternative that will allow you to follow your passion.
If you want to learn more about farming ideas or how to start your farm, read my articles below:
- A Step by Step Guide to Vertical Herb Farming and Cultivation
- How to Start a Farming, Complete Guide on Agriculture Farming Business Plan
- Why is Agriculture Important and its Role in Everyday Life
5 Urban farms transform their communities for the better across the United States
Urban farming thrives in vacant fields, in parks, on rooftops, and also in hospitals. As more people want to know where their food comes from, community leaders across the country are looking for creative ways for residents in their town to grow fresh produce. But urban agriculture does more than just provide access to locally grown food — it boosts economic growth, reduces carbon emissions, and addresses issues of environmental degradation, public health, poverty, and more by giving people more control over the food system.
From quarter-acre farms run by elementary students to green roof gardens feeding thousands, here are a few urban farming ventures aimed at creating a better place for their society.
1. Detroit Dirt
The goal of Detroit Dirt is to build a zero-waste mentality through communities and move a low-carbon economy forward. It is a compost business that aims to complete the “life cycle” of food production through the recycling of waste into energy. Pashon Murray, the leader behind the Detroit composting revolution, is turning tens of thousands of tons of food waste away from landfills a year and into a closed-loop composting system Murray built entirely from the ground up.
2. Ohio City Farm
Ohio City Farm is one of the largest contiguous urban farms in the United States and is located in Cleveland, Ohio. The farm, with over six acres, aims to provide the underserved residents of Cleveland with fresh, local, and healthy food, while also boosting the local food economy and teaching the community about healthy eating. It is also home to Refugee Response, an job training program that helps the newest immigrants in the city develop the skills required to thrive in their new communities by growing and selling fresh organically farmed products
3. Acta Non-Verba
Located in Oakland, CA, Acta Non-Verba is an urban youth farm which is developed, cultivated, harvested, and sold by local elementary and middle-aged children. The quarter-acre nonprofit farm, developed and led predominantly by women of color from the surrounding neighborhood and a broader group, seeks to question patriarchal structures and climate with urban agriculture. ANV designs its monthly farm days, workshops, and after-school program to give young children the opportunity to explore nature in a secure, welcoming green space, studying, developing, and enjoying balanced, nature-based activities that will inspire them.
4. Boston Medical Center
When more hospitals strive to grow their own food for their patients and the community, one New England hospital has become a pioneer in the trend by putting a farm right on the rooftop of the hospital. Boston Medical Center is not only Boston’s biggest rooftop farm, but it’s also Massachusetts’ first hospital-based rooftop farm. The 7,000 square foot farm grows more than 25 crops and aims to produce 15,000 pounds of food every season, along with a few beehives for honey production.
Located on top of McCormick Place (North America’s largest convention center), this rooftop farm is Midwest ‘s largest soil-based rooftop farm, according to the Chicago Botanic Garden, which maintains the farm through its Windy City Harvest program. SAVOR represents nearly 3 million customers a year at McCormick Place and has been recognized for its environmental leadership and creativity through Green Seal Certification and Environmental International APEX Certification.