How to Start an Urban Farm

Follow these simple steps, from planning to profit, to learn how to start an urban farm near you.

| August 2014

How to Start an Urban Farm

Learn how to start an urban farm with only a vision, and a few simple steps.

Photo by Fotolia/PhotoWeges

People have always grown food in urban spaces — on windowsills or sidewalks, in backyards and neighborhood parks — but today, urban farmers are leading a movement that transforms the national food system. In Breaking Through Concrete (University of California Press, 2012) David Hanson and, experienced urban farmer, Edwin Marty illustrate twelve thriving urban farms. The following excerpt will teach you how to start an urban farm from planning to making a profit.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Breaking Through Concrete.

How to Start an Urban Farm

Tucked behind a short prairie hill, beyond the windmill that provides some power to Sandhill Organics farm (and disguises a cell tower), hides the Back Forty of Prairie Crossing. It’s actually fifty-five acres of certified organic soil where fruits, vegetables, and flowers aren’t the only crops. The acreage holds a new generation of farmer entrepreneurs who are also setting roots in the rich soil.

The Liberty Prairie Foundation offers cheap leases of the development’s land to newcomers who want to start their own farm businesses. It’s a great scenario: available, fertile land, a sense of a safety net from the foundation, and the expertise of the Sheaffers at Sandhill Organics a few hundred yards away. The farmers can test their growing and, more important, their marketing and business skills before moving onto their own land. It’s a wonderful progression of urban farm motivations and intensive farming skills into the larger-scale peri-urban and rural settings. But starting an urban or peri-urban farm business is daunting.

A similar program is unfolding at the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, where the staff matches available land in the city with immigrants interested in starting a small farm-based business. After a two-year apprenticeship and participation in a matched-savings program, the new farmers are ready to scale their operation up and make a living.

Planning an Urban Farm

Follow a few basic steps to make getting started go smoothly.

4/1/2016 11:07:54 AM

Hey David and Edwin, I enjoyed your article. I'm the Co-founder of™, a California-based web startup that helps urban farmers connect with urban landowners. Landowners can rent their grow space, and seamlessly receive payments through our platform. Our site beta is live, and landowners can signup and create a profile here: If you have questions, you can reach us using,

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