Fresh, organic produce isn’t cheap. It only takes a few minutes in the produce department comparing prices to make that connection. Our current food system has made unhealthy, processed foods cheaper on the grocery store shelves — and more accessible — than fruits, vegetables and whole grains. As food prices continue to rise around the globe, household food security is more important than ever. Now that the majority of the U.S. population lives in cities, homegrown food security in the form of city farming looks to be one of the solutions we need to mend our ailing food system.
Especially for the food insecure, city farming offers a solution to poor nutrition due to economic constraints by increasing direct access to wholesome fruits and veggies. Households with gardens have been shown to provide more than half of the fresh produce that reaches their tables from their own labors. Even very small gardens can provide a bounty of key vitamins and minerals — including iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C. Additionally, city farms and gardens provide an opportunity for households to provide themselves additional outside income through selling their excess produce.
By maximizing small areas with intensive growing methods, and focusing on high-market-value crops, city farmers can in turn maximize their profits without much land. For many burgeoning farmers, the cost of land and access to start-up funds block their ability to realize their dreams. By using front lawns, backyards and rented city plots, city farmers are able to leap this roadblock and begin growing for market. Several urban farms have already become sustainable businesses in cities across the U.S.
City farms also provide a green sanctuary amid a concrete jungle, giving nearby residents places to reconnect with nature while living an urban lifestyle. Since they are typically small in size (under a few acres), many of the environmental problems with industrialized agriculture — toxic run-off, chemical fertilizer use, unpleasant odors and pesticide drift, to name a few — are avoided. Plus, human-powered planting, tending and harvesting for veggies that only travel a few steps or blocks to a kitchen or farmers markets have way fewer food miles compared to your standard grocery store tomato.
If you are interested in becoming a city farmer, either to meet your own family’s food needs, to sell and trade with friends and neighbors, or are looking to supply local restaurants or operate a farmers market stand, check out the links below for resources.