Health has taken an even bigger seat at the table in the last decade. Not just in the sense that “oh, fast food is bad, don’t eat that.” Health is something that is considered by how and where our food travels before it reaches our plates. This need for fresh, organic, and unadulterated meals has caused many to start researching ways to take complete control of their diets by growing it at home. Urban farming has now opened that idea up to those who don’t have fertile land outside their doorsteps.
Ingenuity is budding around the urban farming scene, where people must make do with what little space they do have while living in a big city apartment. This includes utilizing their balconies, window sills, and rooftops to squeeze every last inch of space to grow as much fresh produce as they can. Urban communities are coming together to solve the problems of outsourced produce, making it cheaper, healthier, and tastier for themselves.
These programs offer great opportunities for not only the health-conscious citizens in big urban cities, but also those who struggle to find employment and want to do something positive, fulfilling with their lives while they get their feet under them. This is a joint learning and harvesting venture for all of those involved. Everyone does their part and everyone benefits, as a result. Community gardens are typically maintained and supervised by the county, but there are plenty of “unofficial” community gardens out there to join.
Community Supported Agriculture
CSAs are opportunities for local residents to reap the benefits of urban farming while supporting their local farmers. This is how urban farmers can get together and meet investors to grow their business. It’s like a hub that exists to share vital resources and information with the community, including: local agricultural knowledge, local grants and subsidies information, and basic gardening classes to encourage more urban agriculture.
Urban farming is the future of sustainability, so it’s important to have kids learn at an early age about food, how it is produced, and that they can grow their own food without needing special training or tools. It’s amazing how detached we have become with our food supply over the years, kids become very excited at the concept of growing something that looks and tastes better than the stuff we buy in the stores. A school garden can grow a lot of great food, while teaching kids hands-on education about how food is grown and how to easily replicate it at home.
Benefits of an Urban Farm
The advantages of developing and eating your own produce are self-evident: nutritious nourishment, seizing the means of production, and feeling of belonging with others within the community. With urban and rural territory, water conservation is key. Numerous urban communities give the knowledge and power to do more with less. This is a common underlying theme for sustainability and conservation of what we have on this beautiful planet.
Urban agriculture isn’t just about pinching pennies, promoting healthy diets, and building groups. With the legislature shaping urban farming, offering resources and training and as interest for privately developed initiatives, it offers an intriguing business idea for a green-thumbed ventures. With natural eating now highlighted even in big-chain stores, there’s unquestionably a developing business sector for natural, privately delivered nourishment.
The Rise of Urban Farming
The past century has seen the greatest proliferation of industrial farming since the industrial revolution granted the ability to do the work of many with just one machine. More mouths to feed, more food to grow, it only made sense to grow in surplus in the beginning, but that power to grow more on a plot of land, coupled with the insatiable appetite of capitalism has resulted in a turning point in our society.
Profits ignore sustainability and even sustenance, the foundation of agriculture. We have the power to yield enough food for more than three times the population over, yet we are living in some of the most food insecure times of our lives. Between climate change, capitalism, and imperialism, the need for seizing the control of our own food supply has never been greater.
Urban farming is the rise of the people, embracing and promoting self-sustainability.
A Global Phenomenon
Where you see abandoned lots and concrete jungles, some people see a vision for the future. Urban farming has exploded all over the world in places like New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Singapore, London, and Germany. Rooftops, vacant lots, and even window sills are all highly efficient means of harvesting food, on a per-capita basis, when compared to the massive industrial farms.
For every ten acres of an urban farm planted, over 35,000 lbs of food can be yielded. These urban farms on a community-scale also create jobs, those jobs in-turn circulate more money into the community, enriching the neighborhoods within. It is because of these incentives of urban farming that every major city around the globe that has the same issues with inequality and food insecurity that urban farming has taken off so quickly.
Efficiency and Resiliency of Urban Farms
There are numerous ecological advantages of urban cultivating for urban areas, for example, more greenery, better control of spillover, better shading, and the balance of urban problem areas. Eliminating the quantity of miles produce needs to travel, either through plane, train, or diesel enhances air quality, too.
Urban horticulture is performed under particular conditions that require advancements diverse to those utilized as a part of the provincial setting. Such particular conditions experienced, among others: restricted accessibility of space and the high cost of urban land, located in vast quantities of individuals (and in this way a requirement for safe farming techniques), utilization of urban assets (natural waste and wastewater), and potential outcomes for direct farmer and buyer contacts.
Most accessible horticultural advancements require adjustment for use in these conditions while new innovations must be produced to react to particular urban needs (e.g. non-soil generation advances for use on rooftops and in basements; improvement of sheltered and financial practices for reuse of wastewater).
There’s a ton of ways that urban farming tech and local initiatives can further advance the promotion of self-sustainability, increase yields, protect urban farmers from unfair ordinances or being excluded from critical funding opportunities by local governments. The battle to make urban farming commonplace is a long and heartfelt road, as the agricultural industry has a lot at stake in keeping waste high and a dependence on outsourced food. But, we feel the tide is already turning, urban farming is the future.
Top Successful Urban Farms in the World
Researchers predict that a total of two-thirds of the globe will live in urban developments by 2030. The sci-fi pictures of major metropolis hubs are starting to become reality. We just hope self-driving cars become the standard by the time we reach that realization, because I’m not sure the world can handle even more terrible drivers on even more crowded roads, but I digress. We’re here to talk about how we’re going to feed all these people that are stuck inside these cities of concrete, glass, and metal.
The only viable solution to this urban growth is urban agriculture. Thankfully, we have some brilliant minds who are hard at work to show us that we don’t need to dedicate half the planet’s land to farming just to feed the booming population, we have all the space we need on our rooftops and cityscapes.
Don’t believe it? Here’s a few places that prove urban farming is more than just a fad, it’s a way of life (and living) for their communities:
Food Field, Detroit, Michigan
If you need proof of concept, you don’t get any more real than Detroit, when it comes to a population that wants and needs the means to be self-sustaining and has limited resources to choose from. Food Field is a project that has transformed an abandoned elementary school lot to a fully-fledged urban farm. This is a direct reply to the corruption, abuse, and neglect the residents have received from both corporate and government entities.
Food Field provides fresh foods to community residents and local restaurants with the help from volunteers. This is an example of a community that is taking matters into their own hands to help create something better for themselves and their future. Food Field is also building up their infrastructure to help raise fresh seafood via aquaponics systems.
Sky Greens, Singapore
Singapore doesn’t have the luxury of having large swathes of their country dedicated to agriculture, like many countries in the West. It is because of this, that the average person only eats about 7% locally grown produce. Sky Greens is changing the way Singaporeans eat by building highly efficient, compact, and healthy vertical gardens. These vertically stacked urban farms waste no water, as it is distributed evenly throughout each layer of produce.
Sky Greens is able to produce 5-10x the amount of produce, per-capita of land, while using less water and less energy. This is obviously one of the most promising solutions to urban farming for the future, producing healthier and accessible food for everyone.
The Delaney Community Farm, Denver, CO
This small farm allows everyone the opportunity to access fresh produce, no matter what their income or social status. They supply produce for approx. 500 families via Community Service programs and Federal cooperation for WIC families to obtain fresh food in exchange for just an hour of work every week. This farm acts as a valuable resource to the community, not only with the food they harvest, but also with their teachings of how to farm and cook healthy at home.
How Restaurants are using Urban Farming to Improve their Menus
If you’ve only heard about urban farming in the context of growing herbs on window sills or inside apartment at home, you might be surprised to find that many restaurants in the big cities are turning to urban farming solutions to source the freshest ingredients for their dishes. Whether these farms are literally on the tops of their roofs or in nearby vacant lots, urban farming is a growing trend that is allowing chefs to obtain the freshest produce, while reducing their costs.
Reconnecting with Food
All restaurants can stand to benefit from urban farming. By growing their own or sourcing from a local urban farm, they can actually save a ton of money in the long-term. That’s because the associated costs with purchasing produce from out of town and paying for the shipping costs much more than the start-up costs of growing it in-house. Not only that, the ingredients that you can locally source will be the freshest possible and of a higher quality.
Restaurants can market this local garden freshness as a healthier experience (because it is), thereby increasing revenues and customer traffic. There are other hidden benefits to growing an urban farm for restaurants too, like reducing the amount of waste because you only harvest what you need.
For some real examples of urban farming restaurants in the big cities, check out these locations:
Windy City Frontera Grill
Chicago is big on urban farming. There are a number of restaurants that are taking advantage of the rooftop real estate for urban agriculture. One of the most prominent restaurants doing this is the Frontera Grill. The owner, Rick Bayless, uses EarthBoxes to grow nearly all the vegetables needed to make the restaurant’s salsa dishes. Nearly 1,000 lbs of tomatoes and peppers, to be exact.
O’Hare Urban Garden
We take a look at another place in Chicago that is leading the way for urban farming, right in the middle of the great O’Hare airport. This is a fully-fledged aeroponic garden, growing large amounts of vegetables and herbs for the nearby restaurants every day. This is the first of its kind in the world, towers of produce growing the ingredients that will end up on your plate at either the Tortas Frontera, Wicker Park Seafood & Sushi, Blackhawks Restaurant and Tuscany.
Bell, Book & Candle
The Big Apple is another city with lots of activity on the urban farming front. From community gardens to rooftop agriculture, you’ll find plenty of projects underway. The Bell, Book, & Candle also takes interest in the aeroponics solution that O’Hare uses, incorporating 60 of them on their roof. It works perfectly for their restaurant’s needs. They can grow over 60% of their produce and herbs without needing to rely on a full-time farmer or sourcing outside to save on costs.
The technology is ripe for the picking. Urban farms are highly efficient and fool-proof ways of growing your own produce without needing to have a green thumb. Chefs can focus on their craft, rather than learning how to grow the hard way, saving them precious time and money, while increasing the quality of their dishes.