Urban Farming Defined

July 9, 2007 at 7:35 am 7 comments

Yours truly has started writing for an online magazine, Growers and Grocers, part of the Well Fed Network.  Below is an excerpt from my inagural article….


Urban Farming: Why It’s Not an Oxymoron 

With all the recent promotion in the produce aisle for buying local and buying fresh, even city dwellers can get in on the sustainable food choices movement.  Over the past decade, a growing number of urban agriculture projects (let’s just call them farms) have sprung up in America’s major cities.  Typically not more than an acre or two, these farms are redefining cultivation practices and communities alike.   

So what is an urban farm? Since city farms are typically the size of large gardens, let’s first define the difference between a farm and a garden. According to Webster, a farm is “a tract of land…on which crops and often livestock are raised for livelihood.” A garden, on the other hand, is “a plot of ground…where flowers, shrubs, vegetables, fruits, or herbs are cultivated.” While one is a tract and the other a plot, the real difference between a farm and a garden is the expectation of turning a profit from the produce being grown. Thus, an urban farm can be loosely defined as an agricultural pursuit taking place within the boundaries of a city with the intent to sell what it harvests.  Still thinking the idea of a farm in the middle of the city is a little contradictory? While urban agriculture has required some unconventional/creative methods, it really isn’t that unusual. Urban agriculture has been used by the United Nations in many developing countries to encourage a healthy food chain and generate jobs in the poorest parts of the urban world. Conversely, a few enterprising Canadian urbanites started farming their backyard and their neighbors’ backyards some 20 years ago with the mission of reconnecting North Americans to sustainable farming methods. Since then, new methods for intensive planting/harvesting in order to generate much greater yields from small plots of land (SPIN farming) have been developed to make farming in the city profitable…

…If you live in a city, there’s a good chance a farm exists near you. A good starting point for finding one is through the directory on www.localharvest.org. Hopefully you’ll have a chance to visit one of these urban oases. If so, you’ll be inspired by the intimacy and beauty to be had when you get so involved with the origins of your food. Not to mention, you’ll be amazed at how good heirloom tomatoes taste!

Read the full article and discuss your ideas for defining urban agriculture by clicking here


Entry filed under: Extra Credit.

Oh So Pretty It Just Sounds Good, Doesn’t It?

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brooke  |  July 9, 2007 at 9:07 am

    Hi Jennie, I’m tagging you for a meme. Check out my blog for the details 🙂

  • 2. Jennie  |  July 9, 2007 at 9:36 am

    Brooke – Awesome! I’d love to do a meme. I’ll check your blog.

  • 3. FarmgirlCyn  |  July 9, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    As a matter of fact, the CSA I joined this spring is a 50 acre farm, smack-dab in the middle of a large town!(surrounded by a subdivision!!!) And their heirloom tomatoes are incredible!!!

  • 4. Jennie  |  July 10, 2007 at 7:47 am

    FarmgirlCyn – what farm CSA did you join? I’m trying to collect a list of known urban farms and would love to know more about the one you support. Post here again or feel free to send me an email at straightfromthefarm(at)gmail(dot)com. Thanks!!

  • 5. Road Trip!!! « Straight from the Farm  |  August 10, 2007 at 11:48 am

    […] Urban Farming Defined […]

  • 6. Roxanne Christensen  |  July 21, 2008 at 10:57 am

    What has held back urban farming has been the lack of an economically viable system that can be deployed rapidly and on a broad scale. That is the concept behind SPIN-Farming. Developed by Canadian farmer Wally Satzewich, SPIN is a franchise-ready vegetable farming system that makes it possible to earn $50,000+ from a half acre. SPIN farmers utilize relay cropping to increase yield and achieve good economic returns by growing only the most profitable food crops tailored to local markets. SPIN’s growing techniques are not, in themselves, breakthrough. What is novel is the way a SPIN farm business is run. SPIN provides everything you’d expect from a good franchise: a business plan, marketing advice, and a detailed day-to-day workflow. In standardizing the system and creating a reproducible process it really isn’t any different from McDonalds.

    By offering a non-technical, easy-to-understand and inexpensive-to-implement farming system, SPIN allows many more people to farm, wherever they live, as long as there are nearby markets to support them, and it removes the two big barriers to entry – sizeable acreage and significant start-up capital. By utilizing backyards and front lawns and neighborhood lots as their land base, SPIN farmers are recasting farming as a small business in cities and towns and helping to make local food production a viable business proposition once again. Most importantly, this is happening without significant policy changes or government supports. You can see some of these entrepreneurial sub-acre farmers in action at http://www.spinfarming.com

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