4 Places Forging Ahead With Urban Farming

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Food security is a global issue. Everyone is feeling the crunch of Monsanto trying to take over the world’s seeds, the overuse of pesticides, which damage all life on Earth, and extreme weather patterns created by climate change, making conditions for growing unpredictable. Some regions have little accessibility to fresh, healthy food, and people rely on snacks and fast food to fill up, which creates health problems.

Most urban food is transported into the city from rural regions. Fuel and labor raises prices, and if the price of gas goes up, the price of food goes up. If there were a gas shortage, there would be no fresh produce, meat and dairy. Generally, less than 10% of food is grown in a city, and supplies would run out in a matter of days, leaving residents with only canned and processed goods.

The disconnect between humans and nature is obvious and detrimental, too. We have forgotten that we are part of nature, not separate from it. Kids don’t know where food comes from, and children and adults both don’t understand natural ecological cycles and systems.

Solutions are global

If those aren’t reasons for urban farming, I don’t know what are. Food should be accessible to everyone, healthy, nutritious, and not subject to fuel and labor issues. Here are three cities and an entire state putting urban farming high on the list of things-to-do.

Spokane, WA – This high-desert city is reverting back to a time of sharing with neighbors. Unlicensed home farm stands are now being allowed in the city limits. Farmers markets are heavily regulated, and small farm stands in neighborhoods have been the same way.

To be able to sell without all the cost and hassle is more like what people do on the sly anyway – they share! Restrictions for goats, sheep and pigs are also being lifted, although the owners must be certified caretakers. One reason for a change in the laws is to recognize the connection between people and food. Bravo!

Massachusetts – The state of MA is offering $200,000 worth of grants for 7 cities to advance urban farming. These funds will help with acquiring affordable land, improving soil, building greenhouses, creating mobile farmers markets, getting zoning laws changed, and supplying software and computers to help farmers plan and stay organized.

The end result will provide healthy food, offer youth programs and education for adults, create community and increase food security.

Seoul, Korea – In 2010, there were 66 urban farms in this fast-paced, hi-tech city. Just three years later, there were 2.056! From containers on apartment balconies to vacant lots being taken over and planted, gardens of all kinds have cropped up throughout the city. Seoul is not a place where food is lacking – there are stores everywhere. The gardening and farming boom is to get back to nature, to what is essential.

Colorado Springs, CO – Just a few hours up the road from me, one city councilor is making food security her main project. Jill Gaebler wants to create a public farmers market downtown, an area considered a food desert. She would like to see a community greenhouse that feeds the homeless and helps out non-profits. She also plans to challenge local Homeowner’s Associations (HOAs) to change their covenants to include food gardens. HOAs could be big stumbling blocks in her plans to bring food security and more sustainable lifestyles to her city, but she is determined to make new laws.

Urban farming is the only solution

Urban farming has many benefits. Aside from increasing food security for residents, taking care of a garden and small livestock is an education for kids and their parents. They learn to live more sustainably recycling waste into fresh soil, working with others towards a common goal, and they get connected to what keeps them healthy. They can even create an income, which is vital in impoverished neighborhoods.

As demand for good food overcomes the supply available from rural farms, growing right in the city is the answer. It’s not a new solution – city farms go back 1000s of years. But it’s what we have to go back to in order to solve our modern food issues.

Get involved in your community to increase food security for you and your neighbors. Talk to your lawmakers, and volunteer with urban ag organizations. Make a yummy difference!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.