A Closer Look at Urban Farming

While fast food joints on every corner have left behind a legacy of obesity and chronic disease, urban farming begins to fight back with healthy foods. Learn more about the urban farming revolutionaries that are changing the food system.

August 27, 2015
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Urban farming can at first seem a bit odd because for a long time there’s been a divide between agriculture and urban living. This is especially true in the more impoverished urban areas, where roads are lined with fast food joints and corner markets, but locals rarely have access to fresh foods. But the urban landscape, with its empty lots and vacant schoolyards actually serves as the ideal place for growing food. From abandoned lots to warehouse space, green roofs and window boxes, there’s plenty of room for urban farming. In fact, urban farms can pop up just about anywhere.

The Benefits of Urban Farming

Urban farming is the easiest way to connect the urban population to where their food comes from. Apples and tomatoes don’t come from the grocery store or the cafeteria and that hamburger and fries wasn’t produced out of thin air. Growing your own food, whether in a rural or urban landscape reminds us that all living things are in fact connected to one another through the circle of life.

Additionally, the legacy that fast food joints and processed junk food have left behind is one of obesity and chronic disease. And impoverished urban neighborhoods with their food deserts likely suffer the most from this epidemic. Urban farming brings fresh, local, organic foods to a population that doesn’t have access to healthy foods at a low cost.

Community gardens, especially those in urban areas, bring together communities around an outdoor, physical activity. It’s about connecting on a number levels: connecting people to the land, to their food, and to each other. After all, there’s no better way to come together than over a delicious local meal.

The Urban Farming Revolution

There’s an urban farming revolution going on in cities like Los Angeles. The documentary Urban Fruit follows three urban farming revolutionaries: Ron Finley, an urban farmer in South Central LA, Jason Kim of Forage Restaurant, and Rishi Kumar of The Growing Home.

These three urban farming revolutionaries are changing the face of the urban landscape in LA. Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central’s abandoned lots, traffic medians and along curbs. He’s working against stereotypes and showing young people in his neighborhood that getting your hands dirty is actually a good thing. Kim is the owner and chef at Forage LA, a restaurant that trades garden loot from local urban gardeners with meals at the restaurant. The restaurant uses produce from a number of certified home growers to showcase the best in local urban eats. And then there’s Rishi Kumar, a former computer programmer who after spending time in India learning about organic farming, decided he would fulfill his passion at home with The Growing Home, an urban farm located in the suburbs of LA. The Growing Home serves as an educational center and model of sustainable living.

Obstacles to Urban Farming

While the word is getting out about urban farming, and as a result, more and more people are planting gardens in LA, New York and everywhere in between, urban growers do face some obstacles. For example city laws can prevent you from growing your own food in places like curb sides, parkways or abandoned lots. Soil contaminants, can be an issue especially when plots of land that were formerly used for something else like a gas station or industrial site. But according to American Society of Agronomy, while the soil may be contaminated, very little of the contamination makes its way into the fruits or vegetables themselves. However it is a good idea to have your soil tested when planting a new garden anywhere. This will help you determine the quality of your soil and the amendments needed to make it a healthy, nutrient rich soil for fruits and vegetables to thrive.

The potential for urban farming is indeed limitless, especially in cities that have an onslaught of abandoned lots. Green roofs and window boxes are another opportunity to plant food. These growing opportunities not only provide local food, they remind us where our food comes from while bringing the community together around something we all love: good, wholesome food.

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