Attend a food conference today and in all likelihood there’ll be a tract on urban farming. There’ll be participants and speakers referring to themselves as urban farmers. Google Urban agriculture and you’ll find thousand of sites. Urban agriculture is clearly in the minds eye of many people, community groups, food justice advocates, environmentalists, city planners and gardeners.
That is great, but what does all of it mean, what’s urban agriculture and why all the interest now? In the end, growing food in cities isn’t a brand new concept. To put it simply urban agriculture is growing or producing food in a town or heavily populated town or municipality.
Urban farming is frequently confused with community gardening, homesteading or subsistence farming. What differentiates us is that urban agriculture assumes a level of commerce, the growing of product to be sold as opposed to being grown for personal consumption or sharing. You do not need to be a company to be an urban farm or have a large tract of land. An individual, a number of buddies, a non-profit entity, or neighbourhood group can start and run an urban farm. There’s no one correct sales outlet for an urban farm. Food can be the sold to restaurants or at a farmers market, given to a local soup kitchen or church, but the food is raised mainly to be moved from the grower to the user.
As more of us start to understand our food system, more of us try to have more input into how food is grown, how it’s treated after being harvested and how it moves from one place along the food path to another. People have started to understand how far food travels, and that they, as the consumer, had no say in what’s grown or how it’s grown. Urban agriculture can change that and in doing so it may take a rightful place is the larger food system. Urban agriculture became a means to increase access to locally grown food and a way to re-introduce the public to the many aspects of food that we’ve lost as a culture.
How food grows, what grows regionally and seasonally are all important lessons and make a better informed urban consumer. Urban farms can be the front line of the food system. Some cities are giving up part of their parks systems to allow urban farmers to plant their seeds.