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Urban Farming: How It Works and Its Multiple Benefits

Growing your own food is no longer just for those honoring the hippie counter-culture of the ’60s. The more we learn about the food industry, the less we want to eat processed, packaged food. Sadly, it’s also become a gamble to eat vegetables, meat or even fruit from big corporate aggie farms. Could urban farming be the answer to a greener living?

Urban agriculture is a fairly recent concept that promises to turn city dwellers into farmers – be they hobbyists or professional. It introduces the possibility of growing your own food and vegetables even though you live in urban areas. If your home is in a big city yet you crave the organic food of the rural lifestyle, this is your chance to start growing our own herbs.

Urban Agriculture as a Phenomenon

It seems more and more people decide to take food into their own hands, even in urban areas. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them really dig into the idea of growing their own produce, and it’s quite simple to do so. You might start small, but you could soon be the proud owner of an edible forest of fresh spinach, onions, chard, squash, and lettuce.

Urban agriculture uses those city resources that would otherwise be wastes. Think of all the empty lots, tops of buildings, river banks and steep slopes in your home town – if unused, they remain unproductive. But start planting gardens and a whole new and sustainable world can open before your eyes.

Urban farming can use waste water for its crops, doing away with the problem of waste water treatment. It can also use compost from food scraps for natural fertilization, minimizing the waste of valuable nutrients.

These are just some of the examples that show how city farms can turn wasted resources into new resources for the community. They produce foo, but also a variety of other benefits, about which we talk more below.

Urban Farming Options

  • Vegetable garden – Probably the easiest way to go about this whole urban agriculture business. However, it’s a great start for the new and inexperienced gardener. All you need is a bit of space in your apartment for the gardening shelves and plenty of light.
  • Vermicomposting – As you become more experienced in the art of gardening, you can try the next level: Vermicomposting (aka worm composting) can help you produce your own rich compost. This popular new trend used earthworms to break down food scraps for a richer soil where the plants’ roots can grow healthier.
  • Beekeeping – Most surprisingly, beekeepers have started gaining popularity in urban areas. Many of these people are simply gardeners who want to pollinate their vegetables and flowers. New York, for example, encourages urban beekeepers after it lifted the ban on inner city beekeeping. It’s a wonder what a few beehives and a building rooftop can do for those who are worried about bee population declines!

Benefits of Urban Farming

Evidently, there are many reasons why people support urban agriculture. Converting unused spaces to allow new growth is a great way to reduce your greenhouse gas emission contribution. Urban agriculture can help restore impoverished urban centers, benefit our health, and protect our environment, just to name a few. Studies also report it has a positive social effect, seeing that crime rates have dropped in areas where urban farming is practiced.

1. It’s more productive

Surprisingly, urban farming allows us to produce as much as 100 times more food than regular farming (per square foot). It has to do with the fact that most urban farms are designed vertically, allow you to grow produce on multiple levels. So, a tasteful-looking urban farming system is all you need to make use of those 2 square feet of free space in your apartment. This way, you keep the mold away from your nicely-finished walls.

2. It plays a role in fighting world hunger

Even though we might not realize, hunger still represents an issue even in developed countries. In Europe, for example, more than 30 million people are undernourished. Urban agriculture can help people living in cities with inexpensive source of nutritious food. For a higher production, local authorities can set up urban farming plots managed by the community.

3. It’s better than the traditional food system

Cutting out the middleman between producers and customers is one of the many benefits that come with urban farms. Most of the produced food is consumed either by the producer himself or by the local people buying from local food markets. This offers the producers a better chance to get a fair price for his food compared to the current food system.

4. It produces true organic food

Urban farming allows farmers to grow crops in a more controlled and conscious manner. As a result, they have more possibilities to grow true organic food. The main reason something isn’t purely organic is because the farmer is forced by non-friendly environmental factors to use chemical pesticides for a good yield. However, with urban farming, the environmental factor is reduced to minimum, so the farms do not need to turn to chemical growth regulators. All it takes is good quality soil, plenty of lighting, and water.

5. It provides you with fresh produce all-year-round

With traditional farming, each product naturally has its season. Asparagus are available in spring, basil needs to be sowed between March and June, while strawberries can be harvested from June through July. To get an earlier crop, plant engineers and pesticide producers mess with the natural order of things.

But things are different with urban farming, which allows you to harvest anything any time. Forget about climate requirements and best sowing times. Want fresh and tasty strawberries in December? No problem at all. When the plant has grown and you can harvest it, replace it with a new soil & seed cartridge for the next crop. No muss, no fuss.


There’s no doubt that urban farming has made a great comeback. With the many benefits it can deliver to those living in urban areas, it’s no wonder that more urban farming enthusiasts start their own garden each year. Growing your own food and expanding your agricultural ventures offers you the joy of reaping the fruits of your labor.

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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