Urban Farming 101

Urban farming is the practice of raising food, herbs, eggs, meat, dairy, or related goods in an urban city for human consumption. It usually occurs on a small or micro level of production and consumption unlike most rural farms, with the exception of small homesteads. Urban farming is also known as urban homesteading.

Many folks choose to be urban farmers because of the convenience and affordability of growing their own foods. Others want to build community and gift food to their neighbors, or start a small CSA to feed the neighborhood. Others see urban farming as a revolutionary act in a world of copy-written seeds and processed foods high in genetically modified corn products, and grow food to opt out of the industrial foods system. Finally, some folks just love to grow food, to dig in the dirt, and to eat what they plant.

There is no such thing as a “typical” urban farm, however many share like characteristics. Most often they are found in the back or front yard of a 1/4 acre lot, usually bordering other 1/4 acre lot homes on at least two, if not three sides. Urban farms can also be found on apartment balconies, rooftops, and even in basements and garages. Vertical as well as horizontal, and even diagonal space can be utilized in an urban farm, especially when applying the permaculture concepts of creating micro-climates within your space. More on that in Permaculture 101, coming soon.

Common themes in urban farms include a place to grow fruits and vegetables in soil: often a raised bed, row crop, planter box, or pot. Vertical trellising, especially for peas, beans, and tomatoes, allows plants to gain sun exposure and grow tall and strong. Fruit and nut trees can provide shade for other plants and yield prodigiously. Micro-livestock like rabbits, chickens, ducks, and even goats can be kept in urban lots in hutches, coops, small fenced ponds, and mini-stables. Mushrooms can be grown on wet logs and harvested throughout the year. Medicinal, cooking, and even pigment herbs can be grown to create natural medicines, spice blends, and art supplies. Processes like canning, preserving, dehydrating, sprouting, and fermenting keep the urban farmer full and happy throughout the year, not to mention healthy. And if all of this isn’t enough, there’s always beer, wine, and cheese to be made.

This relatively simple concept of growing produce, medicine, meat, or dairy in an urban lot can be expanded to a multitude of fulfilling and sustaining practices. I hope that this peaks your interest in the field, and perhaps even inspires you to farm yourself.

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