As the article said, you could break down who actually makes money from urban farming projects (and vertical, hydroponic, and aquaponic systems especially), by race and sex. Overwhelmingly it’s young white males with access to investment capital who actually make the big bucks, while women and minorities tend to the non-profitable, community-building, soil-based farming projects.
Immigrant grannies who live in inner city communities and know how to grow everything in their front yards are the ones who are more likely to face zoning violations, resistance from municipal authorities, and run up against architectural controls.
3. Who does the “urban farming is the future” paradigm, serve?
I think languishing rural communities really get thrown under the bus in all this: “urban farming” has a cool factor, whereas traditional farming conjures up words like ‘redneck,’ and ‘hillbilly.’
Rural communities are being de-populated by urbanisation, and family farms are being bought up by mega-producers, and this is something that is dangerous for the food system. It’s only allowed to happen more when agricultural innovation is seen as something synonymous with “urban.”
Moving out on to the land to do sustainable soil-based production doesn’t have the same cachet as building a rooftop project out of shipping containers, even if the productivity may be higher and environmental impact lower.
In essence I think it’s complicated, but it mostly boils down to the actually profitable business of “urban farming” becoming the domain of already-on-top urbanites.
We live in a world where complete independence and self-sufficiency is seen as the ultimate success.
Not needing other’s isn’t what I’d call true success. Success to me looks like interdependency.
We are biologically a social species; we are not like bears, leopards, or foxes, we are like wolves, elephants, lions, and horses. We flourish when we come together. This has been seen throughout history.
Humans are better together than we are apart.
In the western world many of us live in single-family households with our extended families and our friends living in separate households. A lot of us don’t know how to work with each other; we don’t know how to work as a team.
The structure of western society makes it hard for us to truly, intimately connect with each other. A lot of our connections are superficial. Small talk, social avoidance, social anxiety, lack of social skills, lack of tact, lack of connections with depth is something we see and experience all the time.
This structure is the perfect breeding ground for unhealthy relationships (platonic, romantic, familial); because we are biologically programmed to NEED togetherness, we tend to settle for less than desirable connections and sometimes we don’t even realize we’re crossing our own boundaries! This also creates other forms of dependency like materialism and drug addiction (1, 2).
Our attachments become toxic and codependency is such a common theme seen in today’s western culture. It’s everywhere in music, in TV shows, in movies etc. It’s now the norm.
But so many people have already realized this and have created many things to help mend this problem! One great example is inner-city community gardens (urban agriculture).
Here are some videos to fill your heart with hope and get some motivation to go out there and create something to reconnect our world!
In Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums, residents have found a new
way of responding to the challenge of food insecurity. In the heart of
the bustling, informal settlement they are championing an unusual form
of urban farming: the sack gardens of Kibera.
These urban farms consist of a series of sacks that are filled with
manure, soil and small stones that enable water to drain. From the tops
and sides of these sacks, often referred to as multi-storey gardens,
farmers in Kibera grow kale, spinach, onions, tomatoes, vegetables and
So urban farming has taken off lately, among a certain set of people. I’ve been seeing posts railing against lawn culture, offering up pictures of these gorgeously cool traditional vegetable gardens and trellises and vertical gardens and pot gardens and all sorts of combinations thereof and it’s uplifting and solarpunk and really really cool. And I’m here to say that it can be everything it’s promised to be. Five or six years ago, my parents tore up their front lawn and made it into a garden. It’s been amazing - they get troops of old ladies coming up and ringing the doorbell asking for a tour, passersby stopping to stare and smile, little kids looking covetously at the raspberries that my dad always comes out to offer them. (Sometimes he also uses them to get rid of salespeople, but that’s another story.) In peak season, we get fresh tomatoes, potatoes, beets, carrots, peppers, onions, cucumbers, and squash, and that’s off the top of my head and not including the berry bushes we have as hedges and the lovingly-tended fruit trees in the back yard. My parents haven’t darkened the door of a grocery store produce section in more than a month at the moment I’m typing this. It’s fantastic.
My parents are teachers. They get reliable weekends and two months off during peak growing season. They also have a very comfortable middle-class salary (our teachers aren’t in quite the straits salary-wise that they find themselves in south of the border) that means they could afford, at the outset, to hire the labour necessary to get the garden started - I believe Bobcats were involved. And, last but not least, they’re gardeners. If you make the mistake of commenting to my mother that the garden must be a lot of work, she looks at you blankly and informs you that she wouldn’t do it if it were work to her. But if you aren’t a bred-in-the-bones gardener, chances are you’d hate it. I grew up the child of two bred-in-the-bones gardeners and it isn’t a commitment I’d want to make. There’s rototilling and fertilizing and digging and planting and covering and watering and more digging and thinning and weeding (and weeding and weeding and weeding), and then there’s even more digging and picking and washing and chopping and freezing if you want to make sure you get to keep what you’ve grown, otherwise it’s just as wasteful as a lawn anyway - after all, you’ve put all that water into it. My parents had to buy an entire new freezer to store all their produce, and while that sounds great (and it is), it also presupposes that they could afford to buy a new freezer.
What I’m trying to get at here is that if you want to do this urban farming thing that everyone’s so adamant about, you have to have the time, and if you don’t have the disposable income you have to have a lot more time, at least at the outset, and also hope your back holds out for the duration. And lawns aren’t a symbol of the kind of immense wealth they used to be - you kind of just inherit them if you buy a house. A house, mind you - not a castle or a mansion. Lawns have moved down the ranks into the firmly middle-class. Decrying lawn culture is all very well as it goes, but holding up urban farming as the universal solution is, to my way of thinking, disingenuous. Time is money, and not everyone with a lawn is rich.
Csa volunteers hard at work. We are cleaning up the garden to prepare the soil for planting cover crops for the fall season. Planting a cover crop in fall really helps protect our soil from the upcoming frost.
Currently reading. A great book - really funky designs with straightforward building instructions. They have corner coops, coops that integrate compost and use the roof as a growing medium, mobile tractors, the works.