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American Farmer: The Urbanite

Imagine for a minute that your neighborhood doesn’t include a grocery store. Not unusual, but what if you don’t have the means to travel outside of your neighborhood to find a store? You live in what is referred to as a food desert – an area that lacks a source of affordable, healthy food whose residents don’t have access to transportation. It’s a jarring thought and sadly not uncommon in the U.S. The good news is American farmers are stepping up to the plate to reach these communities in need.

One type of farmer is bringing the mountain to Mohammed by establishing urban farms in the nooks and crannies of their cities. You might see a farm on a rooftop or in an abandoned lot or in your neighbor’s backyard. Some farmers have converted warehouses to year-round grow houses. Their efforts are pretty amazing and, in some cases, ingenious.

The concept of urban farming as a way to alleviate food insecurity isn’t new. Consider Victory Gardens during WWII or go back even further to the 1890s when "Pingree’s Potato Patches"€� sprung up in Detroit as a way to help people through an economic downturn. Urbanites have a rich history of shoring up our larders by producing food within the city limits.

The 21st century version of a philanthropic urban farm works to promote awareness, education, and empowerment as well as supplying inexpensive, homegrown food to the community. These groups want to show others what they can do for themselves and their neighborhood.

In most cases these urban farms get financial support by selling what they produce to local restaurants or directly to the consumer at farmers’ markets, retail stores and through community support agriculture (CSA) programs. Supporting a local urban farm couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is buy their products or participate in their workshops.

Wheelbarrow Gardens for Salad Greens

Resources for finding out more about urban farming:
Urban Farm Magazine
USDA Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food
EPA Steps to Create a Community Garden or Expand Urban Agriculture

Urban farms in my home state of Arkansas:
Arkansas Grown
Little Rock Urban Farming
Appleseeds
The Field
Farm and Food Innovation Center