Farming in the city presents unique challenges that provide the basic context for this work. These challenges are common to every city everywhere, and they inform the work we do agriculturally. Here are what I consider the most common urban farming challenges:

Challenges

  • Limited lateral space
  • High land values
  • Contaminated soils
  • Theft and vandalism
  • Pavement
  • Loss and damage of crops from birds and rodents
  • High costs (water, infrastructure, permits, housing, etc.)
  • Lack of experienced skilled labor and management

And yet, I’m also convinced farming in the city offers distinct advantages for the farmer and for those eating his or her food that far outweigh the challenges.

Advantages For the Farmer:

  • Proximity to markets
  • Proximity to a large customer base and labor
  • Lower weed (and some pest) pressure
  • Warmer conditions, due to the urban heat sink, which provide earlier production

Advantages For the Neighborhood:

  • Direct visual and participatory connection to the farm and the farmer
  • Improved food quality
  • Access for children to food and how it is grown
  • Greening of neighborhoods
  • Job opportunities

coverlarge-4Excerpted from Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier” by Michael Ableman

Street Farm is the inspirational account of residents in the notorious Low Track in Vancouver, British Columbia―one of the worst urban slums in North America―who joined together to create an urban farm as a means of addressing the chronic problems in their neighborhood. It is a story of recovery, of land and food, of people, and of the power of farming and nourishing others as a way to heal our world and ourselves.

Michael Ableman is a farmer, author, photographer and urban and local food systems advocate. Michael has been farming organically since the 1970′s and is considered one of the pioneers of the organic farming and urban agriculture movements. Ableman is a frequent lecturer to audiences all over the world, and the winner of numerous awards for his work.