Nine of America’s Largest Urban Farms
July 17, 2017 | Trish Popovitch
The American urban farm comes in many guises but come it does. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 800 million people worldwide practice urban agriculture. That accounts for between 15 to 20 percent of the world’s food supply. As urban ag continues to build momentum across all 50 states, the influence and scope of the urban farm is growing. Most of us think of less than a couple of acres when we think urban farm, yet urban farms are getting bigger. And some are getting really big. You know, given that whole city space constraint thing. Here are just nine of America’s larger city-based farming outfits (listed alphabetically).
1. Alemany Farm (San Francisco, CA – 4.5 Acres)
Although it has enjoyed several incarnations in its time, Alemany Farm of San Francisco was founded in 1995 when a youth group turned an urban lot into a community garden. Since then, the site has grown (and changed its name a few times) and become a hub for community education on growing your own food. The farm produced and distributed 20,000 pounds of food in 2016, all of which was given away for free to area residents. Even though the farm has enjoyed a 20 year life, 2017 will be the first year with paid staff.
2. D-Town Farm (Detroit, Michigan – 7 Acres)
In Detroit’s River Rouge Park lies D-Town, the Motor City’s largest urban farm. Here, using four hoop houses and row beds, the staff and volunteers grow and harvest seasonal vegetables using traditional methods. The farm began as a ¼ acre lot back in 2006 and has grown through cooperation and community effort. The farm enjoys a complex irrigation system that involves underground piping and hydrants. Funded by grant money and enjoying a 10 year lease from the city, D-Town Farm offers a farm stand, CSA and educational programming to the local community.
3. Metro Atlanta Urban Farm (Atlanta, Georgia – 5 Acres)
Metro Atlanta Urban Farm, in Atlanta, Georgia exists on donations and grant money alone as it tries to improve access to local food for local residents. Making the most of seasonal vegetables and multiple opportunities to harvest, Metro offers cool and warm weather crops. The farm is best known for its tomatoes and okra. Located on a five acre lot in College Park, food desert eradication is the focus of this urban nonprofit. The farm is located on a traditional farming plot and still has the original farmhouse from the 1880s.
4. Ohio City Farm (Cleveland, Ohio – 6 Acres)
A collaborative effort, Ohio City Farm is compromised of six acres of fertile land with five organizations sponsoring five different projects. Working cooperatively, the farm produces food for its weekly farm stand that takes place at Cleveland’s Riverview site providing fresh food access to urban residents and city workers. The farm also provides several area restaurants with produce such as beets, garlic, peppers, leafy greens and tomatoes. Part of the City Farm team is the organization Refugee Response. They help refugees farm the land, maintaining their own farming traditions while sharing their cultural produce with their new neighbors. Cultivating 150 types of vegetables annually, Ohio City Farm is growing economically and expanding its tenancies as it becomes a permanent part of the cityscape.
5. Rainier Beach Urban Farm (Seattle, Washington – 8 Acres)
A joint endeavor between the city’s parks department, Seattle’s Tilth and the Friends of Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, Rainier Beach Urban Farm was founded in 2010 as Seattle’s first private farm on public land. Besides growing fruit and produce for area residents in greenhouses and ground plots, the folks at Rainier Urban Farm work to restore the wetlands habitat that just happens to run right through the center of the farm’s property. 2017 sees new programming facilities and access improvement to the farm and wetlands as the partners work together to use Seattle’s larger urban farm as a hub for sustainable education.
6. Real Food Farm (Baltimore, Maryland – 8 Acres)
Founded in 2009, Real Food Farm is a Baltimore non-profit operating on eight acres of city parkland (six contiguous with an additional two acre site added in 2014). A program of the larger Civic Works organization, the team uses their hoop houses of fruit, vegetables and herbs to keep costs low while working towards a more sustainable local economy. They have produced 60,000 lbs of food and educated over 3000 people. Real Food Farm offers both a CSA and a mobile farmers’ market increasing access for local residents. Among their many programs, gardens and activities, the farm houses a large gas heated greenhouse that is shared with the other members of the Farm Alliance of Baltimore City.
7. Springdale Farm (Austin, Texas – 4.83 Acres)
Glen and Paula Foore founded Springdale Farm in 2009 and grow 75 different types of fruits and vegetables using traditional methods. Comprised of 4.83 acres in East Austin, Springdale is a community hub for locavores. Like most urban farms, work is twofold: production and education. Originally, the property operated as a landscaping business and their former business employees simply transitioned to the new business. The Foores employ seven long time employees. The farm hosts an annual tomato dinner and has won Edible Communities’ Local Hero award four times. Springdale Farm’s nonprofit arm Springdale Center is an educational program center for students to promote sustainable education and awareness.
8. Skarsgard Farms (Albuquerque, New Mexico – 40 Acres)
Skarsgard Farms was founded by Monte Skarsgard in 2003. Coming from a century old tradition of family farming, he knew how to put the river valley soil and water to best use. Skarsgard Farms offers a CSA and mobile delivery service, partnering with area businesses to increase product availability to their customers. With six greenhouses and a hydroponic operation, Skarsgard grows throughout the year producing seasonal warm and cold weather crops. The farm operates all its sales online and offers value-added hard cider from its apple crop.
9. Sunspot Urban Farm (Fort Collins, Colorado – 4.5 Acres)
Founded in 2008 by Amy Yackel and Rod Adams, Sunspot Urban is a neighbor friendly operation focused on building urban soil. They offer a farm share style CSA with a day’s work exchanged for a week of freshly harvested produce. Utilizing high tunnels, the couple extend the Colorado growing season while offering locals farm tours and workshops. The farm utilizes a ‘carbon farming’ method with the main goal being to create a carbon regenerative farm focused on growing nutrient rich vegetables. The couple appears to be succeeding, growing their CSA customers and finding time to conduct compost research for the USDA in between planting and harvesting the rows.