The following is a guest post from Roxanne Christensen, Co-creator of SPIN-Farming, an online learning series on small plot commercial farming that has helped hundreds of new farmers get started in business throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Sustainability has gone beyond a buzz word among policymakers, planners, and politicians and is now spurring plans for significant changes in how U.S. cities function. Producing food for residents within city borders has become a cornerstone of these plans. Some cities are considering or have actually implemented initiatives that require meeting a percent of their food needs through local food producers. This has very positive implications for entrepreneurial urban farming. But so far, what urban agriculture has been most successful at growing are non-profits.
Currently, urban agriculture is a movement driven by advocates who take pleasure in food growing as part of a lifestyle, or activists who are passionate about combating the negative effects of our industrial food system. Urban “farms” are social programs that happen to grow food, and urban “farmers” are non-profit employees. Ironically, a point that has gotten lost amid all our zeal to reconnect with the source of our food is that farming is an occupation. It requires talent, training, knowledge and business savvy. It is no different than any other highly skilled profession.
News Release – WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2012 – Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and USDA’s National Agricultural Library, in partnership with the American Farm Bureau Federation, announced Start2farm.gov, a new online portal that helps provide assistance for beginning farmers and ranchers. The portal includes links to training, financing, technical assistance and other support services specifically for beginning farmers and ranchers as well as successful case studies about new and beginning farmers and ranchers.
The Greenhorns, a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote, recruit and support a new generation of farmers, began in 2007, when founder and director Severine von Tscharner Fleming decided to make a film.
The idea sprouted while Fleming was helping organize a film festival at UC Berkley. The lineup of documentaries at the festival highlighted the gloomy realities of our time: a food system in crisis; a corrupt political system; a cycle of global poverty and exploitation. The threats of global warming, soil depletion, bioengineering pitted against biodiversity and poisoned waterways appeared insurmountable onscreen. Fleming wanted to produce a film that would inspire action rather than ennui.