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.
News Release: BALTIMORE, MD. (June 9, 2017) — Teams of local architects, engineers, real estate developers, Baltimore city officials, urban farmers, and others will compete this June to design and devise the best plan for sustainably growing food in Baltimore. These crowdsourced ideas will contribute to an actual urban agriculture community center to be constructed in Baltimore in the coming years.
Careful planning, adequate startup capital and experience working on a traditional rural farm are just three of the elements that veteran urban farmer, and co-founder of Vancouver’s Sole Food Street Farms, Michael Ableman feels are necessary to be successful in the new urban agriculture movement. Founded in 2008, Sole Food Street Farms would be considered by many growers as established and successful, but for Ableman there is still much work to be done both at Street Farms and in the development of the city farm movement.
“The skill level required to be a farmer is not something you get just by wearing the right clothes, having the right tools and having started last year. It takes five to ten years to develop that skill level,” says Ableman. “What we’re trying to do is demonstrate that it is in fact possible to have a credible model of agriculture in the city, so the scale and production levels, the volume we produce, the number of people we employ is significant.”
In cities across America, the female farmer is staking her claim. Whether she is an urban homesteader, farm manager, business founder, community garden leader or maker of a movement, the female city farmer is rising. Role models for what can be done, inspiration for what can be achieved and hope for what comes next, these female growers are planting seeds of change in the urban agriculture movement.
Nefarious woodchips? Criminalized soil remediation? According to the supporters of urban grower Thomas Jackson of Toledo, OH, the level of police and city council harassment leveled against a local urban grower for having woodchips in his compost on his residential lots went far beyond outdated zoning laws and stepped things up to arrest warrants and legal pressure. All Jackson wanted to do was grow some organic produce in clean soil.
Master Gardener and multi-certified composter Thomas Jackson owns several empty urban lots in downtown Toledo. December of 2015 a complaint was filed against Jackson claiming his odorous compost was attracting vermin and in violation of residential zoning laws. A few years ago, Jackson began breaking down woodchips on the site to create a composted mulch. He wanted a contaminant free bed for his organic vegetable gardens, planning to sell his produce to area restaurants. Yet despite neighborhood support for a radius of five blocks around the site, officials insisted the neighbors were not happy with the state of the lots.