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The Many Benefits of Community Gardens

Greenleaf Communities believes that urban agriculture can be beneficial to the environment, and to the health and wellbeing of community members. The introduction of community gardens may be able to reduce the impact of food deserts in low-income areas and allow residents greater access to nutritious food that is necessary to live a healthy life.

Community gardens can mitigate some of the problems that plague urban areas. They can be a beneficial addition to many communities by increasing the availability of nutritious foods, strengthening community ties, reducing environmental hazards, reducing food miles and creating a more sustainable system.

Community gardens can help reduce negative environmental impacts by promoting sustainable agriculture; reducing food transportation costs and reducing water runoff. Humans, plants and animals can all benefit from urban agriculture since it creates habitats and improves the ecology of the area.

Community gardens:

  • Help improve air and soil quality [1]
  • Increase biodiversity of plants and animals
  • Reduce “food miles” that are required to transport nutritious food
  • Can replace impervious structures and improve water infiltration [2]
  • Can reduce neighborhood waste through composting [3]
  • Positively impact the urban micro-climate [4]

Poor nutrition and obesity are both challenges to low-income neighborhoods. Low accessibility to nutritious foods can cause health problems to residents located in food deserts. The addition of gardens to these areas may improve nutrition and increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Community gardens:

  • Increase access to fresh foods
  • Improve food security [1]
  • Increase physical activity through garden maintenance activities
  • Improve dietary habits through education
  • Increase fruit and vegetable intake
  • Reduce risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases
  • Improve mental health and promote relaxation [5]

Social ties are important to the wellbeing of people in a community since they can bring positive health effects and community involvement. Community gardens allow for the creation of social ties and build a greater feeling of community. These connections help reduce crime, empower residents and allow residents to feel safe in their neighborhoods.

  • Gardens in urban areas are positively correlated with decreased crime rates [5]
  • Vacant lands can lead to crime which can detrimentally impact the health of residents
  • Residents in areas with high crime rates may experience cardiovascular disease and mental health disorders
  • The consequences of vacant lands are decreased property values, drug use, and the illegal dumping of litter, tires and chemicals [6]
  • Gardens can improve economic opportunities by training volunteers and selling food at farmers’ markets [1]
  • Urban agriculture can teach residents useful skills in planning, food production and business
  • Improving vacant lots increased property values in New Kinsington, Philadelphia by 30% [3]

Gardens have been an important aspect of many cultures in history. In the past, community gardens were commonly used to provide food for families year-round. During WWII, victory gardens were an important source of food for American families. Recently, there has been a resurgence of community gardens to help mitigate the impacts of food deserts and as a use for the increased number of vacant lands present in urban areas. Community gardens can provide fresh, healthy produce for residents and allow them to reduce their food bills. [7]

Many cities and organizations provide opportunities for residents to become involved with community gardens. The USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service has implemented a grant program to help decrease the impact of food deserts in low-income communities. They strive to provide long-term food security by supporting local agriculture projects while also improving economic, social and environmental problems. For successful programs, it is important that the community becomes involved with the project and to work with the community to develop solutions. Soil contamination and acquiring land can become a challenge in implementing a community garden.

The Chicago Park District along with People’s Gas help provides resources to community gardens. These gardens rely on volunteers and include both native edible and ornamental plants. The program supports close to 70 gardens in parks across Chicago.

Find a garden here: http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/facilities/existing-community-gardens/

The Chicago Botanic Garden is also offers urban agriculture opportunities for students and adults to receive training and work on maintaining urban gardens: http://www.chicagobotanic.org/community/

Other community gardens across Chicago are located here along with information on joining an existing community garden: http://greennetchicago.org/gardens/community-gardens

[1] University of Wisconsin Madison

[2] Howard, 2012

[3] EPA, 2011

[4] RUAF

[5] Bellows et al, 2004

[6] Garvin et al, 2013

[7] Adam, 2011

References

Adam, K. L. (2011). Community Gardening. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, Retrieved from https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=351

Bellows, A. C., Brown, K., & Smit, J. (2004). Health benefits of urban agriculture. Community Food Security Coalition’s North American Initiative on Urban Agriculture. Portland, OR: Community Food Security Coalitionhttp://www.co.fresno.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Departments/Behavioral_Health/MHSA/Health%20Benefits%20of%20Urban%20Agriculture%20(1-8).pdf

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Importance of Urban Farming

Urban agriculture or commonly known as urban farming, refers to growing plants and rearing animals that produce food within a city or town. It also comprises processing and then distributing that produce throughout the city.

Because of the technological upgrade, you can grow food in places where it was previously difficult or nearly impossible. Urban farms can be either traditional small outdoor community gardens or modern vertical farms in urban design. These futuristic farms can be designed in various ways, but most of them have rows of racks lined with plants rooted in nutrient-rich soil, water or just air.

The Light

The PAR light spectrum is the typical light in an Urban Farming installation.
The specific PAR light in an urban farming installation comes with a typical colored brightness

In urban farming, plants are grown with the help of PAR or photo synthetically active radiation. As all lights are not suitable for plants, PAR represents the amount of light that can help in photosynthesis. Usually, PAR ranges from 400 to 700 nm of light. Monitoring the PAR is important as to ensure whether the plants are getting the required light. Now you can do smart farming without the unpredictable weather conditions.

Social Aspects

In fact, the Resource Centre for Urban Agriculture & Forestry (RUAF) has recognized the importance of urban farming in poverty-affected areas, and has collaborated with NGOs and experts to educate the communities about the advantages of urban farming.

From simple community vegetable gardens to providing healthy food to consumers in the nearby areas, with smart technology, urban farming can go anywhere. In metropolitan cities and areas where sufficient space is a luxury, urban farming can be a boon. In fact, at Farmlyplace, the urban farms have high density plants which require very limited space.

Real World Examples

There are some incredible examples of urban farming in parts of Europe and Asia.  At the Prinzessinnengarten in Kreuzberg, near the Berlin Wall, is an urban farm that grows a wide range of vegetables and fruits in rice sacks, recycled Tetra packs and plastic crates.

Another successful case is of Sky Greens in Singapore, which is like a plant skyscraper. As Singapore is one of the most densely populated country in the world, it has little room available for farming. Sky Greens tackled this problem by growing vegetables on a tall, narrow A frame structure. The plants rotate slowly, so that each crate gets sufficient exposure to sunlight.

Moreover, you can grow more than just fruits and vegetables in urban farms. For instance, Urban Organics  specializes in growing three varieties of kale, two varieties of Swiss chard, Italian parsley, and cilantro. It also uses the same water to raise Atlantic salmon in a closed-loop system called aquaponics. Fish waste, in turn, is utilized for fertilizing the plants which filter the water before it goes into the planters.

Since its opening in 2014, Urban Organics has been serving food to people in the food deserts of the Twin Cities. In fact, The Guardian listed Urban Organics as one of the ten most innovative urban farming projects in the world.

Now that you know about urban farming, let’s take a look at the benefits of urban farming.

Benefits of Urban Farming

1. Enhanced Food Security

We all know the health benefits of organic products, but unfortunately, all families can’t afford organic food. Simply put, they lack food security.

Food security means having access to a sufficient amount of sustainable food for you and your family. This is a grave concern for a lot of families all across the globe. But urban farming is a feasible solution to this problem.

 Producing your own food, growing your own crops and herbs on undeveloped land is one way that can help the urban poor in earning more money. In fact, urban farmers can trade their harvest and keep the rest for themselves.

2. Growing communities

people of the neighborhood, family, friends or sometimes even strangers work together

According to a study by University of Pennsylvania, areas where urban gardens are established, not only result in aesthetic upgrade but also reduces crime.

In addition, as per Vox.com, communal urban gardens tend to increase social networks and bonds in the localities.

Urban Farming is an interesting way to bring people together, to establish a sense of community among isolated groups of the population. For example, when the people of the neighborhood, family, friends or sometimes even strangers when to work together to keep the plants alive in a community garden, it develops a sense of belongingness in the community.

3. Efficient use of land

With growing population and massive urbanization, fertile lands are diminishing every day. Urban farming is a probable solution for efficiently using the land available for feeding people. For instance, rooftop gardens not only take minimal space but also provide tones of fresh produce. Moreover, this is a kind of space that would otherwise go waste. In fact, vertical gardens can be set up anywhere you like, including indoors.

The future of agriculture: Urban Farming

At first, it may seem that urban farming initiatives in small communities would hardly have any major impact. On the contrary, according to a report by the Arizona State University, if an urban farming initiative was implemented in every global city, the urban agricultural industry could produce up to 180 million metric tons of food annually. This is a massive figure, as its approximately equal to the 10% of earth’s agriculture output.

In addition, urban farming also helps in financial savings from decreased stormwater runoff, urban heat-island effect, pest control, energy cost and could potentially amount to $ 160 billion every year.

With so many positive results, it makes sense why researchers and environmentalists are encouraging urban farming and making the people aware about the major global, economic, social and environmental issues.

Conclusion

 To minimize the carbon footprint of mass production and distribution, urban farming is a sure shot solution. It also seeks to make nutritious food affordable and accessible to everyone around.

In recent years, not only consumers are more conscious about how their food is produced but also about its impact on the environment. At Farmlyplace, we produce fresh vegetables at unused open spaces such as the parking lot or the rooftop of a building. Since the lengthy processes of transportation, cooling and storage along with carbon footprint are completely eliminated, Farmlyplace is an example of sustainable food production in cities.

With friendly and competent service, we provide fresh kitchen herbs and high-quality, healthy products that are produced without genetic engineering. So enjoy a sustainable life with Farmlyplace(s). For more information on healthy living, you can visit us here.

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5 Benefits of Urban Farming

 by

soilless farming in the sky

Urban farming, also known as urban agriculture is a way for urban dwellers to grow their own food, or at least have access to local food. The practice of urban agriculture is growing in popularity in urban areas across North America. With the many benefits of urban farming and all that local-food production has to offer, it’s important that we continue to spread awareness about how individuals and communities can establish a foundation of improved health, social interaction, and economic prosperity.

Here are five benefits of urban farming:Increases Food SecurityFood security is having access to and being able to afford nutritious, safe food—and enough of it. This is a major concern for many families all over the world. Fortunately, urban farming contributes to greater food security.Creates a Sense of BelongingUrban farming is one way to bring urban dwellers together—to establish a sense of community among people otherwise independent and, in some cases, isolated.Produces Healthy Food You Can RespectYou get fresher, healthier food—herbs, vegetables and fruits—and are more likely to eat what’s in season, when you eat what’s produced on an urban farm.Provides a Learning OpportunityUrban farms give city dwellers a chance to produce their own food, and learn in the process. They learn about various gardening techniques, the best nutrient solutions, required sunlight, and controlling temperature, among other things.Makes Efficient Use of LandWe can efficiently use the land we do have to feed the people. Consider rooftop or vertical gardens: they take up minimal space but produce tons of fresh, healthy food. Many hydroponics systems are set up vertically, to ft anywhere even indoors!

To learn more about the benefits of urban farming, check out the guest post by 3Dponics.

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29 Surprising Benefits of Urban Farming

1. Learn a very rare skill … the ability to farm

According to the United States Farm Bureau, only 1 in 50 American citizens have any farming experience (2%).

That means the average person on the street is far more likely to have other interesting skills like speaking a foreign language (over 15% of Americans are bilingual, and over 50% of Europeans are).

By learning urban farming you are developing a very unique skill.

Curious to go in depth-beyond this article?

Check out The Urban Farmer, below!

Urban Farm Example

Source: kbcc.cuny.edu

2. Conserve Space

Urban farming utilizes space incredibly efficiently. This is especially true in the case of vertical farming.

For example, Vertical Harvest, one of the largest commercial vertical farms in the US, grows the same amount of produce on 1/10 of an acre that traditional agriculture would need 5 acres to produce.

Vertical Farm Example

Source: New York Times

3. Extremely healthy food source

The output of most urban farms are vegetables, typically loose leaf lettuces, herbs, or brassicas.

According to Choosemyplate.gov, health benefits of produce are almost unbeatable, including:

1) vegetables do not have cholesterol

2) vegetables are high in fiber

3) vegetables are sources of many nutrients including: potassium, folate, Vitamin A & Vitamin C.

Brassicas

Source: Fifth Season Gardening

4. Helps Prevent Food Insecurity

Food Insecurity: an economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. (Source)

According to the USDA, 1 in 7 Americans suffers from food insecurity, and this figure includes over 6 million children.

Urban farming can help alleviate some of the pressures of food insecurity. For example, urban farms set up in food deserts can be a source of nutritious food for nearby urban residents.

5. Easier to eat organic produce

According to helpguide.org, organic produce:

– contains less pesticides than conventional
– contain less fertilizer than conventional
– are more fresh than conventional

Growing in your own home in some ways is the most organic way to grow – in some urban farming set ups you may need almost no pesticides or fertilizer, and the produce could not be more fresh.

Organic vs Non-Organic Produce

source: helpguide.org

6. No Need To Worry About Seasonality

If you are growing indoors in a controlled environment, your growing season is not restricted by unpredictable weather conditions.

Weather conditions like unexpected cold temperature or drought cost traditional agriculture billions of dollars per year in lost yield.

7. Less Greenhouse Gas Emissions

According to ACS.org, “Some analyses have suggested that bringing agriculture into cities has lowered food-related greenhouse gas emissions”.

That being said, the same study linked above *does* emphasize that the greenhouse gas emission savings provided by urban farming are often overestimated, especially in high density urban farming areas in the Northeastern United States (New York, Boston, etc).

8. Cheaper Than Buying Produce From Normal Supply Chain

On a common sense level, putting in the time to grow your own fresh fruits and vegetables is going to have a cheaper unit cost than going to buy at the grocery store.

The reason for this is simple:

Grocery store produce is heavily marked up. According to this article from Chron, grocery stores mark up the cost of their produce by up to 75%, that’s almost a 2x increase that you pay.

Beyond that, a lot of the original cost of the produce comes from transportation. The result? Growing yourself is way cheaper on average.

9. Increases  Property Value

In a UC-Davis report on the benefits of urban agriculture, it was stated,

“studies correlate urban farms and community gardens to increasing home values and household income…The presence of gardens raised property values as much as 9.4% within five years of establishment”

10. Correlates with Socioeconomic Diversity

Because of the overlapping social, economic, and ecological aspects that urban farming relates to (see figure), there is a correlation between areas with urban farming projects and socioeconomic diversity, according to this study from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Policy dimensions and types of urban farming

Source

11. Decreases “Food Miles” (Even compared to “local produce”).

Food miles are defined as the distance from where your food is grown or produced to where you eat it.

Food miles for local produce that is produced from an urban garden or farm can be less than .001% the distance that grocery store (and even restaurant) produce travels from “farm to fork”.

Think about it this way, if you’re growing in your own home, we’re not even talking about food “miles” anymore, we’re talking about food “feet”!

Curious to go in depth-beyond this section?

Check out The Market Gardener, below!

Conventional vs Local Growing of Produce

Source

12. Small Business Growth Engine

Urban and vertical farming are experiencing triple digit year over year growth, and it isn’t slowing down soon.

According to AgHires, the vertical urban farming market is expected to grow by over 384% in the next 5 years. That’s over 30.8% year over year growth!

13. Less Infrastructure Investment Required

While some vertical farming operations require tons of investment into infrastructure, the majority of urban farming production comes from small CSA-size or smaller growers, according to this article from Ensia.com, the amount of infrastructure cost needed for a basic urban garden set up with a greenhouse or indoor growing is less than conventional agriculture.

14. Expanding Grant Funding Opportunities

Commercial urban farms received more funding in 2016 than any previous year in history in the United States.

If you are searching for grant funding as an urban farmer, your odds of success will only increase in the future, at this rate.

More info on USDA grant funding for urban agriculture

15. Improves State of Mind

According to a Psychology Today article titled “Plants Make You Feel Better”, presence of plants indoors or in your garden:

– Lowers systolic blood pressure
– Lowers levels of anxiety
– Increases job satisfaction

So…if you hate your job…you need to start urban farming!

16. Less Packaging Required

If you are harvesting your food from an urban farm, you may be able to completely do away with packaging.

Why is this a HUGE benefit?

Packaging is one of the most harmful environmental pollutants that exist in the planet. According to this article on Livestrong, titled “The Advantages and Disadvantages of Food Packaging“, while packaging has benefits like increasing shelf-life, there are also huge disadvantages:

“According to Duke University researchers Patrick Reaves and Michael Nolan, consumer packaging accounts for the largest amount of plastic and paper waste, which forms 20 % of all landfills”

Urban Farming = packaging not necessary = benefit.

17. High Food Safety

Large scale outbreaks of salmonella or other contaminants is largely a bi-product of the overwhelming distance and processing food undergoes.

According to the (WHO) world health organization, “Foodborne illnesses are usually infectious or toxic in nature and caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water”

With increasing supply chain length comes higher risk of contamination.

18. Higher Food Quality

When urban farming, you have ultimate control over things like:

– growing conditions
– harvesting time
– light exposure

When you go to the grocery store, it’s a “take it or leave it” situation that you have very little control over. If you really want a carrot but all the carrots are heavily bruised, you either buy a bruised carrot or don’t get any carrot.

19. Less Food Waste

Because you can “harvest and eat” with urban farming, there is no disconnect between your produce supply and the amount you eat.

The majority of food waste at the consumer level occurs because produce that is already purchased goes bad. If you only harvest what you are about to eat, you will waste far less.

20. Correlates with Neighborhood Safety

According to a 2013 study from UC Davis (also cited above), “Community gardens and urban farms create safe spaces to recreate and improve the … general concern for others in the neighborhood”.

Essentially, urban farms are basically the opposite of the Broken Window Theory, defined as,  

“a criminological theoryof the norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior”.

For all the broken windows in cities, we need more urban farms!

21. Aesthetically Pleasing

The majority of humans, across all cultures and backgrounds, find the sight of plants to be aesthetically pleasing.

This data from Format magazine suggests that plants are one of the most popular subjects of artwork of all time.

No wonder so many urban faming companies take such amazing high resolution photos of their systems!

22. Able to integrate into architecture

There are entire websites, like Inhabitat, which are devoted to urban farming themed agriculture.

If you are an architect, you have endless opportunities and examples for integrating urban farming into your designs.

One of the defining features of any city is it’s architecture, so all of the integration possibilities are a huge plus for city planners and designers.

23. Large Innovative Communities Across The Globe

As you can see by this Pinterest Board on urban farming projects across the world, urban farming is gaining steam in areas all across the world.

Areas like:
– Japan
– France
– Netherlands
– Kenya

Just to name a few!

What does this mean?

No matter where you are, you can likely find other people in your city who are into urban farming!

24. Water Conservation

Many styles of growing that are popular in urban agriculture are far more efficient with water than general agriculture.

For example, according to Lucky Roots, hydroponic systems can use 2/3 less water than what would normally be needed for the same amount of output.

25. Air Purification and Breathing Benefits

Based off data from this article on Bayeradvanced.com, titled “The 5 Benefits of House Plants”, having any type of plant in your house will aid in air purification.

In fact, this phenomenon has been studied so deeply that we know certain types of plants purify air better than others. For more information on specific plant types check this link.

26. May Increase Your Focus

According to an article from Scientific American titled “Houseplants Make You Smarter“, large sets of data show that plants increase focus and attention span.

The reasoning?

Humans evolved in settings with far more plants than the computer screens most people are glued to in today’s day and age.

While too much screen exposure is typically harmful for attention span and focus capacity over, presence of plants results in the opposite effects.

Listen up kids, if you didn’t do so well on that last test, you may need to do a little urban farming!

27. Prevent Illness

According to a recent article from Treehugger, the presence of plants in your house or garden does play a role in preventing onset of illness.

This does not take into account the fact that simply eating more produce is proven to prevent illness in multiple studies.

Not convinced? Check this study from Harvard.

28. Learn more about your food

Have you ever heard of brassica?

According to Wikipedia, it is one of the most common types of vegetables by humans, including things like:

– broccoli
– cauliflower
– kale
– cabbage
– and brussel sprouts

hell, even mustard seeds come from brassica, so without brassica there’s no mustard.

What’s the point?

The fact that a plant is a brassica has implications for how it is grown. You learn this type of information if you try urban farming, and as a result, you have a better knowledge of what you eat.

Types of Brassica

Types of Brassica: Source

29. Freedom To Grow What You Want To Grow

After all this data….

You’re probably wondering: what other benefits could there be?

The biggest benefit is this: with urban farming, you can grow:

– what you want to grow
– how you want to grow it
– where you want to grow

Ultimately, this is a very powerful freedom of expression.Download A Copy of This Post

Conclusion

If you got to the end of this article, you probably liked something about it (besides our bad jokes, which no one could possibly like).

If you liked something about this article… you will probably like something about our other articles. To access our other articles, visit www.urbanvine.co/blog or sign up for our email list below or in the sidebar!

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Benefits of Backyard Farming

1.  Freshness.  When food is picked fresh and eaten immediately, instead of being transported and stored, its nutrient content is at its highest and taste is at its best. 

2.  No chemicals.  Eliminating pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizer improves personal health, as well as the health of insect population and our ground water. 

3.  No driving.  Food grown at home eliminates the necessity of driving to and from the grocery store.  It also removes the transportation of produce, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and reduces carbon in our environment.  

4.  Understanding food.  A personal interaction with our food source reminds us of our humanity and our past as hunter-gatherers. 

5.  New hobby.  Gardening forces you to exercise, breath fresh air, enjoy the sunshine and observe the wonders of the natural world.  

6.  Healthy soil.  Healthy soil is the key to a healthy planet.  Soil controls and filters our water, soil stores carbon and maintains the balance of gasses in the air.  Soil supports biomass production which feeds us all.  

May 9, 20150

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10 Reasons to Start Backyard Gardens in Homes and Schools

  1. Gardening is a way to teach children about how the farming industry works. It also teaches them the importance of good and nutritious food. It is vital that children learn about gardening because they might be interested to learn this and do it at home for themselves. It will teach people the importance of biodiversity and the importance of a broad variety in the garden. It is a good way for the family to spend more time together and learn about gardening.
  1. It is a good way for low income families to save money on fruits and vegetables. For families to grow their own food, it would also mean that people would consume more of a variety of food.
  1. For schools it is a great way to implement other ways of teaching for teachers and other ways of learning for students. Including environmental education in the garden will also teach about global warming, greenhouse gasses and what we can do ourselves to become aware consumers.
  1. By growing your own food, you know what goes into the soil and the water. Hopefully when growing your own food you have taken a stand against chemically produced pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers. Creating awareness to go organic in your garden may also introduce you to go more fair trade, local and low carbon emission foods. This is also good for the environment.
  1. Growing your own vegetables and fruits have a positive environmental impact as well as it is a great way to save the bees. Bees are vital for the world’s food production because they pollinate most of the crops. However, in the last decades bees have been disappearing everywhere due to various factors such as air pollution, pesticides and fertilizers. Backyard gardens are a great initiative to plant vegetables and flowers to attract bees and other pollinators.
  1. Having a garden will also improve the community. Having people involved in local community gardens will make people come together for a common purpose. In countries like Germany and the Netherlands community gardens are rapidly growing. It is a place where people can come together, learn and teach each other new knowledge and information.
  1. It is a great way to lessen your groceries. It will also lower your fossil fuel emissions and your carbon foot print. By having a backyard garden you will save about 2 pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere for each pound of produce that you grow. Food is being shipped across the planet. We get our bananas from Brazil, coffee from Colombia and our electronics are being assembled in Taiwan or China. At least by having your own garden you do not need to buy your broccoli from Italy.
  1. It gives us a freedom to participate in the market. We are not dependent on buying food that we can grow ourselves and if able to produce enough we can even sell it or give away.
  1. Hunger can be avoided if more people did small scale farming and were less dependent on huge farms. People can work for themselves instead of working long hours for minimum wages and buying the food back as consumers. People can work for themselves and create their own food from their own land.
  1. Learning about sustainability and being self-reliant is very important. It teaches you how beautiful nature is. You start from a small seed and it turns into the food on your dinner table. You can be your own teacher, because that is a very good way to learn. If you practice, you will see what works and what does not work in your backyard garden. Sustainability gives you a grasp on over-consumption, climate change and the environment.

For more information on backyard gardens and all of their benefits, please visit this website: www.greenandhealthyhomes.org

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What is Backyard Farming

Backyard Farming sounds crazy at first. Urban Farming or Urban Homesteading does not sound much better.

We don’t want to be these people:https://www.youtube.com/embed/0O0ooXnyQMw?feature=oembedIt’s SO Tedious

Yet, more and more people are beginning to see that there is a real benefit to growing our own food and making things at home. There are many reasons for this including the high price of foods and concerns about food quality.

Food costs: The cost of food continues to rise, and families are beginning to demand higher quality options like organic produce which cost even more.

Quality concerns: It is impossible to be sure of the quality of food that one buys at a store.

Even if you have the means and ability to shop somewhere like Whole Foods and purchase only the highest quality items, can you ever be sure what you are really buying?

Is an organic carrot from the store really better just because it costs twice as much? Sometimes “organic” means that they dumped certified chemicals onto the crops instead of non-certified organic varieties.

Neem oil is natural but perhaps not meant to be extracted and dumped in large quantities, onto unnaturally large fields of carrot.

This is not a dig on commercial farmers. They do their very best to supply the products that consumers are asking for. But as consumers, we have another option which is to grow some of our own food and make some of our own products.

What is Backyard Farming?

Backyard Farming or Urban Farming is a movement where regular people who live in typical houses in typical neighborhoods are turning part of their property into mini or micro farms.

Personally, I use the term farming in order to make a distinction between ordinary gardening where one throws the same tomatoes in the same spot of the yard every year and hopes for the best, as opposed to a smarter, more deliberate approach to maximizing the harvest.

This approach uses a concept known as permaculture. Permaculture is a style of organic gardening which uses “nature” as a tool to encourage the growth of fruits, flowers, and vegetables as opposed to always fighting against nature.

There are many articles on this site devoted to this concept. Take a look at the “Growing” section of the menu.

The term farming as used here is not to imply that one needs to grow things on a large scale, or to sell their crops to the public, but rather to emphasize the idea of taking an active approach to organic gardening at home in order to dramatically improve the results regardless of however much one wants to produce.

Having said that, using these techniques, the following things are able to be accomplished, if one were so inclined, on a typical suburban property.

  • Grow all of the salad ingredients for your family
  • Produce enough Asparagus to eat every night for a family of 5 for 3 months out of the year.
  • Produce apples, pears, plums, and cherries
  • Grow hundreds of dollars worth of organic raspberry, blueberry, or blackberry
  • Produce a bounty of melons, carving pumpkins, and every other vegetable you can think of. Heck, peanuts if you want to.
  • Chicken eggs (if allowed), and all sorts of other things we discuss on this site.

What’s with the name

We use the term backyard farming because it gets closer to the mindset of what our goal is. “Backyard” meaning that we are doing this at home and “Farming” because we are applying a more systematic or purposeful approach to growing food.

It is gardening. More specifically, it is organic gardening. We incorporate permaculture and other natural concepts in order to take our organic gardening to the next level.

The Goal of Backyard Farming

The goal with backyard farming for me is to do these the types of things mentioned in the above list on our property without anyone really noticing or caring. Many of the above examples can be incorporated beautifully into a suburban landscape and actually improve the overall aesthetic of one’s property.

Driving through a nice suburban neighborhood, one immediately sees very well-maintained, beautiful landscaped properties. Yet none of the plants in these suburban landscapes can be used by the families that live there. This does not have to be the case.

Why not replace that ornamental plum tree with an actual plum tree…Kale instead of hosta. Blueberry shrubs instead of poison shrubs… you get the point.

With a well designed backyard farming project up and running, neighbors will compliment how well your property looks as you bring them goodies from the garden all year long.

With Backyard Farming you will potentially reap more benefits than with traditional hobby gardening. 

  • Lower grocery bills, possibly significantly lower.
  • Save time and energy per piece of food grown
  • Eliminate fertilizing and much of the watering and weeding
  • Eliminate rototilling and a lot of digging and raking
  • Reduce waste by composting items that you may be throwing out now.
  • True happiness when you begin to eat your produce and realize, perhaps for the first time, how much better everything tastes

But My Yard is not Big Enough

You would be surprised how much can be grown in the smallest areas using techniques discussed on this site.

I live in a typical Cape Cod house on a quiet street in a medium sized city in North Central Ohio. I have neighbors very close on both sides and in the back. In total I have about 0.3 acres of “land” which consists of a small front yard and a decent sized backyard enclosed with a chain link fence.

I have a tiny 1-car garage, a small patio, and typical yard tools.

I have space to grow enough fruit, flowers, herbs, and vegetables as I could possibly ever use, with space left over for a lawn to play badminton.

Getting Started

Begin by reading the articles on this site. Additionally, there are a lot of resources available on the net and in books on the following topics. Our articles provide great links to the resources we think are the best. When I began, I explored topics such as:

  • Small space / patio / container gardening
  • Permaculture, Hugelkultur
  • Organic soil, hydroponics, vertical gardening
  • Propagation techniques

Truth be told, I have spent over 20 years researching gardening and permaculture and have learned a great deal. I decided to make this website to share some of the things that I have found because I did not see a lot of folks doing it from my perspective, the suburban setting.

Living in a “nice” neighborhood, I wanted to do these cool things I was reading about but in a way that blended with the environment around me. I did not want to have a junkyard of pallets, weird structures, goats, and random dirt patches. Nor did I desire to have a wild food jungle.

My style is to take the traditional, generic dentist office-looking landscape found in suburbia and replace the plants in that type of design with food, medicinal herbs, and flowers.

Implementation

Just begin, but start small. Incorporate little things one at a time into your landscape, see what works and what doesn’t and then slowly expand.

Fruit trees are your friend. The ultimate goal of the permaculture “food forest” is basically to have tons of food growing everywhere on your property that requires little to no maintenance. and produce large quantities of high calorie foods year after year. And even in cold Ohio, using Backyard Farming techniques, we can grow so many different kinds of fruit like cherry, apple, peach, plum, apricot and lots of berry and nut trees.

Have a look at my article on Backyard Farm Design, and then check out The Secret to Soil Fertility.

Take a look around Try Backyard Farming and I hope you will incorporate some of these concepts into your Urban / Suburban lifestyle!

Thanks for reading, and please share this article if you found it helpful.

Also, plan to check out all of the products recommended here at Try Backyard Farming, sorted into categories.

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The real value of urban farming. (Hint: It’s not always the food.)

By Brad Plumer@bradplumerbrad@vox.com  Updated Oct 12, 2016, 10:44am EDT

Community gardens, back in style.

During World War II, millions of Americans planted “victory gardens” in their backyards, eventually supplying a hungry nation with 40 percent of its homegrown fruits and vegetables. Once the war was over, those urban farms withered away, supplanted by increasingly efficient large-scale rural agriculture.

Now urban farming is staging a curious comeback. In recent years, US cities like DetroitWashington, DC, and San Francisco have set up programs encouraging people to grow crops in vacant lots or on rooftops. Michelle Obama has promoted the resurgence of community gardens. Advocates sometimes tout urban farming as the solution for “food deserts” in poor neighborhoods.

But do these programs actually make sense? Are there real social or environmental benefits to growing food within city limits? Or is urban farming just a well-meaning but ultimately insignificant hobby for urban elites?

An urban farm on the former site of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing complex.

One of the best explorations I’ve seen of this topic is this paper by Raychel Santo, Anne Palmer, and Brent Kim of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. The authors were curious about some of the bolder claims being tossed around about urban farming — that it can revitalize blighted neighborhoods, say, or help combat food insecurity. So they did a deep dive into the published research.

What emerges is a nuanced picture. Urban farming likely won’t ever provide cities with all that many calories. And the environmental advantages are … debatable. But urban farms can provide a bunch of other neat benefits, from bolstering local communities to (sometimes) encouraging healthier diets. They can also give city-dwellers a better appreciation of how our food system works, which is less nebulous than it sounds.

“We did find a lot of benefits to urban agriculture,” Santo told me. “But you want to be careful not to overstate things. If urban agriculture gets sold as something that will create all these jobs or feed entire cities — and then it doesn’t — it could quickly lose support.”

I can’t do justice to the full paper, which is a careful review of the pros and cons of different types of urban farms. But here are four takeaways that jumped out at me:

1) Urban farms won’t feed entire cities — but that’s not really the point

A little beside the point.

It may sound counterintuitive, but in many ways the actual food grown in community gardens and urban farms nowadays is their least important contribution.

This wasn’t always the case. Early urban farms were explicitly pitched as a way of alleviating food shortages. After the Panic of 1893, the mayor of Detroit urged starving residents to grow potatoes on vacant lots. The “victory gardens” of WWI and WWII were critical for supplying needed fruits and vegetables during wartime.

But America no longer suffers from nationwide food shortages. Large-scale industrial agriculture has become vastly more productive, and we now grow a staggering amount of food every year. To be sure, there are serious problems with our food system: Not everyone has access to affordable, healthy food, and we could arguably stand to grow more fruits and vegetables and less corn and soy. But we’re not suffering from a dearth of cropland.

What’s more, many cities are constrained in how much food they can ultimately grow. One study of New York City found that dedicating every last vacant lot to farming would only yield enough produce for 160,000 people (in a city of 8.1 million). You can get much higher numbers in places like Detroit or Cleveland, where populations have shrunk and vacant lots have proliferated. But it’s unlikely that urban agriculture will ever supply more than a minor fraction of food for most areas.

The more realistic hope is that community gardens and urban farms can provide some families with an additional source of healthy, low-cost produce. That’s a worthwhile goal in itself, and there’s some evidence that people who engage in urban farming eat more fruits and vegetables. (The households that participate are often upper- and middle-class, true, though low-income urban gardening programs can and do exist.)

Yet even here, the Johns Hopkins authors write, the effect on nutrition is likely to be quite modest in the grand scheme of things: “experts contend that this increased produce consumption does not represent a significant effect overall on community food security or dietary qualities.”

So if we really want to understand the benefits of urban farms, we may have to look beyond the food itself. “Food security is not a primary goal for most participants and supporters of community gardens and urban farms,” the authors conclude, “and should not be promoted as such.”

2) The social benefits of urban farming can be large — but they’re not always shared

Detroit Struggles To Re-Build A Bankrupt City Amidst Poverty And Blight
John Fullmore picks beans in his garden, which he created in an empty lot next to his house, on September 3, 2013, in Detroit, Michigan.

That brings us to the possible social benefits of urban farming. A number of old industrial cities, like Cleveland and Detroit, have been pushing community gardens and farms as a way of revitalizing neighborhoods falling into disrepair. And there is indeed evidence that urban farming is quite valuable here.

The Johns Hopkins authors cite a number of studies showing that the presence of urban farms is associated with “improved neighborhood aesthetics, reduced crime, and community cohesion.” When a community garden is established in a neighborhood, property values typically shoot up in the surrounding area. (That said, this can also raise thorny issues around gentrification and displacement in low-income areas.)

Other research has found that community gardens can increase social bonds and networks among neighbors and the people who participate in farming. These farms, the authors write, “bridge gaps, reduce existing tensions, and foster social integration between otherwise segregated groups.” Tilling the soil on a Saturday morning is a great way to bring people together. It’s also a healthy, relaxing activity.

There are even a few economic perks. While urban farms don’t usually provide all that many livable-wage jobs, they can “serve as sites for education, youth development, and skills/workforce training opportunities.” Some cities have programs that use urban agriculture to help teach young people about science, environmental stewardship, and healthy eating. Other urban farms offer workforce training, though Santo says further research is needed to gauge how transferable these skills are.

The big catch, however, is that urban farms aren’t always as inclusive as they aspire to be — and there are often huge class divides. “A number of case studies,” the Johns Hopkins authors note, “have found that urban farms and gardens … have been led by mostly white non-residents in predominantly black and/or Latino neighborhoods, unintentionally excluding people of color from participating in or reaping the benefit of such efforts.” (The links are mine, though they have many more citations.)

So urban farming can have a number of wonderful social benefits — but those aren’t always shared widely. “It is essential,” the authors conclude, “that the residents of the communities being affected by urban agriculture projects are not just consulted but fully empowered in leadership and decision-making to the greatest extent possible.” Otherwise, urban farming mostly willjust be a fun hobby for urban elites.

3) Urban farming isn’t always more environmentally friendly

This isn’t always the worst option.

Modern-day industrial agriculture certainly has its environmental drawbacks — from soil degradation to disruption of the nitrogen cycle to all the fossil fuels used for the heavy machinery. But, the authors note, that doesn’t mean urban farming is always a clear improvement.

Some advocates like the idea of urban agriculture because it reduces the number of miles that food needs to be transported. Yet transportation is a relatively small slice of the overall carbon footprint of agriculture. One study of an urban farming project in the United Kingdom found that it reduced diet-related emissions for the community by just 0.4 percent (although the fields themselves did help sequester carbon-dioxide). The emissions benefits may be biggest for produce that gets shipped by air, like berries.

And on the flip side, some studies have noted, if urban farms take up too much land and increase sprawl, they could actually end up making global warming worse by increasing overall driving. Cities only have finite space, and sometimes the greenest thing you can do with a vacant lot is build more housing rather than grow a bunch of plants.

There are other angles to consider, too: urban growers often use water and fertilizer and pesticides less efficiently than large-scale rural farms do. Industrial agriculture gets a bad rap, but there are sometimes real advantages to economies of scale.

The environmental benefits of urban farming get even more complicated when we consider indoor “vertical farms,” which are often touted as a sustainable option that use less soil and water. Although designs differ, some of these setups can use an enormous amount of energy, especially if they require artificial lighting. Still, it varies case by case; see this piece by Paul Marks in New Scientist for a further exploration.

That all said, the Johns Hopkins authors note, various studies have found that urban agriculture can have some less-obvious environmental benefits. Community gardens and green roofs can help filter out local air pollution, cool down cities in the summertime, and retain precipitation — avoiding storm-water runoff into nearby waterways. When designed well, urban gardens can provide valuable habitats for wild bees and other pollinators.

“It’s hard to make sweeping generalizations here,” Santo told me. When designed right, urban farms can make some modest but valuable improvements to the sustainability of our food system. But when designed poorly, they can end up being even worse for the environment — say, if they’re using fertilizer inefficiently and polluting nearby waters with nitrogen run-off.

4) One little-studied aspect of urban farms — they can teach us to appreciate food better

Get to know these folks.

In our conversation, Santo mentioned one feature of urban farms that often gets shortchanged in dry policy discussions: “They can reconnect people with how to grow food.”

That is, people who participate in a community garden learn what it takes to grow different crops — and appreciate how difficult it actually is. They can better grasp the seasonality of different fruits and vegetables (which is, at the very least, a handy skill in the grocery store). They can learn why food waste occurs. They can see firsthand the the ins and outs of a complex, vital system most of us have lost touch with.

Nathanael Johnson at Grist has written wonderfully about this aspect of urban farming, and he cited a 2012 essay in Gastronomica by Jason Mark making this point at length. “Spend a few months taking a broccoli from seed to harvest, and you’ll soon have a much deeper appreciation for the natural systems on which we depend,” Mark writes. “Our connection to the earth becomes gobsmackingly obvious when you watch the crops grow (or fail).”

“Maybe,” Marks adds, “urban agriculture is most valuable for how it forces us to be more conscientious about the people who feed us: the farmworkers, the truck drivers, the processors and the packagers, the prep cooks, all of whom work for next to nothing and have little time themselves to play in the dirt.”

That romantic notion is a little hard to quantify in a study — although researchers are certainly trying. Santo mentioned that she’d love to see further explorations of how people apply the knowledge and skills they gain from urban farming in other areas. Do they become more politically engaged? Do they start pushing for broader reforms in our food system? Right now, it’s a little tough to say. But if urban farming keeps expanding around the country, this may turn out to be its most lasting impact.

Further reading: 40 maps that explain food in America

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6 Key Importance of Backyard Gardens

Backyard gardens are relatively small areas around homes we use to grow food for ourselves and the family. The practice has been going on for ages but this practice is declining in our region for obvious reasons. We often presume food can always be obtained from the open market, so why waste time grow our own in a garden? or “… don’t have the time to work on a garden”, and a number of other reasons.

However, we strongly recommend backyard gardens, for reasons that have quite been overlooked and more so for the reason of surviving the current climate change leading to food shortages.

backyard gardens
Picture of David Oscar’s backyard garden posted on LinkedIn.

Backyard gardening is a must-do. Consider these.

1.  Source of fresh and organic food.

Who wouldn’t chose fresh and organic food?. Home gardens are very manageable and usually, in cases of insects and disease control, organic means could easily be applied. It is very important when you are very sure and have total control over the quality of food produced. You cannot be so sure of what is out there. Take advantage of that.


Read also: Organic Farming: Types, Principles, Methods and Importance


2. Gardening is a very good physical and mental exercise.

The experts say, gardening activities like soil preparation, planting, removal of weeds, watering, etc. engage most of your body muscles and are very good exercises. Gardening engages your mind too. They say, gardening 45 minutes early mornings each day before any other work, prepares you physically and mentally like 30 minutes of aerobics.

3. Supplements family budgets.

In our region, many families’ (usually large) expenditure on food is greatly reduced. These are families that actively grow home gardens and they are able to cut down expenditure on food to about 40%. Adding to this, they are sure of the quality of the produce. This has been a major incentive for many to plant home gardens in many households. Some families only need to buy cooking oil and spices and the rest comes from their gardens.


Read also: 7 Tips on Profitable Farming with Good Records Keeping


4. Year-round food availability from gardens.

Since gardens are relatively small in land size, irrigation is easier and so continuous food supply through the seasons. Try it.

5. Gardening makes good use of space and protects the soil.

Putting it this way; we use the soil space around the house to plant a garden that gives all the benefits stated above and the one below. Plus, when we cover the soil with beneficial cover crops, erosion is reduced and regular bush growth around the house is minimised. Hope we have made that point clearer.


Read also: 10 Simple and Easy Soil Tests


6. Entertainment, fulfilment and creativity.

The one having the experience can well explain this point. It is a good feeling. Try it. Gardening is a source of entertainment and really brings out lots of creativity in you. The art of planting various crops in the soil, nurturing them and watching them grow by the day and finally so see them blossom into fruits, is such a good feeling. You would be proud to say at the dining table, “this food is from my garden”. So fulfilled.

We would advise you to revive the hobby of gardening and establish your own backyard gardens.

We would be glad to help you start your backyard garden.

 Categories: General Agriculture Tagged: backyard gardensK. Afrane OkeseAgrihome’s vision is to make agriculture very interesting and a successful venture for the youth in Africa by providing all the resources, tools, solutions and expertise and making them very accessible to the youth. So, we all contribute.

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Backyard gardening: grow your own food, improve your health

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. 

When it comes to gardening, I am all thumbs, and not the green kind. But a new book from First Lady Michelle Obama is inspiring me to try my hand (thumbs and all) at backyard vegetable gardening. American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America details the challenges and joys the First Lady has experienced with her now-famous White House garden. It also looks at community gardens all across America, and how they can improve health.

The book contains helpful hints for starting your own vegetable garden, as well as a school or community garden. Along with the how-to information about seed spacing, irrigation, soil types, and the right time to plant various vegetables, American Grown also discusses Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative. How does that fit into a book on gardening? In addition to getting more physical activity, so the thinking goes, eating more food harvested from the ground and less from packages can help kids — and adults — become healthy or stay that way.

“Backyard gardening can inspire you to take an interest in the origins of your food and make better choices about what you put on your plate,” says Dr. Helen Delichatsios, an internist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “When you grow your own food, you savor it more because of the effort it took to get to the table.”

Growing your own food has many health benefits:

  • It helps you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • You decide what kinds of fertilizers and pesticides come in contact with your food.
  • It lets you control when to harvest your food. Vegetables that ripen in the garden have more nutrients than some store-bought vegetables that must be picked early.

Growing your own food isn’t rocket science. “Growing food is very simple,” says Kathleen Frith, managing director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHGE) at Harvard Medical School. “It takes a little time, but things like tomatoes, lettuce, peppers — basic kitchen crops — are very forgiving. Really, anyone can learn to grow food pretty easily.”

Frith proved that when she spearheaded the Harvard Community Garden, a large collaborative project in Harvard Square. Students tend the garden and grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. The garden’s bounty is donated to food shelters or featured on the menu at the Harvard Faculty Club. You can see photos of the garden here.

If you’re interested in growing food in your backyard, Frith offers these tips:

  • Start small and plant things you’d really like to eat.
  • Pick a spot with at least 6 hours of good daytime light and access to water.
  • Use contaminant-free soil.
  • Consider using a raised garden bed, which allows you to control the soil and nutrient blend.
  • Talk to farmers or other backyard gardeners in your area to get a sense of what grows well in your region and when.

If you don’t have space for a garden at home, a community garden is another option. You can find one in your community through the American Community Gardening Association.

“You will be amazed by how much fun gardening can be, and the pride you take in sharing healthy food nurtured by your own efforts,” says Acacia Matheson, the CHGE’s assistant director of communications. “We hope that people will develop more interest in learning about their food choices, and how to prepare fresh, healthy food at home.”

Be patient as you cultivate your relationship with your garden and the Earth. Before long, you’ll reap the benefits. You may even see a little tinge of green on those thumbs.