Urban Farming

Urban Farming Ultimate Guide and Examples

Just because you live in the city, that doesn’t mean that starting a business in the agriculture industry is out of the question. Urban farming is bringing food production into busy, populated areas, and it’s more popular than ever.

What is urban farming? Urban farming, also called urban agriculture, is all about producing food inside city limits. It has its challenges, but it also offers many benefits like increased food security, decreased waste, community involvement and more.

In this article, you’ll learn what urban farming is, how and what urban farmers grow, what the advantages of urban farming are, some practical approaches to urban farming, and more.Article Contents:show

What is Urban Farming?

what is Urban Farming

In the most basic of terms, urban farming is simply producing or growing food in a city or other heavily populated areas. It shouldn’t be confused with community gardening, subsistence farming, or homesteading.

The big difference between urban farming and these separate categories is that urban farming assumes a profit motive and that it’s undertaken as a commercial enterprise.

This separates urban farming out from gardening activities where the end goal is personal consumption.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that urban farming is all about big business. Normally it’s quite the opposite. You don’t need a big piece of land, or even a corporation to start an urban farm.

You can begin by yourself, by partnering with some friends, or even as a nonprofit entity.

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Why is Urban Farming Important? 

Urban farming gives people a chance to pursue their passion for agriculture who may not be able to move out of the city and buy a piece of land in the country. Either for financial, logistical, or practical reasons.

The food produced on urban farms can be sold at farmer’s markets, direct to restaurants or grocery stores, or through a CSA (community supported agriculture.)

As people are becoming more educated about their food, where it comes from, and the effect that transporting food can have on climate change, there’s an increasing demand for locally-grown, sustainable, organic produce.

Common Approaches to Urban Farming

Urban farming can be found in pretty much every area of the city.

In public spaces and parks, next to apartment buildings and condos, on top of rooftops, next to restaurants and other businesses, in backyards, at schools, and anywhere else you can think of.

So people have come up with many unique approaches to urban farming that work in a variety of different conditions and settings.

1. Vertical Farming

Vertical Farming

Vertical farming involves growing crops in layers that are stacked vertically. This can be accomplished by growing on shelving, or on specially-modified pallets against fences or walls.

Vertical farms can be housed in abandoned mineshafts or other underground tunnels, inside of buildings, or in shipping containers.

It’s usually combined with other innovative techniques like aquaponics or hydroponics in a climate-controlled environment.

Vertical farming can make a square foot of space orders of magnitude more efficient at producing food, since many plants don’t need a lot of vertical space to grow.

If you can stack three or four shelves of plants on top of each other, suddenly you’re growing 300% to 400% more plants than what you could conventionally fit into the same amount of space.

2. Hydroponics


Hydroponics is any system for growing plants without soil. Instead, nutrients are added to water that plants are immersed in, or that regularly washes over the roots of the plants.

Gravel, perlite, or other materials can be used to provide more physical support for the plants.

Hydroponic systems can use chemical fertilizers, or organic matter like manure.

Since water in hydroponics systems is recycled and reused, it can save on water usage for growing crops.

A conventional farm requires about 400 liters of water to grow a kilogram of tomatoes, while a hydroponic system can grow the same amount using only 70 liters of water.


Hydroponics can be used to grow plants where the conditions are too harsh to grow them in soil. It may even be used to grow plants in space when humans decide to go to Mars!

There are many different hydroponics techniques:

3. Aquaponics


Aquaponics is any system that combines conventional aquaculture (farming fish or other sea life) with hydroponics. This creates a symbiotic relationship between the fish and plants.

Fish eat food and produce ammonia. Helpful bacteria in the water converts ammonia into nutrients for the plants.

The plants absorb the nutrients, which act like a natural fertilizer. And water gets constantly recirculated through the system so the cycle can continue.

Tilapia is one of the most popular types of fish for using in an aquaponic environment. They’re tasty and can be sold as they mature to make another source of income besides the plants that are being grown.

Leafy green vegetables tend to work the best and be the easiest to grow in an aquaponic system, although you can grow a wide variety of other plants like cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes as well.

4. Shipping Container Farms

Shipping Container Farms

If the weather outside isn’t conducive to growing, or even if you just want a more stable pest-free environment for growing, shipping container farms are a great option.

They don’t take up small space and you can fit one in almost anywhere, even just in an unused corner of a parking lot.

Special systems can be installed for lighting, climate control, as well as other factors to create a perfect growing environment.

Racks of shelving can be installed to fully maximize vertical space inside the shipping container.

Most commonly mushrooms, microgreens, or leafy greens are grown because these crops don’t take up much space and also fetch a premium.

They might seem too small to be practical for some people, but a shipping container is actually large enough to generate a full-time income from urban farming with the right systems in place.

5. Rooftop Farming

Rooftop Farming

In the heart of the city, green space on the ground comes at a premium if there’s any available at all. But the rooftops of skyscrapers and apartment buildings represent a largely underused resource.

Raised beds, and even greenhouses or animals like chickens on rooftops are all a possibility. It all depends on what the owner of the building is comfortable allowing you to do with the space, and what your local laws are.

Care should be taken to make sure adequate support is in place before starting a rooftop farm.

Soil can weigh thousands of pounds when you have it all in one place, so care needs to be taken with how a rooftop farm is arranged to ensure the roof can support the load.

Setting up or dismantling a rooftop farm can be difficult, as absolutely every part of the operation needs to be gradually taken up onto the roof using an elevator if you’re lucky, or stairs if you aren’t.

That includes bringing up all the soil you need, as well as something to contain it.

6. Mushrooms


Mushrooms aren’t a crop that immediately comes to mind for most people. But for urban farming, they’re an awesome choice.

The science behind how mushrooms are grown eludes most people, and it can seem like magic that people are able to reliably grow mushrooms, but it’s really more simple than you might expect.

For mushrooms like oyster mushrooms, a large, clear plastic bag is filled with a growing medium like coffee grounds and straw. This is then inoculated with mycelium of the mushroom species you’re trying to grow.


After an incubation period where the mycelium is allowed to fully colonize the bag of growing materials (basically like a plant establishing a root system), holes are cut in the bag to expose it to air, and the fruit bodies of the mushroom will begin to grow.

There are two things that can be a challenge for newer mushroom growers.

The first is avoiding contamination. Mold or other fungi that you don’t want can infect grow bags and compete with the species you’re trying to grow.

If they win and overtake the mycelium, it can ruin a whole batch of mushrooms.

The other is keeping growing conditions just right for the mushrooms, especially while they are fruiting. Especially temperature and humidity.

If humidity is too low, it can cause the mycelium to dry out and not produce any mushrooms. If it’s too high, it can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

Using fans to maintain airflow can help keep things under control.

Read more about mushroom farming in these Ultimate Guides: How to Grow Mushrooms and Urban Mushroom Farming.

7. Microgreens


Microgreens are the tiny sprouts of vegetables that are harvested when they’re just a few days to weeks old.

Almost any vegetable can be grown as a microgreen, but sunflowers, pea shoots, and radishes are some of the most popular ones.

You get a very quick turnaround time with microgreens compared to conventional crops. 7 to 14 days for most varieties of microgreens, as opposed to 90 days or more for some traditionally grown crops like peppers or pumpkins.


Despite their small size, microgreens are absolutely packed full of nutrients, and are becoming a popular choice for health-conscious people to add to salads or smoothies.

Chefs also like to use microgreens as a garnish because they give a nice aesthetic appeal.

Microgreens take up very little space and can be grown in a single room or shipping container. The process is normally quite automated, including watering and LED lighting all done on set timers.

8. Backyard Gardens

Backyard Gardens

With the right urban farming techniques, you can actually make a full-time income on a space as small as 1/3rd or 1/4 of an acre. Backyard farms are also referred to as market gardens.

The best part about backyard gardens is that you don’t even necessarily need to own the land to start growing on them.

For most people, their yard is just sitting unused, and cutting the grass and maintaining it can be a chore more than anything else.

A good proportion of homeowners will be happy to let you grow food in their backyard in exchange for a portion of your harvest or the income you earn, others may rent you the space for a set fee for the season.

Like with most other types of urban farming, space is at a premium when you only have a small yard to work with. So it’s important to pick compact crops like greens that sell for a high price.

Where city bylaws allow, backyard gardens can even include small livestock like chickens, as well as beekeeping.

The Benefits of Urban Farming

The Benefits of Urban Farming

Urban farming comes with a bunch of benefits over conventional farming. Some of them may be obvious, while others aren’t so intuitive.

Here are some reasons why I think urban farms offer a lot of value to any community that they’re a part of.

1) Increased Food Security

Food Security

Urban areas can often form what are called food deserts, which are areas where it’s difficult to buy good quality or affordable fresh food.

If there aren’t any grocery stores in your area and you don’t have a car, the only food sources you might have within walking distance could be fast food restaurants and convenience stores.

Urban farms can provide food to low-income individuals who need it the most.

2) Creates Fresher, Healthier Foods

Healthier Foods

When you buy a tomato or many other types of produce at the supermarket, you’re getting something that was picked underripe.

It’s a necessity, since produce needs to be shipped across the country, and it can often take several days for it to pass through all of the distribution channels and arrive at its final destination.

Urban farming creates fresh produce closer to where it’s ultimately consumed. That means less food miles traveled, which is great for cutting down on carbon emissions to help fight climate change.

Food from urban farms is far more likely to be perfectly ripe, more nutritious, and produced in season. Whether it’s fruits, vegetables, or herbs.

As a farmer, the upside to this is that customers are willing to pay a premium for freshness and local production.

Public health is a huge concern in the inner city, where people often suffer from malnutrition or other diet-related health problems.

Giving people nutrient-dense healthy alternatives will help reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions in the area. Plus tending to the farm itself provides exercise to those who are working in it.

3) Urban Regeneration and Use of Under-Utilized Spaces

Urban farming is able to put land to use that is otherwise undesirable or can’t be put to good use. An urban farm breathes new life into older run-down communities.

It creates more green space, which is something that cities could desperately need. Greenery creates a relaxing feeling to the community and has a more aesthetic appeal than an empty lot.

Areas with community gardens and urban farms also increase property value. One study found that gardens in the area raised surrounding property values by nearly 10% within five years.


4) Community Involvement

So how can urban farming help communities? Besides producing an abundance of fresh healthy foods for everyone to eat, it can also bring the residents of an area together to work toward a common goal.

For urban farming nonprofits, a lot of social activity and organization is required. And everyone will have a vested interest in seeing the project succeed once they start to put their own time and energy into it.

Urban farms can help to create a sense of belonging among people that would otherwise be isolated from one another.

Urban farms can give back to the community by holding tours or workshops to teach children and adults alike in the area where their food comes from.

It’s a learning opportunity for picking up various gardening techniques and other information that people may not have access to.

Urban farms can integrate with local restaurants or cafes to benefit both parties.

The farm gets a steady customer to buy its produce, and the restaurant can use the fact that it buys locally-sourced produce from the community as part of its advertising and appeal.

5) Makes Efficient Use of Land

Think about how many areas of the city are sitting unused and being wasted.

Hydroponic systems, vertical or rooftop gardens, and other techniques can be used to fit in a lot of extra food into any free urban space that’s available.

Urban farmers come up with innovative and efficient solutions to the problems that growing in the city can challenge them with.

6) Economic Growth and Job Creation

Economic Growth and Job Creation

As your urban farm grows, you may be able to take on multiple plots throughout the city. Once it’s more than what you can manage yourself, you can bring on employees or volunteers to help keep things running smoothly.

Low-income people without much education in the inner city might not have the opportunity to get many jobs.

Urban farms can offer them valuable skills and education in addition to a steady source of income, even if it is seasonal work.

Hunger and poverty are common themes in an urban environment. But urban farms can help to support the community and stimulate its economy by circulating income in the region.

7) Less Food Waste

Some food waste occurs because stores stock more fresh food than what they can sell before it goes bad. Other times, consumers buy produce and it goes bad before they’re able to consume it.

Urban farms help cut down on both of these types of food waste. People can harvest only what they are going to eat that day or within a few days, so they’re less likely to waste food.

There is less of a disconnect between where your food comes from and what you eat.

8) Less Investment Required

Buying a conventional farm is a huge undertaking. Even if you just want a small farm with an acre or two, you’re looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Even to lease farmland from another farmer for a season, you’re looking at some major expenses.

Urban farms take up far less space, and initial infrastructure and setup costs is often drastically lower than a traditional farm as well.

9) Water Conservation

Water Conservation

Urban farming saves water a couple of different ways.

First, urban farms tend to use irrigation systems on timers, hydroponic systems, or other methods that allow them to use 2/3rds less water than what a conventional farm would need to achieve the same output.

Urban farms also prevent water runoff and other issues that would be present if the farm wasn’t there.


Farms can set up catchment systems to collect rainwater from nearby buildings, and water their crops 100% from rainwater.

Examples of Urban Farming

Curtis Stone

For most people, Curtis Stone is the go-to guy when it comes to urban farming, and his Youtube videos and other materials are often the primary way that people find out urban farming is even an option.

Curtis operates his urban farming business called Green City Acres, which has several urban farms located around Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

He has a Youtube video with over 300,000 subscribers and hundreds of videos that are an amazing resource if you’re just getting started with urban farming.

He teaches practical techniques, as well as does in-depth interviews with other growers to understand what’s working for them and what isn’t.

You can buy his book entitled The Urban Farmer on his website. He also does in-person courses and offers online courses on topics like growing microgreens, and passive solar greenhouse design.

He also has a membership website where he does in-depth videos about sustainable agriculture every week.

Nature’s Always Right

Steven Cornett runs Nature’s Always Right, an urban market garden that features permaculture design and regenerative farming practices. It’s based in San Diego, California.

In addition to growing food to earn an income, Nature’s Always Right also has the goal of teaching as many people as possible about regenerative farming techniques, and helping them to grow their own healthy food on a small scale using no-till methods.


Located in London, UK, FARM: uses a variety of urban farming techniques including a rooftop chicken coop, aquaponic fish farming, and small-scale vegetable farming using a polytunnel as well as a high-tech indoor allotment

The goal of the project is to teach Londoners that it’s possible for people who live in the city to grow food without having large amounts of space. It has been operating since 2010.

Where Does Urban Farming Take Place?

Where Does Urban Farming Take Place?

The name urban farming conjures up images of food being grown right in the middle of the inner city or downtown.

While that’s certainly a possibility, there’s no characterization on exactly how dense or populated an area needs to be to qualify as urban farming.

But it generally includes properties and land right up to the outer edge of the city.

Urban farmers grow in backyards, on top of the roofs of apartments and skyscrapers, on vacant or abandoned properties or land, and plenty of other places.

Some cities are even setting aside portions of parks or other open land to allow urban farmers to use.

It’s critical to take your city’s zoning and by-laws into account before you get started with urban farming. What’s allowed can vary from place to place.

Most cities have restrictions on any kind of livestock being kept within their limits, although some places make exceptions for backyard chickens, rabbits, or even beekeeping.

Some cities will allow you to grow vegetables in your front yard, while others won’t. Other locations will limit what kinds of retail sales you can do out of homes and other non-commercial properties.

While states and provinces may have specific licenses and certification that are required to operate your urban farm, like safe food handling or WHMIS.

Understandably, producing people’s food comes with a lot of liability and safety issues, so municipalities tend to err on the side of protecting the consumers.

What Products Do Urban Farmers Grow?

What Products Do Urban Farmers Grow

As mentioned, it’s much harder for urban farmers to try to raise livestock like cattle, pigs, and sheep within city limits, just because of the legal restrictions.

But most other things that any conventional farm is capable of producing are on the table.

Urban farmers grow vegetables, root crops, fruits, and even grains. As well as herbs and medicinal plants, or purely ornamental varieties of plants.


For a brand new urban farmer looking for an entry point in the market, I would suggest 3 crops that are fairly easy to grow and offer good returns: Mushrooms, microgreens, and leafy greens.

All three of these products are more perishable than a lot of other types of crops.

That gives urban farmers a big advantage when it comes to freshness and quality, compared to larger companies that might need to ship their product several days before it reaches its destination.

Both microgreens and mushrooms can be grown indoors and take up very little space. Many urban farmers are able to grow these crops in converted shipping containers, or anything else that’s basically the equivalent size of one large room.

Leafy greens like arugula and spinach fetch high prices due to their short shelf life, but require growing outdoors or in greenhouses or wind tunnels.

Market garden techniques and practices can be used to produce large amounts of food in a tiny space, however.

Some urban farmers are able to make as much as $100,000 per year on just a 1/3 acre piece of land if they have the knowledge and conditions needed.


Generally, as an urban farmer, you want to highly specialize on crops and different varieties that aren’t normally available from regular distributors and large-scale farms.

What Tasks do Urban Farmers Perform?

What Tasks Do Urban Farmers Perform

As an urban farmer, you’ll need to wear a lot of different hats, and it might be on you to perform all the roles that your business requires all by yourself.

In addition to just growing the food, urban farmers need to be experts when it comes to marketing and connecting with buyers.

It doesn’t matter how great your food is or how much you can grow, if nobody is willing to buy it!

It’s up to you to pitch your product to shops and restaurants in your area, as well as man your booth at the farmer’s market every weekend.

Urban farmers usually end up doing all of their own deliveries as well. You’ll need a climate-controlled van to get all of your produce to customers in a timely manner.

Although some urban farmers even deliver their products via bicycle and pull their inventory on a trailer behind them.

You’ll also need to do all of the administrative work for your business like bookkeeping/accounting, filing paperwork, and more. Combined, all of these tasks can easily add another 10 hours on to your work week.


Even if you’re living in the city, you can earn a full-time income from your passion for agriculture by making use of urban farming techniques.

Crops like edible mushrooms and microgreens take very little space to grow, but they offer high margins.

Techniques like vertical farming and aquaponics can make tiny spaces like shipping containers or rooftops into full-scale operations that are capable of providing food to nearby neighborhoods.

Urban farming is profitable, and urban farms have a number of benefits for the communities they’re in as well.

They increase food security and give people access to fresh, nutritional food that they might not be able to buy otherwise.

Urban farms can also help boost economic growth in an area and provide jobs. They can also help to create a sense of community.

If you’ve ever wanted to start farming but can’t see yourself giving up the city life to move to the country, urban farming offers a great alternative that will allow you to follow your passion.

If you want to learn more farming ideas or have questions of how to start your farm, read my articles below:

Urban Farming

Research Regarding the Benefits of Community Gardens

Nutrition Alaimo, Katherine PhD 1,  Elizabeth Packnett MPH, Richard A. Miles BS and Daniel J. Kruger PhD, Fruit and Vegetable Intake among Urban Community Gardeners,Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 40, Issue 2, March-April 2008, Pages 94-101 “Adults with a household member who participated in a community garden consumed fruits and vegetables 1.4 more times per day than those who did not participate, and they were 3.5 times more likely to consume fruits and vegetables at least 5 times daily.” 1 Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 2 Prevention Research Center of Michigan/University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, Michigan Dibsdall, LA, N Lambert, RF Bobbin and LJ Frewer. 2002. Low-income consumers’ attitudes and behavior towards access availability and motivation to eat fruit and vegetables. Public Health Nutrition, Volume 6, Issue 02, Apr 2002, pp 159-168 Commonly cited barriers to fruit and vegetable intake include cost, availability and acceptance. Community gardens have the potential to decrease these barriers by lowering the cost of produce, increasing access, and eventually increasing acceptance and improving taste perceptions of fruits and vegetables. Jill S. Litt, Mah-J. Soobader, Mark S. Turbin, James W. Hale, Michael Buchenau, and Julie A. Marshall. 2011. The Influence of Social Involvement, Neighborhood Aesthetics, and Community Garden Participation on Fruit and Vegetable Consumption. American Journal of Public Health: August 2011, Vol. 101, No. 8, pp. 1466-1473. Community gardeners consumed fruits and vegetables 5.7 times per day, compared with home gardeners (4.6 times per day) and nongardeners (3.9 times per day). Moreover, 56% of community gardeners met national recommendations to consume fruits and vegetables at least 5 times per day, compared with 37% of home gardeners and 25% of nongardeners. The qualities intrinsic to community gardens make them a unique intervention that can narrow the divide between people and the places where food is grown and increase local opportunities to eat better. Read More: Morris, Jennifer L., and Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr,. 2002 Garden-enhanced nutrition curriculum improves fourth-grade school children’s knowledge of nutrition and preferences for some vegetables, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 102 Number 1, January 2002 Pages 91-93 Nutrition knowledge scores for students in the nutrition education only (NL) and the nutrition education plus gardening(NG) were significantly great than those in the control group (CO) and these differences were maintained at the six month follow-up. Posttest Vegetable Preference scores for the NL and the NG groups were each significantly greater than those of the CO group for broccoli and carrots. In addition the NG group was significantly greater than both the other groups on snow peas and zucchini. At the six month follow up both the NL and NG groups remained significant for carrots and the NG was also still significant for broccoli, snow peas and zucchini. Their was no significant difference among the 3 sites in relation to the student’s willingness to taste the vegetables. Ober Allen, Julie, Katherine Alaimo, Doris Elam; and Elizabeth Perry. 2008 Growing Vegetables and Values: Benefits of Neighborhood-Based Community Gardens for Youth Development and Nutrition. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, Volume 3, Issue 4, pages 418 – 439 Community gardens are one way that residents have mobilized to beautify urban neighborhoods, improve access to fresh produce, and engage youth. Qualitative case studies were conducted of two neighborhood-based community gardens with youth programs. Data collection included participant observation and in-depth interviews with adult gardeners and neighbors, youth, and community police officers. Results suggest that the garden programs provided opportunities for constructive activities, contributions to the community, relationship and interpersonal skill development, informal social control, exploring cognitive and behavioral competence, and improved nutrition. Community gardens promoted developmental assets for involved youth while improving their access to and consumption of healthy foods. 1. Department of Health Behavior & Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI 2. Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI Online Publication Date: 11 December 2008 Community Development Been, V. and I. Voicu. 2006. The Effect of Community Gardens on Neighboring Property Values, New York University School of Law, New York University Law and Economics Working Papers Paper 46. “We find that the opening of a community garden has a statistically significant positive impact on residential properties within 1000 feet of the garden, and that the impact increases over time. We find that gardens have the greatest impact in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Higher quality gardens have the greatest positive impact. Finally, we find that the opening of a garden is associated with other changes in the neighborhood, such as increasing rates of homeownership, and thus may be serving as catalysts for economic redevelopment of the community.” Schukoske, Jane E. 2000 Community Development Through Gardening: State and Local Policies Transforming Urban Open Space. Legislation and Public Policy. Vol.3:351 This article has addressed the beneficial influence that gardens can have in curbing the problems associated with vacant lots and urban blight. It has also highlighted the other social benefits that can be reaped from establishing a community garden. Further, this article has examined the state and local laws that govern community gardens as well as the role of intermediary organizations such as land trusts. By extracting those factors which have made garden programs successful in communities throughout the country, this article has set forth the elements of a model local ordinance. Stress Van Den Berg, Agnes E., and Mariette H. Custers. 2011. Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress. Journal of Health Psychology. 2011. 16:3-11 Stress-relieving effects of gardening were hypothesized and tested in a field experiment. Thirty allotment gardeners performed a stressful Stroop task and were then randomly assigned to 30 minutes of outdoor gardening or indoor reading on their own allotment plot. Salivary cortisol levels and self-reported mood were repeatedly measured. Gardening and reading each led to decreases in cortisol during the recovery period, but decreases were significantly stronger in the gardening group. Positive mood was fully restored after gardening, but further deteriorated during reading. These findings provide the first experimental evidence that gardening can promote relief from acute stress. Multiple Benefits Armstrong, Donna. 2000. A survey of community gardens in upstate New York: Implications for health promotion and community development. Health & Place 6 (2000) 319-327 Twenty community garden programs in upstate New York (representing 63 gardens) were surveyed to identify characteristics that may be useful to facilitate neighborhood development and health promotion. The most commonly expressed reasons for participating in gardens were access to fresh foods, to enjoy nature, and health benefits. Gardens in low-income neighborhoods (46%) were four times as likely as non low-income gardens to lead to other issues in the neighborhood being addressed; reportedly due to organizing facilitated through the community gardens. Draper, C and D. Freedman. 2010. Review and Analysis of the Benefits, Purposes, and Motivations Associated with Community Gardening in the United States. Journal of Community Practice, 18(4) 458 – 492 Community gardens have been a part of modern American culture since the late 19th century. Participation in community gardening has ebbed and flowed in response to changing socioeconomic conditions, and thus the current economic recession has reheightened public interest. In a review of the scholarly literature from 1999 to 2010, rigorous quantitative research studies on the effects of community gardens are found to be sparse; however, a larger body of qualitative data is available. Eleven themes related to the purposes, benefits of, and motivations for participating in community gardens are identified. Community gardens can serve as an effective tool for community-based practitioners in carrying out their roles within the arenas of organizing, development, and change. McFarland, A.L. , T.M. Waliczek and J.M. Zajicek. 2008. The Relationship Between Student Use of Campus Green Spaces and Perceptions of Quality of Life,HortTechnology 18:232-238 (2008) Students’ perception of their overall academic experience and the campus environment is related to academic accomplishment. The designed environment of the university can influence the degree of stress students may feel. Undergraduate student use of campus green spaces and perceptions of quality of life were related to each other. Popular press coverage of the research in Campus Green Spaces Enhance Quality Of Life,Science Daily News 9/30/08. Teig, E., et al., Collective efficacy in Denver, Colorado: Strengthening neighborhoods and health through community gardens. Health & Place (2009), doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2009.06.003 The social organizational underpinnings of gardens give rise to a range of social processes, including social connections, reciprocity, mutual trust, collective decision-making, civic engagement and community building, all important processes associated with improving individual health and strengthening neighborhoods (Twiss et al., 2003; Armstrong, 2000; Cohen et al., 2006; Landman, 1993). Such processes can be fostered through community gardens through key activities such as volunteerism, leadership, neighborhood activities and recruitment. The place-based social processes found in community gardens support collective efficacy, a powerful mechanism for enhancing the role of gardens in promoting health. Wakefield, S, F. Yeudall, C. Taron, J. Reynolds and A. Skinner. 2007 Growing urban health: Community gardening in South-East Toronto. Health Promotion International 2007 22(2):92-101; Oxford University Press Results suggest that community gardens were perceived by gardeners to provide numerous health benefits, including improved access to food, improved nutrition, increased physical activity and improved mental health. Community gardens were also seen to promote social health and community cohesion. WRITTEN BY Dr. Lucy Bradley

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Urban Farming

Benefits of being involved in a Grow Community Gardens

  1. 1. Improves the health and wellbeing of those involved – Many people who come to our gardens talk of the garden relieving the stresses and strains of everyday life. Our gardens are designed to cater for people with a range of mobility and we work together to make sure that everyone can be involved.
  2. 2. Improves the quality of life for people in the garden – People report feeling happier and healthier through their involvement in the garden.
  3. 3. Connects people to their community – Many people talk of never seeing their neighbours, not feeling part of the community, having no say in what happens in their community – being involved in a Grow community garden enables people to connect with their community in a meaningful way – one that respects difference and promotes diversity
  4. 4. Provides a catalyst for neighbourhood and community development
  5. 5. Stimulates Social Interaction – Many friendships are formed at the garden and there are many examples of care and attention which those involved show to one another – last year one of our participants was away from the garden for a number of weeks – suffering from depression – off their own bat a number of the participant community gardeners made up a box of produce from the garden with a note about how he was missed from the garden. This was brought to his house and he was back the following week.
  6. 6. Encourages Self-Reliance – We work together to find solutions to challenges in the garden. Everyone is encouraged to make suggestions and undertake all sorts of tasks from making benches, planting trees, pruning tomatoes plants, organising an event to cooking something for our teabreaks the following week.
  7. 7. Beautifies Neighbourhoods – With a keen eye to transforming contested and disused space, Grow works hard to beautify a space which may have been an eyesore in a neighbourhood. We don’t do this in any convoluted way, rather work with local people to decide what is best, maximise flower planting at the edge of a site, keep hard surfacing to a minimum, plant trees and generally think long term with regard to neighbourhood renewal and biodiversity.
  8. 8. Produces Nutritious Food – Food costs have risen significantly in recent years. Organic food is often beyond the reach of many, especially those in receipt of pensions, disability allowances or benefits. Being able to grow and cook fresh organic produce makes a real difference to diet and health. Many people who would have limited the range of vegetables they would have used, tend to increase the range and quantity of vegetables and fruit they cook with every week as result of involvement in the garden. Children involved with the project begin to identify and eat vegetables they would have never considered before.
  9. 9. Reduces Family Food Budgets – Not only do those participating every week benefit from a reduction in the cost of buying food but we have also been able to donate surplus food to a range of organisations including Bryson Asylum Seeker Service. Many asylum seekers receive vouchers instead of money and often cannot afford to buy fresh produce.
  10. 10. Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and health – The health and wellbeing benefits of community gardening are well documented for e.g. Studies (like the one conducted by Lackey and Associates) have shown that community gardeners and their children eat healthier, have more nutrient rich diets than do non-gardening families • But one health benefit that you might surprise you relates to asthma in children – where a recent study of community gardens in the US found that ‘Eating locally produced food reduces asthma rates, because children are able to consume manageable amounts of local pollen and develop immunities.
    Gardens can be areas for recreation and exercise. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the “creation of or enhanced access to places for physical activity combined with informational outreach” produced a 48.4 percent increase in frequency of physical activity in addition to a 5.1 percent median increase in aerobic capacity, reduced body fat, weight loss, improved flexibility and energy
    All of Grow’s participant gardeners report a reduction in stress through their regular community garden participation as well as a general feeling of wellbeing. Exposure to green space reduces stress and increases a sense of wellness and belonging (Bremer et al, 2003, p. 55). “A ten percent increase in nearby greenspace was found to decrease a person’s health complaints in an amount equivalent to a five year reduction in that person’s age”
  11. 11. Preserves Green Space – Developing and maintaining garden space is less expensive than parkland area, in part because gardens require little land and 80% of their cost is in labour. • Community gardens provide a place to retreat from the noise and commotion of urban environments and can often renew interest in an unused brown field urban site, transforming it into a vibrant, green hub of a local community
  12. 12. Food Production – Community gardens allow families and individuals without land of their own the opportunity to produce food. Oftentimes gardeners take advantage of the experiential knowledge of elders to produce a significant amount of food for the household.
    Urban agriculture is 3-5 times more productive per acre than traditional large-scale farming.
    Local agriculture conserves resources by shortening the commodity chain, saving on fuel demand.
  13. 13. Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connection – Community gardens offer unique opportunities to establish relationships within and across physical and social barriers including:
    • Inter-generational exposure to cultural traditions
    • Cultural exchange with other gardeners
    • Access to non-English speaking communities
  14. A recent study found that compared to residents living near barren areas, those closer to green common spaces, are more likely to use them and as a result more likely to interact with neighbours.


© 2011 Grow
Web design by Thomas McClure.

Urban Farming

What Is A Permaculture Garden: The Essence Of Permaculture Gardening

Permaculture gardens use techniques and practices that combine the best of wildlife gardening, edible landscaping, and native-plant cultivation into one low-maintenance, self-contained and productive ecosystem. Let’s learn more about the essence of permaculture gardening. Why Use Permaculture? Permaculture gardens serve many functions. Rather than limit the garden to only one use, permaculture gardens employ a variety of uses. A permaculture garden provides food and medicinal crops, wildlife habitats, crafting materials, an attractive appearance, and a private, relaxing atmosphere throughout every season. These types of gardens produce food by using a variety of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers. Flowers are not only grown for their edible or medicinal properties but also for use as cut flowers for beautiful bouquets or dried out for additional longer-lasting displays, and numerous plant materials are used for crafts as well. Permaculture gardens welcome wildlife and are often used as quiet sanctuaries for meditating and/or exercise too. What is a Permaculture Garden? Permaculture gardens are self-sustaining. Some of the gardening and recycling methods that are common to permaculture include: How To Take Care Of Orchid Plants Indoors Edible gardening & companion planting – Edible gardening practices are commonplace. Vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, small fruit-bearing trees, and companion plantings are commonly grown together. The closest plants are those that get used on a regular basis or those requiring higher maintenance. Greenhouses can be used year round for growing a variety of plants as well. Raised beds & Vertical gardening techniques – Permaculture gardens are usually quite small in size; however, every piece of available space is used. Raised beds are a commonplace with a permaculture garden, filled with an assortment of plants. Raised beds take up little room, are more easily accessible, drain easily and are attractive. Vertical gardening practices are often used. These include growing plants on trellises and in hanging baskets. Keyhole gardening – Creative patterns in the permaculture garden define edges and increase productivity. One of these designs includes the keyhole garden. Not only is it beautiful, but it is extremely productive. It can easily be adapted to the specific needs of the gardener. The beds in this garden are normally horseshoe shaped and are sized so that it is easily accessible in all areas. The beds can be situated near the home for quick access or along a well-traversed path. There are different ways to construct a keyhole garden. Generally, raised beds are preferred and well-suited for perennial plants, which are also commonly favored. Because of the fact that most perennials have deeper root systems and can, therefore, tap into the moisture and minerals needed from deep beneath the ground, these plants do not require as much water or fertilizer as other plants, such as annuals. Also, perennials are usually around throughout the year, offering shelter to wildlife. Keyhole gardens can also be designed in a circle, with the center housing a variety of herbs and perennials. The center can also include a small tree or shrub, and if space permits, a small pond or other water feature may be added. Sheet mulching –  Sheet mulching (such as lasagna gardening)  is another alternative, especially for annual plantings. Rather than tilling up the soil, a weed barrier such as wet newspaper or cardboard is applied to the area. These will eventually breakdown over time, allowing both water and plant roots to enter the soil. It also helps to enrich the soil. Another layer of straw, or other suitable organic mulch, is then put down to define the keyhole’s path. Around its outer edges, a layer of compost and soil is applied for plantings. This will then be covered with additional straw to help retain moisture. Soil & Composting – Soil is always important and great care is given to this in a permaculture garden. Worms are essential in permaculture gardens. They help keep soil loose and healthy. A good soil structure consists of a large population of earthworms and a natural balance of beneficial insects. Compost piles are another important element in permaculture gardens. All materials for fertilizing and mulching are produced within the permaculture garden. Benefits of Permaculture Gardening Nothing within the permaculture garden should ever be wasted. Garden waste is used for composting, which in turn, is used for soil amendment and fertilizer. Water is also an important element with permaculture gardens. Not only does water keep the soil and plants hydrated, but it is also used to attract wildlife to the permaculture garden. Many permaculture gardens even implement recycling practices for watering. For instance, rain barrels are often used to catch rainwater coming from the gutter downspout. This not only saves on water but is especially good for the garden as rainwater is loaded with nutrients. There is no need for pesticides in a permaculture garden. Water features often encourage beneficial insects, birds, frogs, and other small wildlife creatures, and many of these will feed on pests in the permaculture garden. Companion plantings also help keep insect and other pest problems to a minimum. Permaculture gardens require less maintenance. Once a permaculture garden has established itself, you do nothing but water and harvest crops or add occasional mulch. Permaculture simply refers to a garden that can essentially take care of itself. Each plant in a permaculture garden has a specific purpose. Some are used solely for food and others for medicine. Some are planted to attract beneficial insects, while others are planted to deter pests. Then there are those that are strictly planted for improving the soil, and those that simply boost the permaculture garden’s beauty. There’s no better way to enjoy and benefit from all that nature has to offer than in a permaculture garden. Printer Friendly Version This article was last updated on 06/01/20 Read more about Organic Gardens Did you find this helpful? Share it with your friends! You Might Also Like

Read more at Gardening Know How: What Is A Permaculture Garden: The Essence Of Permaculture Gardening

Urban Farming

Benefits of Backyard Chickens

When Green America member Laura Gidney and her husband John were househunting in New York state, they knew their new home had to be in a neighborhood zoned for backyard chickens. The Gidney family now has ten adult chickens, with 20 newly hatched chicks this spring. They make their home in a comfortable coop with plenty of space to roam. Each morning, the Gidneys enjoy fresh eggs from their mini-flock.

As the Gidneys have learned, keeping a small flock of chickens in your backyard has many benefits, from supplying you with fresh, healthy eggs from well-cared-for animals, to giving you great fertilizer for gardening, to providing lively pets—as well as being part of the drive to local, sustainable food systems.

Why Chickens?

Most chicken-owners have the same reason for starting up their flocks: eggs. By getting eggs from your own chickens, you avoid supporting industrial farms that produce the majority of eggs sold in the US. Egg-producing hens on factory farms are often kept in such close, inhumane quarters that they cannot stretch their legs or wings, walk around, or participate in normal social behaviors.

Also, studies by Mother Earth News have demonstrated that pasture-raised eggs, from chickens given space to peck for food, are more nutritious than industry-sourced eggs, with pasture-raised eggs containing two to three times more omega-3 fatty acids and one-third the cholesterol of factory-farmed eggs. With certified organic chicken feed available, you can keep your chickens healthy while supporting sustainable farming.

Those healthier eggs may cost a little more than factory-farmed eggs at the grocery store, but they’re competitive with and often cheaper than the cost of local, free-range eggs. Taking into account only the cost of food but not coop materials or other one-time expenses, most backyard chicken-keepers estimate they pay about $3 per dozen for backyard eggs. Eggs at most farmers’ markets tend to run from $5+ per dozen.

Chickens also serve as great composters for your kitchen scraps. Andrew Malone, who runs Funky Chicken Farm in Melbourne, FL, says he can’t think of much you can’t feed a chicken.

“They’re omnivores and will eat just about anything that comes out of the kitchen, including meat,” he says. Just make sure to supplement kitchen scraps with a proper feed, Malone warns, to ensure your chickens are getting the nutrition they need to stay healthy and lay strong eggs.

You can then add the chicken’s waste to your compost pile and use it on your garden as a fertilizer. In addition, chickens will happily eat up insects and pests in your yard.

Provided that children are gentle with the chickens, Jim Dennis, owner of Phoenix-based chicken company Rent-a-Hen, has observed that chickens can make social and even affectionate pets.

“For my children, every morning it’s a race to see which one of them gets to collect the eggs,” says Laura Gidney. “Today most kids are in a race to play a video game, so we are happy to have our kids out in the fresh air, playing in the dirt with their chickens.”

Check Local Ordinances

Before you run out and buy a clutch of chicks, make sure you’re ready for the commitment. First, check with your local officials to ensure that chickens are allowed where you live. Some municipalities have bans on chickens, or limits on how many chickens you can keep on your property. Because of their infamous early-morning cockadoodle-doos, roosters are banned from many cities.

If your city isn’t yet chicken-friendly, has articles on how to change local ordinances.

Building a Happy Chicken Home

If your local ordinances approve of chickens, you’ll want to provide your birds with a chicken coop, or a secure hen house that will offer the birds a place to lay eggs, as well as a “run” where they can roam and peck. Make sure your coop also protects them from predators.

“If you’ve never seen a raccoon on your property, I can almost guarantee you’ll see one within the first few nights that you bring those chickens home,” says Malone.

Each chicken needs three to four square feet of space in the coop, and another three to four square feet in the run. Because chickens are social animals, Malone suggests a minimum of six chickens—which would require an 18-sq foot coop and a run of equal size.

If you’re a do-it-yourself-er, the Internet is rife with ideas and instructions—from coops on wheels that can be moved from place-to-place in your yard to designs to build a coop for under $100.

Your local feed store and online companies like or The Front Yard Coop also carry ready-built chicken coops.

Experts also recommend having one nesting box inside the coop for every three to four chickens—you can use a pre-fabricated wooden box from a feed store, or utilize any number of things you may have at home, like old milk crates, plastic tubs, and even a five-gallon bucket placed on its side. Or your chickens may choose their own place to lay. Green America member Rob McLane of Tucson, AZ, says that one of his chickens wanders inside every day to lay an egg in the family laundry basket.

Daily Care Concerns

Taking proper care of your chickens will ensure that they stay healthy, and will help you get the most eggs out of your flock. Each chicken requires about ¼ cup of feed per day, as well as a supply of fresh, clean water. Chickens can survive both hot and cold weather, and will be fine outside with temperatures as low as 15 degrees, but their laying patterns will change with the seasons.

Be sure to be vigilant about cleaning your chicken coop every two weeks and cleaning your hands and shoes after handling chickens and their eggs. A report from the Center for Disease Control this summer traced a seven-year salmonella outbreak to a hatchery that shipped chicks to consumers around the country. The outbreak has since ended, but the report emphasizes the importance of good hygiene when handling your chickens.

Pickin’ Chickens

From Rhode Island Reds to Plymouth Rocks, there are many breeds available for your flock. Different breeds come with different personalities and different rates of egg-laying—and you can combine breeds in one flock for variety. While Malone says choosing a favorite chicken breed would be “like picking a favorite child,” he notes that brown-egg- laying breeds tend to be more social and docile.

Mother Earth News has a “Pickin’ Chicken” app to help you choose, or use’s Breed Selector Tool to find the breed of chicken right for you.

Depending on where you live, there are several ways to get your chickens. Some chicken keepers choose to raise their chickens from chicks. This requires providing the chicks with additional heat and special feed; chicks can be found at local feed stores and farms. You may also be able to find older chickens locally— old enough to be outside without extra heat, but not yet laying eggs.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, many chickens with years of egg-laying ahead of them are brought to shelters and farm sanctuaries, and while they may not produce eggs at the rate of younger hens, they may be a perfect match for families who want to raise humanely treated chickens and save an adult chicken from slaughter.

Most hens start laying eggs at about six months old and will lay with the greatest frequency for that first year—giving you about four to seven eggs each week, though it may vary with the seasons. The number of eggs she’ll produce will reduce by about ten percent each subsequent year, and most backyard hens can live from eight to ten years.

Different people will make different decisions about what to do with a chicken at the end of her productive egg-laying period. For many, backyard chickens are seen as pets, and their owners will choose to continue to care for them for the duration of their natural lives. Others will butcher their older hens, using them as an additional source of food. Because of the increased numbers of hens being given to shelters and sanctuaries, the US Humane Society asks that people not drop off their non-productive chickens.

If you think chickens might be right for your family, keep in mind Laura Gidney’s words: “I always encourage anyone who can to totally do it!” she says. “Besides the fact that the eggs taste better, you know the quality of the food you give your birds, you know the conditions they live in, and it’s a beautiful thing to see your kids are out there taking care of and loving these birds and getting nutritious food out the whole deal.

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Urban Farming


Learn how growing your own food can improve your physical and mental health, as well as the health of the  environment.

Growing your own produce is a simple solution to numerous health, environmental, and economic problems. Whether you are growing a single tomato plant or have a large backyard garden, it is beneficial to your health, as well as the environments.

Five reasons to grow your own food include:

1. More Nutritious

When growing your own food, your dietis more diverse and healthy, packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Food in its rawest, freshest form is not only the tastiest way to enjoy it, but also the most nutritional. The majority of produce sold in grocery stores go through a long process of being harvested, shipped and distributed to stores. Once distributed, the produce can end up staying in storage or on the shelf for an extended period of time before being purchased, losing nutritional value.

2. Stay Active

Gardening is a fun way to get outside for some fresh air and physical activity. The physical activity required in gardening has proven to promote physical health. Involvement in gardening helps to improve cardiac health and immune system response, decrease heart rate and stress, improve fine and gross motor skills, flexibility and body strength. Getting regular exercisecan relieve stress, anxiety and depression, while boosting energy.

3. Get Vitamin D

Gardening is a great way to absorb vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is crucial in order to maintain healthy bones and teeth, and it can also protect against certain diseases.

4. Save Money

You can save a lot of moneyby growing your own vegetables and fruits. By spending a few dollars on seeds, plants, and supplies in the spring, you will produce vegetables that will yield pounds of produce in summer.

5. Better for the Environment

Long-distance transportation of produce relies heavily on fossil fuels. Growing your own food would help reduce the reliance on this transportation that is harming the environment. Also, by growing your own food, you are not using chemicals or pesticides that can harm environment.Tags: Healthy UNHNutritionMeghan Lussier5 Reasons to Grow Your Own FoodHealthy

Urban Farming

Urban farming’ produces little food but lots of social benefits

Urban farming makes a significant difference in the world, but not in the ways you might think.By Ron MeadorMay 10, 2016

Futuristic urban farming makes for fun feature stories – I particularly enjoy Belinda Jensen’s “Grow with KARE” pieces – but can they make much difference in the world?

Yes, according to a research review published Thursday by the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University. But not in the ways you might think.

“Vacant Lots to Vibrant Plots/A Review of the Benefits and Limitations of Urban Agriculture” assesses the findings of 167 studies worldwide that looked at a wide range of food-production techniques from about every perspective you might imagine: economic to environmental, horticultural to multicultural.

Among the positives for “urban farming” (in shorthand):

  • People get better access to fresher foods and at lower prices, but, so far, only in smallish quantities.
  • Fossil-fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions can be significantly reduced, not so much by avoiding “fuel miles” as by replacing diesel power with muscle.
  • Urban landscapes and living conditions are improved when abandoned land is planted in vegetables and fruits, and this can raise property values in neighborhoods that have seen values moving downward for decades.
  • Some jobs are created, but perhaps more significant are the social payoffs in the form of community involvement, workforce training and the creation of “social capital.”

These benefits notwithstanding, the notion that our industrialized food systems can be changed much by urban farming is probably fanciful, at least at scales seen so far:

  • The areas under cultivation remain small, and even if scaled up to their theoretical maxima could not begin to supplant more than a small fraction of conventional fruit and vegetable production.  (Forget about meats and cereal grains.)
  • Small-scale farming is essentially and perhaps inherently inefficient, and tends to continue industrial farming’s tradition of paying workers at the lower end of the scale.
  • Not all of the environmental impacts of growing food on inner-city blocks are beneficial or even benign; there have been issues with pesticides, fertilizers and dust moving off the land and into places we’d just as soon not have it. Also, there’s the problem of turning soil tainted long ago with heavy metals and other detritus of industrial rot.

Because the Hopkins center is devoted to pursuing a sustainable, healthy alternative to currently prevailing food systems, its bedrock conclusion that “the benefits of urban agriculture may be overstated” could be taken as an admission against interest.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER ADVERTISEMENT

It’s an important and credible conclusion, though, as is the observation of its lead author, Raychel Santo, that “while urban agriculture alone will not solve the many dilemmas of our food system, it can be part of a constellation of interventions needed to transform the food system into one that is more socially just, ecologically sound, and economically viable.”

Let’s take a closer look at some of the report’s key points:

Community gardens predominate

Although journalists are drawn like bees to blossoms when somebody launches a new venture in in rooftop greenhousing, basement aquaculture,  or conversion of industrial buildings to multifloor  “vertical farms” enclosed by “edible walls,” the oldfangled community garden remains, formwise, the dominant source of urban produce.

In other words, urban agriculture is still scaled far more to the garden than the farm, even the small farm, and this is unlikely to change in the near future.

While the Worldwatch Institute estimated five years ago that up to 20 percent of the world’s food is “grown in urban areas’ – according to a piece at, which is the sole coverage I’ve seen of the Hopkins paper – it’s unclear how U.S. production compares to that number, or what it would take to grow to that level.

To get an idea of the complexity at work in predicting capacity factors, consider these three citations:

  • A study finding that “if all suitable vacant land in New York City were dedicated entirely to food production, the produce needs of between 103,000 and 160,000 people (out of the city’s 8.4 million residents) could be met, although this potential could be significantly increased by including rooftop and greenhouse farming.”
  • A study finding that Burlington, Vermont, “could meet 108 percent of its daily recommended food intake (albeit in limited varieties compared to the diversity offered by the global market) through an ambitious urban food forestry planting scheme.”
  • A multi-county comparative analysis which found “that less than 10 percent of urban land in the U.S. would be required to produce the recommended consumption of vegetables by urban dwellers, although its macro-level scale required a number of simplifications that could not account for practical constraints such as current land uses and suitability for food production (e.g., sunlight exposure, water access), property values and competing land uses, infrastructure limitations, zoning regulations, public accessibility, etc.”

Center for a Livable Future/Johns Hopkins UniversityA variety of futuristic methods are under discussion for urban food production, but it’s the old-style community garden that’s responsible for most of the current yield.

Bright spots in the ‘burbs

At the moment, the opportunities we might characterize as low-hanging fruit for urban agriculturists lie not in, say, inner-city aquaponics projects (where fish and vegetables are raised simultaneously in indoor tanks under artificial lights) but in what the report calls “peri-urban farming.”

The definition here is a little murky – we’re talking about land in the transition buffer between urban and rural land – but the production potential has been demonstrated in a series of studies finding that an awful lot of food can be grown in only a little space, using largely traditional dirt-farming methods.

In Australia, peri-urban agriculture produces 25 percent of the country’s total gross value of agricultural production on less than 3 percent of agricultural land, and some metropolitan regions meet over 90 percent of certain fruit and vegetable needs.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER ADVERTISEMENT

The aforementioned report on New York found that if all the peri-urban agricultural land in the metropolitan region surrounding the city were dedicated to food production, it could support between 58-89 percent of the region’s fruit and vegetable needs (excluding warm-weather fruits).

Environmentally speaking, the Hopkins paper finds that urban farming, by creating green space of various types, can improve air quality by filtering particulates and other pollutants, reduce rainwater runoff, moderate “heat island’ effects of pavement, provide pollinator habitat, and sequester impressive amounts of atmospheric carbon (sometimes more per acre than forests).

Smaller-scale growing reduces the need for fossil-fuel inputs, but its inherent fragmentation also lowers efficiency in the use of water, fertilizer and other inputs. Still, it seems to yield some public health benefits to participants, especially older people for whom it becomes a principal physical activity.

Hope sprouts

There is little evidence that distributed agriculture, as we might term it, is adding significantly to food security or, for that matter, economic security.

A study in San Jose, California, found that participants in a gardening program for low-income people saved at least $240 a year per household on groceries, with some saving three times that much.

But farm labor remains “one of the most exploitative of lowest-paying industries in the U.S. today,” and this is unlikely to change in an urban farming sector where an average hydroponic operation posts $5,000 a year in sales and only one-third of urban farmers report that they earn some kind of living from their efforts.

On the other hand, the report finds a range of social benefits that seem to settle over people when they work together to grow stuff, especially when they are otherwise disadvantaged.  

Neighborhood cleanliness and cohesion improve; workplace skills are learned; transitions back from prison life are eased; young people get practical education in science, healthy eating and delayed gratification; community groups become more adept at pressing their governments to deliver what they need.

Urban Farming

How Growing Your Own Food Can Benefit the Planet and Why You Should Consider It

Buying food that is locally grown from your farmer’s market or local grocer is a great way to minimize your environmental impact, but growing your own food takes it to the next level.

The easiest way to imagine how growing your own food reduces your carbon footprint and benefits the planet is to think of food production and distribution in terms of an empty jar. The fuller the jar is, the greater the environmental impact, and the more components involved in producing your food and bringing your food to your plate.Advertisement

Fossil Fuels and Fresh Produce

When you take into account the typical energy cost of transporting food to your local grocer, it is estimated that an average distance of 1,500 miles is traveled before the food is consumed. This large-scale, long-distance transportation of food relies heavily on the energy from burning fossil fuels. In fact, it is estimated that we currently put nearly 10 kilo calories of fossil fuel energy into our food system for every one kilo-calorie of energy we get as food. Why is this bad?

Of the many public health and environmental risks associated with burning fossil fuels, the most serious, in terms of its potentially irreversible consequences, is a phenomenon we have all become familiar with – climate change. As Noble Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai states, “Climate change is life or death. It is the new global battlefield. It is being presented as if it is the problem of the developed world. But it’s the developed world that has precipitated global warming.”

Despite fossil fuels containing large amounts of energy,  they are rarely found in a pure, untouched state. More often than not, fossil fuels are refined and purified into a usable form, leaving excess waste material that requires disposal. The disposal and handling of this toxic waste take a large toll on the health of the environment, the health of wildlife, and the health of surrounding communities.

The Question of Pesticides and Fertilizer

Another factor to take into account is the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on conventionally grown crops. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the use of many pesticides that were not yet extensively researched and were later linked to cancer and other diseases. Now the EPA considers 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides, and 30 percent of all insecticides carcinogenic. In fact, the latest EPA information on U.S. pesticide usage, from 2007, reports that over one billion tons of pesticides are used in the U.S. every year. This is 22 percent of the estimated 5.2 billion pounds of pesticides used worldwide.  Agricultural use accounted for 80 percent of pesticide use in the U.S.  If you are growing your own food, you can decide what goes on, or what doesn’t go on, your produce.Advertisement

And Then There Were Monocultures 

Then there’s the concern of monocropping, or growing only one type of crop in a large area of land. This common farming practice used in the United States, and in other countries, relies on government support for commodity crop production (including wheat, corn, and soy) through the use of government subsidies. These farming practices reduce biodiversity, rely heavily on pesticides and commercial fertilizers, involve heavily mechanized farming practices, incorporate genetically engineered seeds, and result in a loss of soil nutrients. Growing your own food allows you to avoid all of the negative repercussions that come along with monocultures, while protecting your health and the environment’s health.

Other Benefits of Growing Your Own Food

As you avoid some of the negative sides to shopping for food – including a heavy dependence on fossil fuels, carcinogenic pesticides and fertilizers, and monocultures – growing your own food can give you something you may not have considered: exercise. Planting, weeding, watering, and caring for your plants will provide you with a workout that is meaningful.Advertisement

If you have children, encourage them to join in, too. It can also be argued that growing your own food yields better-tasting food with a higher nutritional value. We’ve all had that friend with the organic garden and after trying one of their vegetables had the “Wow! That tastes so delicious and fresh!” reaction.

Additionally, growing your own food diversifies your palate and exposes your diet to healthier foods – especially if you choose to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. To learn more about the benefits of what we like to call “eating the rainbow,” check this out.Advertisement

The last and maybe most important reason for some is growing your own food can shrink your grocery bill. If you cannot afford to buy organic food, you won’t have to put your money towards industries that rely on practices that pollute and harm the environment’s health (and human health). If you buy non-hybrid, heirloom species, you can save the seeds from the best producers, dry them, and use them for the next growing season. Learning to can, dry, or preserve your summer or fall harvest will allow you to feed yourself even when the growing season is over. If you live in a part of the world that becomes cold and snowy during the winter, check out this post on inexpensive ways to grow food in the winter!

Bringing it back to the empty jar analogy, the heaviest jar, or the jar with the largest carbon footprint, is the jar filled with the components needed for conventional methods of consuming food. By growing your own food, even if you just start with a few crops, you are contributing to a healthier you and a healthier planet.

To learn about 10 vegetables that you can grow all year round, click here. Happy gardening!

For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter! Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!

Urban Farming


The practice of urban agriculture is incredibly variable. There are a tremendous number of  current technologies and systems for developing urban agriculture on both large and small scales, and on surfaces that are both horizontal and vertical. It demands a certain ingenuity, or creative spirit, to take on farming of all types in the city and the best practices are the ones that take advantage of existing opportunities and infrastructures.


Large Scale


Large scale projects in urban agriculture are less common because they bring up complex political and social issues regarding urban land use, ownership and labor. Cuba is the best, and perhaps only example, of a large scale urban agriculture movement that has been formally deployed. There are also other large scale instances of urban agriculture in other developing countries where it is an issue of survival. There aren’t any examples in the United States currently, but there is a project in the works in New York called the Five Borough Farm. This is a pilot project that is looking to consolidate disused, under-used or vacant urban land in New York City, for the purpose of creating the first city-wide urban agriculture plan in the country. The land under discussion is city owned, and the intention of the project, after completing a survey of existing urban agriculture initiatives throughout the five boroughs, is to leverage the available land base and those existing projects to show the city how it can support and improve the urban agriculture movement in New York through policy changes.

Small Scale


There are countless examples of people producing small amounts of food (vegetables, a fruit tree, etc.) for personal consumption in their own yards. There are also many examples of community based agriculture all over the world. These community gardens are large garden areas in a common space where each tenant has their own area to garden.

On the Roof


Since open land in cities that’s available for growing crops is scarce, many have started growing crops on the other horizontal surface in cities that are in abundance: rooftops. Roof gardens have become ever more popular, especially in cities where land values and density are high. Food production is possible on an intensive green roof where the soil is deep enough to accommodate vegetables, like the Gary Comer Youth Center. These types of systems can be a bit expensive, especially compared to just having large boxes or pots of soil to grow in. A roof can be done by one group that takes care of the entire roof or can be split up and done as community garden plots.


Greenhouses can be an important addition to these urban agricultural systems, especially in northern climates where the growing season may be rather short. Adding a greenhouse component to these horizontal systems can allow for much higher production over a longer period of time. Greenhouses can even be operated in a more sustainable manner by using waste heat from a nearby building or industry to heat them.


Dr. Dickson Despommier, of Environmental Health Science at Columbia University makes a compelling argument for utilizing city skyscrapers for vertical farming. He notes that growing food indoors is already becoming commonplace with the techniques of hydroponics (growing plants not in soil, but with the roots in a nutrient rich water solution) as well as aeroponics (growing plants, not in soil but suspended with the roots exposed that are then sprayed with a nutrient-rich water solution).


Hydroponic and aeroponic greenhouses currently allow crops to be produced year-round with maximized yields because of ideal growing and ripening conditions. It can also be done without concern for outdoor environmental conditions such as soil, precipitation or temperature profiles and could even be supplied by gray water and powered by renewable technologies. By utilizing these existing technologies in dense, urban areas, a 30-story building covering one city block could produce 2,400 acres of a year.

Small scale vertical farming can be as simple as a few pots in window sills.  There are some products that allow for easier vertical farming. Bohn & Viljoen Architects has designed a hydroponic system that can be hung in a window like a curtain.



The main reasons for urban agriculture are producing more food closer to home, food security and reducing the demand for food products generated by traditional agriculture systems. Therefore, urban agriculture isn’t just about growing produce, but can also include raising animals.

There has been a strong push for raising chickens in back yards, which is legal in Chicago and many other major cities. Producing much less waste and being less noisy than a dog, there are not many drawbacks to urban chickens. They can produce around an egg a day, which is more nutritious and delicious than store-bought eggs. They can also be fed table scraps, reducing feed cost as well as organic waste that would have to be shipped away.

Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms, including fish, mollusks, crustaceans and aquatic plants. (‘Farming’ here implies some sort of intervention such as regular stocking, feeding, or protection from predators.) Both indoor systems in tanks, and outdoor systems in ponds can be used. Unlike most forms of livestock, aquaculture systems can be very compatible with nearby residential areas and provide an opportunity to treat organic domestic waste. In many countries, such as India, Thailand, China and Vietnam, human waste is used as a source of nutrients for aquaculture, which is then treated in the process; however, this practice needs to be done with extensive management in order to prevent disease. Tilapia and carp are the main fish used in aquaculture.

Dr. Noel Arrold took advantage of an existing disused rail tunnel in Sydney Australia and began growing mushrooms there. The cool, dark and damp space provides a perfect space for growing them, while reinvigorating this existing infrastructure.

Many cities have also started allowing the keeping of bees on rooftops.  This greatly helps maintain a bee population within a city, which has many great environmental benefits like pollinating crops on green roofs and other urban farms. They also produce honey, which can be eaten or sold.  There are many bee colonies in Chicago, including on City Hall, Chicago Cultural Center and the Marriott Hotel.

Rice paddies are a less common product for urban agriculture but this project utilizes empty lots in downtown Tokyo.

Urban Farming

8 Important Benefits of Raising Backyard Chickens

Raising Backyard Chickens, a lovely farming hobby at our backyards.

If you are in Ghana, you will notice the raising of backyard chickens as a common trend in most households. Almost all farm households keep one type of animal basically for subsistence and chicken is the commonest of them. The practice of raising chickens in backyards hold some tremendous benefits beyond the obvious.

Why raise chickens in the backyard?

Now lets us look at the reasons that will compel you to start raising chickens on your own in your backyard.

  • Ready source of fresh, tasty free-range eggsChickens raised in a free-range system produce eggs that are relatively tastier. This is probably because they have access to a wider variety of vegetation and organism to feed on. Free range chicken eggs contain less cholesterol and saturated fat, and more vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and beta-carotene. Eggs can be collected fresh and consumed.
  • Eliminate food wasteTo supplement the feed for the chickens, you can add food left-over and other kitchen waste to feed them. Therefore, instead of dumping left-overs, you can convert that to good food again by feeding it to the chicken.
  • Source of manureThe droppings of the birds serve as good manure for your gardens. Make good use of it by collecting it from their coops and spreading on your gardens. Chicken manure contains high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and is more economically valuable than synthetic fertilizers.
  • A ready source of fresh, tasty, organic meat for the family.It is always a delight when we are asked to grab a chicken for weekend supper. The excitement and all besides a meal prepared with fresh, tasty, organic meat of a chicken. It is surely a family delight. For that alone, I made sure the birds are well catered for.
  • Pest control.Chickens love to eat protein-packed insects, and so helps to control a wide range of insects around the house. They will take care of the crickets, grasshoppers, snails and other pests in the garden. They love to eat many weeds too, and serve as post-harvest garden bed gleaners, helping you with work on your gardener.
  • The benefit of good health and long life.Heard of oxytocin?. It’s a stress-lowering chemical in your body that’s released when you hug someone you love or even pet your dog or cat. Anyone who has raised backyard chickens can probably say the same about the hen. Studies have shown that those of us with pets live happier, healthier and longer lives. Activities on chickens like picking of eggs, cleaning coop or feeding come with some excitement. You will usually find me talking to the hen whiles I do all that. It is an awesome experience.
  • Learning opportunity for childrenChildren learn a lot from the experience of raising chickens. The biology of chicken development and qualities of caring are among the lessons a child picks up as they raise their chickens.
  • Source of incomeThere is quite a demand for organic chickens and the sources are mostly those raised in backyards. They are, however, not always available. Families take advantage of that to make some money by selling some of the chickens or their fresh eggs. The money goes into supplementing the families budget.