The “Big City” allure that the lured the farmer’s children off the farm is definitely changing. One only has to look at Detroit and other similar rust belt cites with their abandoned homes and overgrown lots to know the future will be different. With middle and low income wages stagnating or even declining, the 99%ers are calling attention to the income disparity that has overtaken America. They understand that the ticket to the “American Dream” that was punched by hard work and willingness to follow the rules has been reduced to confetti for many.
While the system sorts things out, it is now necessary, more than ever, for individuals, families, and small community-based groups to help themselves. One of these sure-fired methods is the backyard garden. Also gaining popularity is the community garden. For many, gone are the days of a trip to Grandmother’s farm for a visit where upon leaving she loaded you up with fresh fruits and veggies, but some are beginning to reproduce the “rural setting” in the urban setting.
History Of Urban Farming
While urban farming is not a new concept, it is making a modern comeback. In 1893, Detroit mayor Haze S. Pingree asked his constituents to use any available space to plant gardens. The goal was income production as well as providing food and independence for Detroit citizens during that decade’s depression. Then in WWI, President Wilson expanded that vision to include all of the USA and by 1919, 500 million pounds of produce were harvested from over 5 millions garden plots. During the Great Depression, subsistence gardens produced over 2.8 million dollars worth of food. World War II revived the concept under the name Victory Gardens and 5.5 million Americans participated and grew over 9 million pounds of fruits and vegetables in one year which actually amounted to 44% of all produce grown in the US at that time.
This is a concept that has proved itself time and time again, and it seems that we are entering another phase where urban farming will be not only beneficial, but perhaps necessary as many find themselves either out of work, or working at jobs that are paying much less than previously.
Social Benefits Of Urban Farming
The benefits of urban farming well surpass the nutrition aspect, though of course that is a major part of it. Urban garden plots can also provide increased income, employment, food for the household, decreased grocery expenditures, and also a “common ground” for neighbors. It also puts to use vacant plots of land that have been useless for years and now regain productive use.
Community gardens have existed in many cities for years and apart from bringing people together can also reduce the investment aspect of gardening as tools can be purchased for the group and shared. Also, each person can focus on one or two specialties allowing them not only to exchange with their neighbors, but to sell their surplus. Not only that, but it can provide constructive and fulfilling activity for children, teens, and the elderly as well.
One section of the population that has been practicing “urban” farming for years is the prison population. Many prisons have their own gardens where they grow vegetables for their own kitchens. This is a way of not only cutting down costs but also giving work for “idle hands”. There are many benefits to working with one’s hands in the soil as it is a very calming, nurturing, and healing activity.