Imagine a country where ideologues bent on land reform turn agriculture into the plaything of the world’s richest investors, and poor local farmers are locked out of millions of acres prime agricultural land. Then stop imagining some African country run by a despot and his friends and start picturing the United States. Rural America is on the cusp of one of the greatest transfers of land in its history and no one’s talking about it. Read more
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“Operating on a month-to-month lease means you never know what will happen tomorrow or the next day,” says Caitlyn Galloway of Little City Gardens, a ¾-acre commercial farm in San Francisco’s Outer Mission district. “It makes smart investments in our business, like longer-term tools and infrastructure, much riskier.” Read more
Last week there was cause for celebration in Washington, D.C. Not only was it the first week of school, it was also the first week for D.C.’s very first full-time school garden coordinator. Salaried. With benefits. Hired by the DC Public School System. Read more
In 2010, Ron Finley planted a garden on the 150-foot-long curbside strip outside his house in South Central Los Angeles. The produce — tomatoes, kale, corn, you name it — was free for the taking, and the colorful riot of herbs and flowers and vegetables got a lot of attention. The only unwelcome scrutiny was from the city of Los Angeles, which owns the land. Finley received a citation for growing plants that exceeded height limits, and for failing to purchase a $400 permit. By circulating a petition and bending the ear of a receptive city council member, Finley convinced the city to leave his garden alone. Around the same time, he helped start an organization called L.A. Green Grounds, dedicated to installing free vegetable gardens in curbside medians, vacant lots, and other properties in blighted areas. Read more
If you live in an urban area in the United States, you’ve probably seen a fair number of vacant lots dotting the streets. In 2001, nearly 15.4 percent of urban lands across the country were vacant, and the picture hasn’t improved much in more than a decade. Read more
As an east coast transplant to San Francisco, one of the things I immediately fell in love with in the Bay Area were the farmers’ markets. Here, unlike back east, they are abundant and, even better, year-round. Like many others, I love the local food economy that supports farmers’ markets, for knowing where my food comes as well as enjoying superlative freshness and flavor. But, in addition to these qualitative benefits, the region’s food economy provides distinct measurable benefits as well. Read more
Small-scale farming isn’t easy. The prices farmers receive for their goods are often low, the margins are tight, the days are long, and the chores never-ending. For farmers who don’t own their own property, land insecurity compounds financial instability. It’s tough to really dig in if you don’t know how long you can stay on the piece you’re farming. Read more
Americans cultivate an estimated 18,000 community gardens, and now more of their growing is taking place in city lots and building rooftops. Urban gardeners see numerous benefits, from a heightened sense of empowerment to a lighter grocery bill to lowered crime rates. Yet challenges to such projects inevitably spring up like crab grass. Read more
Practitioners of urban agriculture have a lot to be proud of, including forming part of a “food movement,” which is increasing in size and influence. People are questioning food systems conventions and the dominant forms of food production (industrial farming) and distribution (globalized trade) are being opposed more and more by communities around the globe. Urban agriculturists—with their claim for a viable alternative to the broken food system—seem to have at this moment a certain cultural cachet.
This is reflected in the attention urban farmers have garnered in the New York Times, Washington Post, and many other media outlets. It can be seen in the plethora of food movement documentaries like Food, Inc., Edible City, and Growing Cities. The idea of farming as a viable city activity has been further bolstered by initiatives like the White House garden. The founder of urban farming organization Growing Power, Will Allen, was even given the MacArthur “Genius” Award in 2008, in what some might pinpoint as the point of arrival for urban agriculture as a social force in the United States.
But there is an aspect of urban agriculture (UA) that is often overlooked: Economic and social class dynamics. Read more