Ecoist Abode Article

Urban Farms becoming more popular everyday

One of the most unsustainable aspects of our culture is how we grow our food. The dominance of large factory farms and mass production has resulted in significant environmental tolls, including soil erosion, extensive use of pesticides, and damage to water systems. Even with our large agriculture sector there are large areas without access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead of relying on big grocery stores or farms to deliver fresh foods a new revolution is sprouting across the country. Urban farms are popping up everywhere from Detroit to Atlanta to Brooklyn.

From vacant lots in Detroit to rooftop farms in New York City.  The trend is growing as locals yearn for fresh produce that is locally grown.

Inspecting his crops, Ben Flanner, the 30 yr old head farmer at Brooklyn Grange Farm, takes hold of a bunch of greens and tugs, pulling up a bright-orange carrot. The vegetable, like the rest of his produce, will make its way to a local restaurant or a farmers’ market. “I think it really makes sense to grow food close to where it’s consumed,” he says as he picks a spinach leaf, balls it up, and pops it into his mouth. The former E-Trade employee considered leaving New York to pursue his dream of becoming a farmer, but he didn’t really want to move. Instead, in 2009, he started Eagle Street Farm in Brooklyn, managing it for a year before planting his rooftop crops with a new team at Brooklyn Grange Farm. “There’s really nothing negative to say about urban farming. For me personally, this allows me to farm close to my community without having to leave the city.”

Similar farmsteads ranging from less than one acre to tens of acres are breaking ground in metropolises nationwide. On a single acre lot in the heart of Chicago, 83 types of vegetables are growing; they include beets, arugula, kale, carrots, potatoes, and 30 tomato varieties. Detroit residents are getting their hands dirty in community gardens and market gardens, reclaiming the city’s many abandoned lots. A Philadelphia cooperative is sprouting produce that it sells at a nearby grocery store, and farm animals are running around yards in Oakland, California. Such operations may provide fresh local food to underserved communities, or sell veggies to local restaurants. Although they don’t produce nearly as much food as their industrial counterparts, these urban farms do provide significant benefits: They reduce the miles food travels from farm to plate, cut down on rainwater runoff, and provide oases for insects, birds, and other wildlife. On top of that, they revitalize vacant lots, greening properties abandoned in the wake of industrial decay.

City governments hit hard by dying industry and the poor economy are starting to embrace urban farms as worthwhile investments. Cleveland officials recently announced that the city will be funding a $1.1 million project to train 20 neighborhood residents to grow crops on a quarter-acre of land each. Those novice farmers, who currently earn an average annual income of just over $9,500, will then be able to sell their produce to schools, restaurants, and at farmers’ markets for a profit. The project could expand from six acres to 20 if successful. The first seeds may sprout this spring. That new life represents a fresh start for the farmers and symbolizes the deeper connection to nature that is taking root in metropolises around the nation.
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