Urban Farming and Gardening
By Kat Osorio
The word “farm” typically evokes images of rolling hills, red barns, and grazing livestock. However, urban farming is challenging this, one rooftop at a time, by proving that you don’t need acres of land and a tractor to grow tasty, nourishing food. It’s also an effective way to educate young people and adults alike about the importance of environmental stewardship and protection. Furthermore, urban farms and gardens increase access to fresh food for those who live in food deserts, thereby improving overall health and wellbeing of residents. If getting involved in urban farming sounds appealing to you, then just keep reading!
While urban farms and gardens don’t have the capacity (yet!) to provide enough fresh food to the residents of a whole city, they certainly have many other benefits. Evidence suggests that urban farms are associated with “improved neighborhood aesthetics, reduced crime, and community cohesion” (Plumer, 2016). Involvement in urban farming and gardening can also “increase social bonds and networks among neighbors” (Plumer, 2016), because it brings people together in the pursuit of a common goal that benefits everyone, besides being fun and a good way to de-stress. Lastly, urban farming and gardening increases awareness of and appreciation for nature, encouraging us to get back to our roots (pun intended!) and take a personal role in food production.
No matter what city you’re in, you’re bound to find at least one or two urban farms or community gardens. Below are some of the more well-known ones that are easy to get involved in, whether you’re looking for education, fresh produce, or want to support your community.
- Little Wild Things is known for their tasty and sustainably-grown micro greens and salad greens. You can find them at area farmers’ markets or visit their farm in NE D.C. to pick up.
- Cultivate the City’s mission is to “empower communities with tools and training for urban agriculture.” The organization’s H St. Farms offers school garden programs and workshops for individuals, as well as city-wide community gardens and a CSA program.
- Check out this directory to find a community garden near you in D.C.: http://dugnetwork.org/gardens-and-urban-farms/
New York City:
- The Battery Urban Farm started as an idea dreamed up by high school students, and eventually grew to include a vegetable farm, a forest farm, and oyster restoration stations. It serves as an excellent educational resource for area schools, and much of the produce grown is donated to those in need.
- Harlem Grown is another wonderful organization dedicated to educating youth about the importance of healthy living and community involvement. They have twelve urban agriculture locations throughout Harlem, “ranging form soil-based farms, hydroponic greenhouses, and school gardens” (Harlem Grown).
- Brooklyn Grange “operates the world’s largest rooftop soil farms…producing over 100,000 lbs of organically-grown produce per year” (Brooklyn Grange), all with a strong focus on sustainability. The organization also offers tours, workshops, and a CSA program.
- The Urban Growers Collective has a mission to “build opportunity for BIPOC urban growers and makers” (The Urban Growers Collective), operating eight working farms, mostly on Chicago’s South Side. This organization focuses on production, but also offers staff-led trainings and education for those who want to get involved in urban agriculture.
- Windy City Harvest at the Chicago Botanic Garden operates farms all over the city and sells their produce at Chicago farmer’s markets. There is also a variety of workshops for anyone interested in learning more, as well as certificate courses for more advanced farmers and gardeners.
- Farm LA is “dedicated to rescuing underutilized lots in Los Angeles communities for solar and agricultural farms” (Farm LA). The organization offers volunteer opportunities and can be found at farmer’s markets and health fairs selling their original speciality- lima beans.
- LA Urban Farms has sustainability in mind, assisting people with constructing vertical aquaponic “Tower Farms.” These towers are available for anyone who wants one, whether commercial or individual, and every garden purchased= 12 trees planted on behalf of the company!
Brooklyn Grange. https://www.brooklyngrangefarm.com/
Cultivate the City. https://www.cultivatethecity.com/
DC Urban Gardeners Network (n.d.). Gardens and urban farms: Empowering urban communities through urban agriculture. DUG. http://dugnetwork.org/gardens-and-urban-farms/
Farm LA. https://www.farmla.org/
Grillo, C. (2016, May 25). Within reason: Getting the most from urban ag. Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. https://clf.jhsph.edu/stories/within-reason-getting-most-urban-ag
Harlem Grown. http://www.harlemgrown.org/
LA Urban Farms. https://laurbanfarms.com/
Little Wild Things. https://littlewildthingsfarm.com/
Plumer, B. (2016, October 12). The real value of urban farming. (Hint: It’s not always the food). Vox. https://www.vox.com/2016/5/15/11660304/urban-farming-benefits
The Battery (n.d.). Battery urban farm. The Battery. https://www.thebattery.org/destinations/urban-farm/
Urban Growers Collective. https://urbangrowerscollective.org/
Zaballos, L. (2020, December 9). 15 urban farms and gardens bringing fresh produce and food education to New Yorkers. Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center. https://www.nycfoodpolicy.org/15-urban-farms-and-gardens-bringing-fresh-produce-and-food-education-to-new-yorkers/
Photo by Joshua Lanzarini on Unsplash