4 Tips to Farm In the City When Land’s Too Pricey

So you can’t afford your farm dream quite yet. Don’t despair—there’s a lot of growing to do right where you are.

Original post by Nick Strauss at Urban Farm online.

4 Tips to Farm In the City When Land's Too Pricey (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

Do you sit at your office cubicle and dream of driving a tractor across acres of your own farmland? Even just a small tractor and an acre or two—enough to live self-sufficiently or work the farmers market scene? Do you then return home to an urban lot, squashed in between other urban lots, and despair that you’ll never escape, never save enough, never find the right plot of land? Do you count your savings and check real-estate listings, hoping that magical plot of land (affordable, ideally sited, just the right size) will come along sooner than later, allowing you to start living the grow-your-own dream instead of just imagining it? Don’t worry. Just because you can’t live your off-the-grid-self-sufficient-farmer fantasy life right now doesn’t mean you need to abandon the whole vision or put it on hold until you can take the plunge. Get started now, with what you’ve got, where you are. Consider it practice. Consider it testing the waters. Consider it making do with what you have. However you think of it, there’s no reason to hold off from starting your own farm/garden right now!

1. Get Creative With Your Space
4 Tips to Farm In the City When Land's Too Pricey (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

A productive garden doesn’t need to be a set of raised beds built of dimension lumber and set up in orthogonal rows. When looking at your space, consider all of the options and all of the spaces. An organically shaped hugelkultur bed may very well accommodate an odd or sloping piece of ground you’d thought unusable. And front yard gardens aren’t just for Portland anymore. While we all hear horror stories about fights with small-minded officialdom or recalcitrant neighbors, the reality is that far more folks happily grow edibles than end up in legal disputes. Talk to your neighbors, test the waters, and see how things will fly. It never hurts to open the “would you mind if I plant some edibles up front” conversation by bringing over a home-grown salad, a few eggs or other sample of what bounty your garden already produces. There’s also the option of “stealth edibles”—something like a blueberry bush or a fruit tree that’s visually appealing and easy to work into decorative landscaping without anyone being the wiser. There’s a great place for containers, as well. Many crops thrive in container gardens: Think potato towers, tomatoes and herbs. You can reclaim concrete patio space, the edge of a driveway and even an apartment balcony this way. We’ve put containers of peppers and tomatoes on our roof to take advantage of the sunlight—though I’d be careful with this. Make sure your roof can handle the weight and that you have easy and above all safe access.

2. Practice Season Extension

4 Tips to Farm In the City When Land's Too Pricey (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

If you can’t add space to your garden, why not add time? You don’t need to be a Harry Potter character to find more time in the gardening year. You just need to aggressively use season-extension techniques. Use cloches, cold frames or a compact greenhouse to start the growing season earlier and extend it later. If you set up an indoor seed-starting station with good artificial light and perhaps a heater mat, you’ll not only be able to start seeds earlier in the year but also be able to get seeds going while you wait for an outside crop to finish maturing and free up some space. (This is particularly helpful with fall crops.)

We like to call this whole package of ideas “Four-Dimensional Gardening,” planning our garden to take full advantage of the sowing, transplanting and harvesting cycles of all the different plants we want to grow. With overwintering crops, quick-maturing fall greens, inter-cropping and other techniques, you’ll be able to get two full crops out of most of your garden space every year.

3. Stick to High-Value Crops
4 Tips to Farm In the City When Land's Too Pricey (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

Ah, seed catalogs. They arrive every spring full of beautiful descriptions for hundreds of varieties, all seductively described and oh-so-tempting! The urge is to grow all of them, to sample a little of everything, the novel and the exotic. But the words the small-scale production gardener needs to look for are “productive,” “reliable” and “high yielding,” not “unique,” “new” and “exotic.” If your goal is to produce as much of your food of your own plot of land as possible, then focus on reliable, high-yielding crops and varieties. Identify characteristics that are key for your climate, and select those. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we choose many of our summer crops based on days-to-maturity—the quicker the better! Also, grow what you eat and what you’ve learned you grow well … and avoid the opposite. We’ve always had back luck with carrots for some reason, so we’ve stopped setting aside space for a crop that’s frustrating and disappointing. Trust me, even the most mundane, reliable, highly productive variety grown in your own yard and eaten fresh out of the soil is going to be light years better than anything you will find at the supermarket.

4. Be Part of a Team
4 Tips to Farm In the City When Land's Too Pricey (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

I’m lucky—I live on a block where one neighbor keeps bees and another grows brilliant carrots. We have ducks and chickens a plenty. A local brewery has more leftover grain than it can deal with, so we feed it to our flocks. This makes for a natural incorporation of swap economy into our life and is something you should consider, too. We give eggs and get carrots and grain. If you’re in town, keep an eye out for patches of vegetables, chicken coops and other signs of backyard productivity. Make friends and connections and swap what you do well for what other folks are offering. Don’t confuse the goal of growing more of your own with the need to live entirely off your own land and effort. Whether casual or organized, swapping with your friends, neighbors and fellow productive gardeners will bring variety and bounty to your life.

About the Author: Nick Strauss is an all-grain homebrewer with more than 13 years of experience. He and his wife own a small homestead in the Pacific Northwest and blog about home brewing, homesteading, cooking and more at Northwest Edible Life.


Can Urban Gardens in ugandan schools connect youth to the land?

More than 5years ago, i went to visit an urban garden in the most unlikely of places, the middle of Kibera! Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi, and probably the largest urban dwelling in any African city! Kibera started out as a settlement in the forests at the outskirts of Nairobi, when Nubian soldiers were relocated here by allocation of plots in return for their efforts from the war.

The population of Kibera has since grown, and plans to demolish the place have been unsuccessful. Kibera is heavily polluted by human refuse, garbage, soot, dust and other waste. It is contaminated with human and animal faeces, due to open sewage systems and the humorously called ”flying toilets” (i will leave your imagination to run wild here). The lack of sanitation, combined with poor nutrition among residents, accounts for many illnesses and diseases.

Not to be deterred by this, Victor Matioli and his friends found a way to convert an unlikely space in Kibera into a urban garden that supplied organic vegetables to the people of Kibera.

“This area had a very bad reputation. The youth here were very bad before they reformed. People looked down on us and said bad things about us.They said, those young people are wasting their time, they have come up with an idea that will not help them. They are lazy and are in the habit of reaping unfairly, they will not manage. This brought our morale down, but we pushed on, encouraged each other and managed quite well.” Victor

The boys cleared the plot of all rubbish, and with some help from friends acquired a water tank and the farm was well on its way. They grew  ‘sukuma (a type of spinach), tomatoes, cucumber, and pumpkins which were sold directly to the local community, and being completely organic was /is an added bonus especially in Kenya, which is placed amongst the highest pesticide users in Sun-Saharan Africa!

When i visited Victor and the project, the boys were recovering from a bout of parasites that had attacked their crop and as such they were leaving the plot free to ”breathe” literally and applying organic alternatives to kill off the pests.

I have a dream, to pilot vegetable gardens and permaculture projects in Uganda’s local schools. I envision  young people connecting with the food production systems and taking ownership of food production. However, growing up, agriculture was often portrayed as punishment. When your grades were low or had committed an offense, as punishment you were sent to the garden with a hoe. We grew up seeing agriculture as hard labor, punishment, and something that the people in villages did, not as city dwelling kids. Luckily, i attended a boarding school where 2 days were dedicated to agriculture, we planted, harvested, and even prepared our food – not the cooking part as we were not allowed near a fire. We more or less knew where our food came from, we were expected to take responsibility of planting and harvesting. Nevertheless, when we graduated on to secondary school, this is the one part of our education we were so glad to leave behind!

There is a continued disconnect between people of all ages and where their food comes from. As the fast food industry slowly/quickly advances into Sub Saharan African cities, young people are not only becoming farmers, but they are also not becoming healthy, nourished eaters, and this can lead to rising youth obesity. I believe that one solution is reconnecting young people to the food chain, to see the opportunities and want to get involved in agriculture rather than be forced. It is a combination of students learning to produce food, and acquiring information on nutrition and food security. Students can learn how to grow, process, and preserve food and celebrate it in ways that allow them to recognize the diversity and uniqueness of their local food cultures.

One such initiative is DISC (Developing Innovations in School Cultivation Project), the project is helping youth build leadership skills around farming. One of the project’s former students, Betty Nabukala, managed the school’s garden. She explained that DISC taught the students ‘new’ methods of planting vegetables. Before, she says, “we used to just plant seeds,” but DISC taught them how to fertilize crops with manure and compost, and how to save seeds after harvest. More importantly, Betty explained that she and the students learned that not only can they produce food, they can also earn money from its sale.

DISC was co-founded by Edward Mukiibi, who is now the Vice-President of Slow Food International. Edie is 28 years
old and has been part of leading efforts around Slow Food’s Thousand Gardens in Africa initiative, which is implementing gardens in communities and schools across the continent. “It is time to be proud of being a food producer and revive our lost food traditions in Africa,” says Mukiibi, adding that the Thousand Gardens initiative “is an opportunity for young ones, like me” to strengthen ties between communities but also within communities through the oral exchange of agricultural traditions and practices. Thanks to DISC and Slow Food, many students are no longer seeing agriculture as an option of last resort, but something enjoyable, intellectually stimulating and economically profitable.

To quote Food Tank’s Danielle Nierenberg , ”It’s clear that the future of agriculture is in the hands of young people – whether they’re family farmers, cooks and chefs, entrepreneurs, teachers or scientists. To cultivate that next generation, governments, academics, businesses and the funding and donor communities need to provide the investment and funding they need to nourish both people and planet.”

Ron FInley, a very special urban gardener from LA

We do not own an urban garden but we own a garden. I am always inspired by people who hold the view ”if you plant it, it will grow”

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”
“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.”
“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.”
“We gotta flip the script on what a gangsta is — if you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta.”

This is a presentation by Ron Finley who has taken on an unjust food system by planting a food forest in-front of his own house. This inspires me because my friend Arnest and i have been talking over and over again on starting gardens in local schools in our town of Kayunga.

So, as i scout for a PhD, i have made the decision to move back to Uganda for a while and get our schools permaculture project off the ground

Enjoy Ron’s presentation and vision : 

40 Percent Of The World’s Cropland Is In Or Near Cities

An estimated 80 percent of the world’s urban farms are in emerging nations, yet most governments don’t support this form of agriculture. (Francisco Anzola/flickr/cc)

Source: National Public Radio

Singapore and New York are among the cities that create the most buzz about urban farms, yet in many ways they’re playing catch-up.  Eliza Barclay reports for NPR’s The Salt blog that 80 percent of the world’s urban farms are in developing nations.

Unfortunately, many governments in these nations fail to recognize the value of urban agriculture, Barclay writes. Urban plots are often viewed as eyesores that are dispensable to make room for development. Also, since many of the farms require irrigation, they place strains on municipal water resources.

More than a billion acres is used to grow food crops within 12 miles (19 kilometers) of cities, according to a study in the journal Environmental Research Letters highlighted by NPR. While most of the plots are just outside cities, roughly 16.6 percent are located within municipal boundaries. The research was conducted by the International Water Management Institute, the University of California-Berkeley and Stanford University.

FAO Food for the Cities multi disciplinary initiative

Food, agriculture and cities: challenges and priorities
More and more of the world’s population is becoming concentrated in and around large cities. Ensuring
the right to have access to safe and nutritious food to the billions of people living in cities represents a global development challenge of the highest order.
Promoting sustainable agricultural production in urban and peri-urban areas and developing food systems capable of meeting urban consumer demand will become increasingly important to global food security. Currently however, the important relationship between food security, agriculture and urbanization is often not sufficiently recognized.
The FAO project ”Food for the cities’‘ highlights the major issues related to food, agriculture and cities and provides a set of recommendations for action at the global, national and local level.
Urbanization, poverty and hunger
In 2008, for the first time in history, the world’s urban population outnumbered its rural population. In 2005, the world’s population stood at 6.5 billion and it is expected to reach 9.2 billion by 2050. This population growth will take place mainly in urban areas of developing countries,
By 2030, 3.9 billion people are expected to be living in the cities of the developing world. The impact of expanding urban populations will vary from country to country.
Depending on national policies settings and economic structure, increased urbanization can affect hunger
and poverty in both positive and negative ways.
As cities expand, so does the urban consumer demand for food. The recent food and financial crises have highlighted the problem of urban food insecurity in developing countries. Urban households have been hard hit as they saw their purchasing power declining drastically, while they have a very limited capacity to produce their own food.
Investing in urban food security
It is clear that in order to reach the Millennium Development Goal 1: ‘eradicate extreme poverty and
hunger’, urgent attention will need to be given to cities.
Food production, marketing, and transportation, as well as the sustainable management of natural resources in and around cities will play an important role in reaching this goal.
Feeding expanding urban populations will also help reduce the risk of social unrest and conflict. In addition, satisfying the food needs of expanding urban markets and promoting nutritious diets in urban households can function as a motor for economic and social development in rural communities.
Strengthening rural-urban linkages
Specific attention needs to be given to the links that connect urban and rural communities, shape the economic relationships between them and determine how water and other natural resources are shared. At a time where cities are expanding and merging, it is urgent to bridge the increasingly divide between the urban landscape and the countryside. It is imperative to think in terms of territorial planning that incorporates rural, peri-urban and urban areas and food systems.
Strengthening these links will require an improvement of current systems of urban development. In addition,
as price of energy increases and pressure mounts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the costs and the distances required to transport food between producers and urban consumers will need to be reduced and better managed.
The steps in delivering safe nutritious food from the field to the urban consumer: the production, processing and marketing, are all interlinked and should mutually strengthen each other. Promoting the benefits of a nutritious and diversified diet to urban consumers is a key element in creating markets for local producers,
processors and vendors. Protecting and preserving agricultural land and forested areas in and around
cities will require progress to make in sustainable livestock production and the integrated management of land and water resources. As the demand for water increases, the treatment, productive recycling and safe reuse of waste and wastewater will be crucial for peri-urban and urban agriculture and food security. In addition, the price of phosphorous and other fertilizers is expected to rise, so it will make economic sense to recycle these inputs as much as possible.
Cities, emergencies and food security
The impacts of climate change may severely affect urban areas as they often lack environmental buffers against climate-related disasters, particularly flooding. The development of sustainable peri-urban and urban
agricultural production can help mitigate the risks of climate-related disasters in cities. In addition, to be
successful, emergency interventions designed to address the needs of internally displaced people seeking refuge in urban and peri-urban areas need to integrate food,
nutrition and agriculture components right from their initial planning stages.
Building expertise through partnerships
More than 40 cities around the world have benefited from FAO activities related to peri-urban and urban food
security and agriculture. Through these projects, which are tailored to meet specific local development priorities, theOrganization has a gained a high level of expertise in promoting urban food production that is socially inclusive and generates employment in vulnerable communities and in improving the management of land, water and and forest resources in peri-urban and urban settings.

The commitment of local authorities and integrated approaches involving a broad range of stakeholders has been necessary to guarantee the sustainability of these initiatives. For this reason, FAO works closely with
a variety of international organizations, non-governmental organizations and national and local authorities.
Food, agriculture and cities: challenges and the way forward.
There is an urgent need to ensure that cities are included on the agenda of food and agriculture policy makers,planners and institutions. Likewise, it is equally urgent to integrate food security and agriculture into the agenda of city planners and local urban authorities.
Recommendations at the global level
To ensure food security in cities during this period of rapid urbanization, the following actions should be undertaken at the global level:
• taking stock of urban food security and agriculture policies, legal frameworks and programmes that cities and countries around the world have developed, or are developing, with a view to their systematisation and wider dissemination;
• developing decision-making and planning tools (guidelines, criteria and indicators) for policy makers
dealing with urban development in relation to agriculture, livestock, aquaculture, land use planning and forestry, as well as urban food system planning and development; and
• setting up multi-stakeholder platforms (international organisations, national and regional representatives and related sectoral expertise) for dialogue, action planning and policy formulation on good governance on food,agriculture and cities, including a high-level advisory panel to FAO.
Recommendations at the local and national level
At local and national level it is imperative to support the development of policies and programmes that address the issue related to food, agriculture and cities. Support to local and national governments should contribute to enhancing the productive capacity of urban and peri-urban are as for sustainable food production, with particular attention to indigenous foods. This enhanced food production would require that important natural areas and agricultural lands be preserved and included in city development and land use plans. To ensure the sustainability of this food production, it will be crucial to safeguard the environmental health of these areas by strengthening the integrated management of natural resources, including trees, land and water throughout the entire urban and peri-urban landscape
Improving sustainable agricultural production in urban and peri-urban areas can be accomplished by using planning mechanisms that ensure:
• land use in important natural and agricultural areas is not only determined by market forces; and
• urban and peri-urban agricultural development contributes to supporting other environmental and social functions, such as mitigating and adapting to climate change, reducing urban heat islands and preventing floods.
Along with improving natural resource management, support at the local and national level should streng
then urban- focused food systems, including production, processing and marketing. This involves:
• fostering urban producer and consumer organizations and direct marketing schemes;
• raising consumer awareness about the nutritional value of locally produced and processed foods;
• supporting technical innovations that can ensure safer production, processing and marketing within both the formal and informal food sectors.
Innovative project financing and the creative use of information and communication technologies can help bring about these changes.
At the local and national level, support is also required to ensure that issues related to food, agriculture and cities are addressed in national research institutions or programmes. This support should focus on:
• promoting action and policy oriented research;
• integrating monitoring and systematization activities in all programmes dealing with urban food security and agriculture; and
• integrating subjects pertaining to urban food production and food security into university curricula
For more information: FAO Food for the Cities multidisciplinary initiative: http://www.fao.org/fcit