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Great Examples of Urban Farms in North America
It could be peach trees on your sidewalk, corn stalks in an abandoned lot, or a greenhouse on your apartment's rooftop. In all it's forms, urban agriculture is a way of bringing food from the countryside into our cities.
Over half of the world's population now lives in cities. In the developing world, urban agriculture is a means of survival; the poor depend upon these small backyard spaces to feed themselves. More recently, urban agriculture has become popular in North America, as a means of greening the cities and bringing fresher, local produce to city dwellers.
Here are seven of the more well-known and successful urban agriculture farms in the US and Canada.
Lufa Farms, Montreal, QU
Pie in the sky!
In the heart of Montreal, Lufa Farms has erected on a rooftop multiple greenhouses, where it carries out it's goal of providing local food to city residents. In his TedTalk, the founder of Lufa Farms shares that the company's CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) uses only $15 of transportation fuel per day to provide 2,000 people with fresh produce that has never seen a refrigerator.
Founder of Lufa Farms gives a TedTalk: "How rooftop farming will change how we eat."
What I find particularly incredible about Lufa Farms, is that it has reached a point of production where they will soon offer the possibility of customizing your CSA basket. Members can choose online exactly the produce they want delivered to them that day. My experience with CSA baskets is that they include a sample of everything that's available - which can be somewhat of a mystery from week to week - and that's just an aspect of eating seasonally and supporting small local farms. The fact that Lufa can provide a selection to choose from suggests just how thriving and diversified their operation is!
Eagle Street, Brooklyn NY
Eagle Street is another famous rooftop farm, located above a warehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Three stories up, their panoramic view is punctuated by the Empire State Building amidst the impressive NYC skyline.
Like most of the urban farms listed here, Eagle Street has a strong education component. They encourage visitors and involve schoolchildren in planting, weeding, and harvesting activities. Their produce is delivered to restaurants by bicycle!
Growing Power, Milwaukee WI
Will Allen has become a household name for 'urban ag' enthusiasts! After his professional basketball career, he moved back to Milwaukee and started the very successful Growing Power non-profit and land-trust. Their headquarters farm in Milwaukee consists of several greenhouses that are famously heated by their compost piles - an example of efficient resource use on an urban farm! They also have an apiary (beehives), a hydroponic and aquaponic system (growing fish and crops in water together), and even poultry (turkeys, hens, ducks) and goats!
Their mission is to educate the public and beginning farmers:
"We believe that farming should be simple and accessible to all people, so we create methods for growing and livestock management that can be replicated in every neighborhood, from Detroit, Michigan to Ghana, Africa."
Growing Power has managed to produce a lot of food throughout the year - enough to make them a sustainable business! But it's their dedication to supporting the rise of other small food operations what I find most inspiring. The 'Rainbow Farmer's Cooperative,' started by Growing Power, helps other small farms in the area sell their products in a fair and profitable market alongside Growing Power. They also have helped small farms and start-ups receive grants and initial structural support.
In addition Growing Power manages a 'mobile grocery store,' and has opened delis and food markets in neighborhoods formerly considered 'food deserts' (lacking a grocery store).
City Farmer, Vancouver, BC
Though they have an urban farm and demonstration site in Vancouver, BC, City Farmer has most made it's mark with its online presence. Started in 1994, it was the first website to provide information on urban agriculture. City Farmer News Urban Agriculture Notes now is a colorful and informative news source on all things urban agriculture related, with a great archive of past articles.
Edible Schoolyard, Berkeley CA
The Edible Schoolyard Project's one acre educational garden in Berkeley, CA is a tool for local schoolchildren to learn about gardening and cooking. It has served as a model for school gardens across the country. Among other achievements, The Project's research and education outreach has helped to reform local school lunch programs and build college courses focused on garden education. Their mission is to not only improve childhood nutrition, but to instill deeper values in students. The Edible Schoolyard Project mission states:
"Students’ hands-on experience in the kitchen and garden fosters a deeper appreciation of how the natural world sustains us and promotes the environmental and social well-being of our school community. "
Common Good City Farm, Washington DC
Just a few blocks from where this author lives, Common Good City Farm is tucked next to a dog-park and jungle gym. Their mission is to educate and provide food for the lower income constituents that live in the neighborhood. In 2011 it got a lot of visibility when the UK's Prince Charles paid a visit! His passion for sustainable agriculture brought him to the farm in hopes of bringing it greater visibility and recognition. It's been said by people in the know that his visit ignited a fire under the Capitol's urban agriculture movement. Vegetable gardens began popping up with a fury in schools and neighborhoods across the city.
The Obama White House Kitchen Garden
White House Kitchen Garden, Washington DC
Yes, this is technically an urban farm, though it only feeds the inhabitants of the house and may exist more for media purposes than growing food. Throughout history different Presidents have used the growing of a White House garden to make a statement about food security. During WWII, Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden. In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama kick-started the biggest kitchen garden the White House has ever seen.
As part of her national Let's Move campaign to improve childhood nutrition and fitness, the First Lady invites schoolchildren to visit and participate in planting, harvesting, and cooking activities. Some may roll their eyes and say that it's a ploy for attracting positive media. But I applaud the example the White House is setting! If indeed it is meant to attract positive media, then we can rejoice, because it means the White House believes Americans are beginning to value healthy, fresh food.