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Urban Gardening: Rise of the City Farmer

Updated on May 6, 2013

Dig For Victory: WWII Gardens

A History of Self-Reliance

In recent years, there has been a strong trend towards growing one’s own food. This is not a new concept, but it is a novel idea for the present generation who only know the grocery store and fast food restaurants as food sources. Before the age of industrialization, people grew their own food to survive.

During WWI and WWII, civilians were asked to create “victory gardens” that would support their families and free up food for soldiers. Both the British and American governments produced highly visible campaigns to promote the independent gardener. Urban gardens, as well as rural farmers, started to raise large amounts of food which they preserved through canning, drying, and cold storage. After WWII, modern conveniences once again took precedence over homegrown.

Homegrown tomatoes canned for winter use.
Homegrown tomatoes canned for winter use. | Source

A Backyard Garden

Growing up in Georgia, my dad always had a garden. He grew peas, beans, greens, and his favorite of all tomatoes. My mom would spend all summer freezing the bounty from his garden as well as what she bought from the farmer’s markets we visited.

My parents dragged me to every market and orchard in the state-or it at least felt that way. The summer months meant trips to pick peaches and butterbeans, while the fall meant visiting apple orchards in the mountains of North Georgia.

For the last ten years, I have been nurturing a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat. Our habitat provides food, shelter, water, and a place to raise young for wildlife. At the beginning of this year, my husband and I made a goal of growing our own food. Well, eight months into the new project we have had many successes and a few failures. Growing food is no easy task. Our successes include tomatoes of six varieties and enough lettuce to supply the town. The cucumbers I planted late are now doing quite well. Failures include several yellow squash plants taken over by mildew. We have visited our local farms and the town’s weekly market to supplement what we did not grow ourselves.

Urban Homesteading for Beginners

The Urban Homesteader

Until ten years ago, I had never heard of Urban Homesteading. Today, it is a "buzz" phrase that most gardners know well. In the early 1990s, a movement began to rouse city people to be more self-reliant regarding food sources. The rise of corporate farms and the world domination plan of Monsanto have spurred individuals to make sweeping changes in their lives. People are growing fruits and vegetables for the first time, and others are raising chickens and goats in their backyards. Sound crazy? Well, so does eating genetically modified food.

Urban homesteaders are individuals who love living the city life with all its culture and conveniences but at the same time want to have larger control over their food supply. Many homestead just because they find it a healthier way to live; others do it out of necessity. Many large, metropolitan cities have “food deserts.” A food desert is an lack of nutritional food available to a population. These deserts occur in the inner cities and extreme rural communities where big chain grocery stores are not present. The populations usually affected by the deserts are minorities who do not have access to transportation. The food deserts have hastened the development of urban homesteading and community gardens.

Individuals, as well as communities, are starting a food revolution in their own yards. Many of the food produced in urban homesteads are on less than 1/3 of an acre. In large cities, rooftop gardens are growing tomatoes for homemade pasta sauce. Some people grow in containers, others in raised beds. The square foot gardening method is immensely popular among urban homesteaders because it allows for the most production in a limited space.

Community Gardens

A community garden is a series of plots tended by a group of people that can grow flowers, fruits, or vegetables. Such a garden can be accessed by people who want to strengthen their community while growing fresh food. Many community gardens are fee based which provides for upkeep.

Urban Agriculture in Atlanta

From the American Community Gardening Association

Benefits of Community Gardens:

  • Improves the quality of life for people in the garden
  • Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
  • Stimulates Social Interaction
  • Encourages Self-Reliance
  • Beautifies Neighborhoods
  • Produces Nutritious Food
  • Reduces Family Food Budgets
  • Conserves Resources
  • Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
  • Reduces Crime
  • Preserves Green Space
  • Creates income opportunities and economic development
  • Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots
  • Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections

Get Involved and Start Growing!

Whether you want your own homestead or need to participate in a community garden, now is the time to get on board the fast moving train of change. Work the dirt with your hands; choose the vegetables your family will love and grow them. Teach your children where food comes from by showing them how it is grown. It will change your lives forever.

Pickles made from homegrown cucumbers.
Pickles made from homegrown cucumbers. | Source

About the Author

Catherine Dean is a freelance writer, gardener, quilter, and blogger. Her professional background includes nonprofit program development, grant writing, and volunteer management. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications from Georgia College & State University.

Her blog, Sowing A Simple Harvest, chronicles a modern couple trying to live a simplistic, sustainable life. To explore Catherine's professional credentials, visit her website. She can also be followed on Google+.


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    • mvillecat profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Dean 

      8 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thanks so much Gail! What you are doing is so important to the health of your family, pets, and planet. Thanks for your sharing.

    • Gail Meyers profile image

      Gail Meyers 

      8 years ago from Johnson County, Kansas

      I love this hub, mvillecat! I have also been working on a GMO free home. Then also trying to get rid of as many toxins as possible that are in everything from food to household cleaners to makeup. Voted up, tweeted and pinned!

    • mvillecat profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Dean 

      8 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      EllBee thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. Your responses are always such a joy to read. You are so right about high poverty areas and urban gardening. I too wish it would take hold in more such places. I am sorry about your garden. A lot of my veggies did not survive the heat and humidity here in Georgia. I would love to visit New England one day. Thanks again for your comment.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is very interesting! My own garden failed miserably this summer, but I am still very interested in gardening, and hope for another attempt next year. I've definitely seen a rise in urban gardening and homesteading here in New England as well. I work in an urban area and the farmer's market down the street is always popping! They have lots of local and non-profit farms participating, Zumba demonstrations, and they work with the culinary departments of our local tech HS as well as the UMass Extension to have food samples etc there for people. It's so cool to see!

      I think more people in urban and high poverty areas would garden if they jst had a little assistance with know-how or knew that they can use SNAP food stamp benefits to purchase food producing seeds and plants for gardening.

    • mvillecat profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Dean 

      8 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      More people are turning to their own yards for food. Thanks for commenting and voting!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      8 years ago

      What a great hub! I've noticed more of our suburban neighbors planting more fruits & veggies in their gardens, including their front yards. I think it's great from so many perspectives. Voted up!

    • mvillecat profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Dean 

      8 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thanks so much donnah. Yes, Monsanto is evil. I am working towards a gmo free home. Thanks for commenting and voting.

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 

      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Loved your comment about the evil Monsanto. I have done some community garden in the past and hope to do it again next year. I love knowing that my food got to my plate through my hands. Voted this article up and sharing.

    • mvillecat profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Dean 

      8 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thanks rebecca. Yes, I know that many of us living in a rural area do forget that people have to live very differently in the urban city. Not too sure I would ever want to go as urban as Atlanta. A day trip into Macon makes me feel like I need a vacation.

    • mvillecat profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Dean 

      8 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thank you vespawoolf. I understand that Peru has a rich agricultural history. I would love to visit your country one day. Thanks for voting and commenting.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      8 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I have heard of urban homesteading...but you know, being out in the country now I sorta forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder. I think it is a very important concept for now and in the future.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      8 years ago from Peru, South America

      My parents gardened for of my childhood years. I've always loved fresh produce and the idea of sharing it with others. I've always lived in cities as an adult, but I think a community garden is a great idea! That might even work in the cities here in Peru, where agricultural skills are passed on from one generation to another. This is a great hub! Voted up and shared.

    • mvillecat profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Dean 

      8 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      I wish we could have chickens but we are in a zone that does not allow it. Our best friend has three so we trade for eggs. Thanks for commenting!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      8 years ago from Iowa

      Great hub! I am a big advocate for urban and community gardens and I think every backyard should have a couple of hens in it. (Mine has 3.)

    • mvillecat profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Dean 

      8 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thanks Patsy! I do too. Hope it continues to grow.

    • Patsybell profile image

      Patsy Bell Hobson 

      8 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

      Love this post. Voted up, useful, Pin. Love this trend. Finally.


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