What’s the Deal with Urban Farming?

I’ve stumbled upon a lot of articles about “urban farming” recently. They take one of two forms:

  1. Articles written by people who have never heard the word “garden,” and call ordinary vegetable gardens “urban farms” if they’re inside city limits.
  2. Articles written by people who think that skyscrapers ought to be built especially for farming.

Just Google “urban farming” and you’ll see what I mean.

All of this is very weird. How did people forget about vegetable gardens, to the point where they felt compelled to coin a new word for an ancient concept? And has anyone priced floor space in the city recently? I mean, yes, growing crops in concrete-and-steel buildings would put the capstone on industrial agriculture, finishing the job that was started by high-density livestock confinement. I can see that. But why would anyone think it desirable or environmentally sound?

I don’t have the answers, other than a gnawing feeling that people are even more disconnected from the land than I thought. People yearn for the land. I think that people who haven’t spent time in the country feel this deeply, but aren’t sure how to act on their feelings. So you get some unusual behaviors, like calling a riding mower a “lawn tractor” or an ordinary vegetable garden an “urban farm.”

I wonder how one might encourage people to channel these yearnings into actions that will give them as much of a genuine back-to-the-land experience as conditions allow. Gardens are a good start, of course, even if they are being called by a silly name.

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Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this issue. Most of my posts are based on input from people like you, so leave a comment below!
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Robert Plamondon
Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

8 thoughts on “What’s the Deal with Urban Farming?”

  1. Hah… I prefer to call it ‘urban agriculture’, and yes, people are THAT disconnected with the land. I coordinate a 1 acre community garden (that’s garden, not farm) in a run-down section of North St. Louis. A lot of people do exclaim that it is more like a farm- but it’s not. It’s just a very big garden. It’s challenges are those of a garden, not a farm. And… I do have students come in who have never touched worms, who have never shoveled, who cannot tell an okra plant from a squash plant… etc.

    Next year, though, I am adding chickens, and maybe we’ll qualify as a farm…

  2. What kind of chickens would you recommend for a small (starting with 50 moving maybe 200) layer operation? I’m thinking of pasturing them with a layer supplement.

  3. Sex-links aren’t a breed, they’re a cross between two breeds. The names aren’t standardized, either. Some sex-links going by the same name may have different traits. For example, the Black Sex-Links from Privett Hatchery are non-cannibalistic, while I’ve heard that the Black Sex-Links from some other hatcheries are highly cannibalistic. That’s why I always mention the hatchery when talking about breed characteristics.

  4. Wrong terminology on my part. The Golden sex links I got (from coastal farm, hatchery forgotten, but not privett) are a cross between a Plymouth rock rooster and RI red hen. If I were to decribe them it would be ‘orange’. very docile (and friendly with humans) compared to RI reds and Wyandotts that we also got. Just wondering if they are a similar cross.

    thnks for your blog and your time!

  5. The city I live in is currently debating allowing residents to have chickens in town. I have been looking for information on whether this is really a good idea or not. I would love your opinion on this and any facts for/against this. Thanks

  6. Well, I’m no expert in urban chickens, but Corvallis, Oregon has a “three hens, no rooster” rule, and a lot of people have chickens. This is a town of 50,000 people. Lots of people have chickens. I haven’t heard of any problems. Of course, this is Oregon, where everyone is groovy. Your mileage may vary.

    A lot of places have started allowing chickens again, or have allowed them all along. You can probably find tons of references on the Web, including the pitches people made to convince the Powers That Be.

    Good luck!

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