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As the urban population continually increases, so is the demand for fresh food. Thankfully, the advancement of technology has now made it easier for people to grow crops in small spaces in a controlled environment.
The growth of controlled environment agriculture has made it easier for people in urban areas to grow plants year-round without worrying about space or the weather.
When did Urban Farming start?
Urban farming can be traced back to the period of World War II. During that time, many people, especially in the United States, embarked on what was termed as “victory gardens,” where they planted fruits and vegetables in their backyards to feed the 40 percent of the population that faced food shortages.
But once the war ended, those urban farms also disappeared and were displaced by large-scale rural farming.
But recently, urban farming has seen an increase in popularity with many people in cities and towns beginning to grow their own crops on the rooftop and in their small backyard.
What is Urban Farming?
This practice can be defined as a type of farming that focuses mainly on growing crops for sale instead of growing for personal consumption. Urban farming has, for long, been confused with homesteading, community gardening, or subsistence farming.
The growth of urban farming can be attributed to the growth of the health-conscious food market. It can boost the well-being of not only the individual practicing it but also the community at large. It also fosters togetherness, creates jobs, and promote healthy living.
How do I start Urban Farming?
If you are interested in urban farming and wondering how you can start, you are in the right place. There are several things you need to consider.
It is just like starting any business, so you may have to follow similar steps, such as creating a business plan and others.
Here are some of the things you need to do before starting urban farming.
- Find training
Urban farming is not like large-scale rural farming. There are many things that you will need to learn that are only unique to urban farming. Lucky for you, there is plenty of information about this type of farming, the majority of which are free.
- Create a business plan
This depends on whether you are doing urban farming voluntarily or for commercial purposes. If you want to start urban farming as a form of business, you will need to draft a business plan. You will need to understand the products that work well in your region, the most in-demand crops, and who your market is. All these and many more can only be understood through a business plan.
You also need to learn about value-added products and their role in your business.
So make sure you create a business plan that clearly defines your budget and market strategies.
- Find land to grow
Next, you are going to have to find an appropriate land to grow your produce. You can try to check out with your local parks departments. But the best way is to look for vacant plots around your area.
The land will make or break your urban farming. If you chose the wrong place, your farming would not produce a return to investment. The area should also be able to get enough sunlight.
Alternatively, the solution can be right in front of you, literally. Do you have a south-facing balcony or porch or windows? This could provide a great space for your urban farming.
Many urban dwellers also tend to use the system known as “guerilla gardening.” While this is illegal, many have gotten away with it for many years, plus you will be putting to good use what would otherwise be an idle land.
- Test the soil
Urban soils tend to have large deposits of heavy metals lie lead and other pollutants. For this reason, it is wise to first test the soil before beginning your farming.
Ensure that the food you grow is grown under safe conditions, harvested, stored, and processed with the consumer’s safety in mind.
- Be a little creative
For your practice to be sustainable, you can use fresh ideas often. You should know that when doing urban farming, you will be going against traditional practices and expectations. And to do this, you will need to tap into your creativity.
How do Urban Farms work?
As I have mentioned above, urban farming is focused mainly on the selling of the crops grown rather than being grown for sharing or personal use.
What is the easiest crop to farm?
Below are crops that can do well with urban farming.
As a great source of fiber, vitamin A, and alpha and beta carotenes, carrots are essential in our daily diet. They are easy to grow as they can thrive in containers and also easy to maintain.
- Green beans
These are also other crops that you can produce in your urban land. They are healthy and easy to grow in a container in small spaces. There are two main types of green beans – ones that grow as vines (also known as pole beans), and the ones that grow in the bush.
Another you need to know about green beans is that they require plenty of lighting (at least up to six hours of direct sunlight per day). You can also use artificial light if sunlight is not accessible.
Cucumbers have a high demand for water and the sun to have optimum growth. You should also go for varieties that are suitable for containers or small spaces.
- Garlic greens
These essential ingredients can also be produced in your small urban plot. They need a very small spot to grow to maturity but produce plenty of yields.
Having a fresh supply of peas is great for your healthy eating. Peas can be eaten raw or cooked.
Radishes are very easy to grow. They spout quickly and mature in just a month. When growing this plant, make sure you create a growing condition reminiscent of outdoor farming.
Urban Farming requirements:
All you need for urban farming is the land, the types of crops you want to grow, equipment such as grow lights, fertilizer, water supply, and maybe transport for taking the produce to the market.
Advantages of Urban Farming:
Urban farming has a lot of benefits to the community, including:
- Reduce greenhouse gases
Urban farming help reduces the consumption of fossil fuel significantly during transportation, packaging, and selling of the produce. With urban farming, the food is already in the locality and doesn’t need transportation.
- Creates jobs
Whether it is just window box herb framing or largescale farming, urban farming creates plenty of job opportunities. This is great because many large cities are often riddled with poverty and hunger problems.
- Innovative techniques
Urban farmers usually have to find creative ways to produce crops in lands that are not as fertile as rural lands or don’t get sufficient sunlight.
- Food security
Many people in urban areas lack access to affordable, fresh food, and urban farming can help solve this problem.
Disadvantages of Urban Farming:
Everything that has advantages rarely lack disadvantage. Here are some of the downsides of urban farming.
- Health concerns
There is a potential risk of disease transmission if proper safety and precautions are not put in place. Also, people may be exposed to herbicides and pesticides or contamination from animal waste.
- Environmental concerns
Soil, air, and water will inevitably be contaminated by the chemicals. There is also a danger of flooding or erosion in urban farming in riversides.
In places where the crops don’t get enough sunlight, urban farmers have resorted to using artificial light and solar panels. While this may help reduce energy usage, other machinery needs to support the controlled environment.
It may require a lot of energy to run swiftly. In the end, urban farming may consume plenty of energy compared to traditional farming.
- Potential disruption of rural communities
Most communities in rural areas depend mainly on agriculture for their livelihood, and embarking on urban farming may render traditional farming obsolete. Poverty will spread in the rural areas as there will be no market for their produce in urban centers.
To deal with this problem, there is a need for effective transition and synergy between urban farming and rural farming. For this to happen, there needs to be strategies and policies to guide this introduction of new farming trends.
- Required technologies may be costly and complex
Practicing urban farming means growing crops in areas that are traditionally not suitable for growing plants.
And this can only be made possible by using advanced technologies to simulate the ideal environment for the crops to grow to maturity and provide maximum yield. This also makes it quite expensive to start urban farming.
- The artificial environment is not guaranteed to work always
Though the climate is changing, it is doing so gradually, and people can still predict weather patterns for traditional agriculture. In urban farming, most growing environments are simulated, and this can fail at any time and lead to massive losses.