Grow your own farming in the urban landscape.
Unless you’ve been living in a tree or under a rock, you should be aware that sustainable living has been seriously trending over the past decade or so.
(If you have been doing either of these – congratulations. You are officially more eco than the rest of us combined.)
We have seen once ‘radical’ practices, like composting and up-cycling, working their way into the mainstream. Farmers markets are now popular places to hang out on a Saturday morning. Kombucha is replacing the Diet Coke in your vodka soda and cycling is becoming a cool way to get around.
One topic currently experiencing its time in the spotlight is the concept of urban gardening. The idea is that as cities expand and traditional agriculture becomes less accessible, city-dwellers should take matters into their own hands. This involves planting small gardens amidst the greater cityscape – whether these cases be on your roof, up your wall, in a shared community plot or in your backyard. Some city residents prefer the more public ‘guerrilla gardening’, where seeds are planted in any bare strip of land (regardless of who owns it).
There are many reasons why urban agriculture appeals to people.
It has that kitschy, domestic, homesteader appeal that many young professionals lust over. It’s a way to know exactly what is going into your food- no GMO’s, herbicides or pesticides if you don’t put them there. Growing your own food can significantly reduce grocery expenditure. Home-grown produce is more sustainable, as it travels a minimal distance to get to your plate and uses less energy in production. Some believe it tastes better.
For others, urban gardens are not a luxury but a necessity. Food deserts are on the rise within Australia and globally. The term refers to areas where fresh food is inaccessible- either because it is expensive compared to mass-produced, processed items, or because the terrain does not lend itself to sustainable agriculture.
Space-efficient edible gardens are one way to combat the detriments of food deserts. They provide not just a lasting food supply but a food education, and the means in which to develop similar projects on one’s own.
There are children (and adults) who have no idea where their food comes from. Urban gardens can provide a learning environment for those with a desire to dig deeper into the literal and metaphorical world of permaculture and nutrition. Anyone who has attempted to grow their own food knows it is no easy feat, but practical application helps.
For those with the threat of disaster on their mind, such experience is equally beneficial. Small-scale, sustainable farming is the prepper’s wet dream. What do you do when the world’s gone to shit, all supermarkets are closed, and drought has led to the demise of commercial farming? You grow your own damn food, of course. You use what you’ve got. As Tim Gunn would say, ‘make it work’. There’s power in building something from the ground up, an accomplishment in seeing your efforts come to fruition (in the form of a juicy piece of fruit).
After listing off all these reasons as to why urban gardens are the way of the future, it might take you by surprise that I’m about to rag on the very same practice I was just touting. But, like many sustainable initiatives, urban gardening is one that favours the privileged.
That is, those with more time and money to develop and impose environmental strategies.
Urban gardens are typically started with good intentions- bringing fresh food to low-income communities, adding some colour and sense of fellowship to marginalised neighbourhoods. However, with the implementation of urban gardens often comes gentrification. In parts of the United States, housing prices are rising solely because home buyers of more privileged social class want to live near green space. As a result, the original inhabitants of the neighbourhood can no longer afford to live there and cease to benefit from the garden that was built primarily for their use.
Of course, not every urban gardening environment contributes to gentrification, nor is everyone started by wealthy do-gooders. The point here is not to stray away from urban agriculture development, but to remain aware of its realities and implications.
Urban gardening has its flaws. It is not now (and likely won’t ever be) efficient enough to be our sole source of food, but that does not detract from the role urban gardens can play in the overall landscape of modern agriculture.
So in a world that is so quickly developing and consuming, plant some seeds of change. Urban gardening can be an advantageous way to get back to basics. Whatever your intention - be it doomsday prepping, saving some money, lowering your carbon footprint or having an abundance of options at your fingertips - urban gardening may be just the activity you need.