Large cities face many challenges. Among them are hunger, malnutrition, poverty and high food costs. What about urban farming? The concept of growing your own food is hardly a novel one, but the idea of doing so amidst the urban backdrop of concrete and steel still surprises most people. Nevertheless, backyards, unused lots, roadway medians and even rooftops are being converted into productive land. Crops and livestock are raised within the confines of the city, creating low-cost, healthy food sources that even benefit the environment.
The form of urban farming that receives the most attention is the community garden. Urbanfarming.org, for instance, is a high profile group that helps communities start their own farms and gardens, working with city officials to find suitable space and drawing contributions from local businesses and organizations. Besides providing food to the farmers, produce may be sold at local markets to produce income or donated to support food shelters. Urban farms can also foster a sense of community among neighbors, building teamwork and friendship in otherwise disjointed neighborhoods, and even reducing crime.
Urban farms are a model of sustainability and are environmentally-friendly. Growing crops and raising livestock locally can drastically reduce energy consumption. They eliminate the need for refrigerated transport from distant locations. Packaging can be reduced or eliminated, and preservatives are unnecessary, since the food is sold or used fresh. Compost from thousands of residents is available, making chemical fertilizers largely unnecessary. Water runoff from countless rooftops can be harvested in rain barrels for irrigation, so the urban farm need not even draw from city water reserves.
If you are considering an urban farming endeavor of your own, there are many resources to help you. Whether you wish to start a full-scale community garden or simply raise rabbits and carrots in your backyard, there is plenty of help available. One extensive collection of articles can be found at urbanfarmonline.com, where they discuss strategies, crops, benefits, and much more. Even First Lady Michelle Obama and the USDA promote urban farming and community gardens. With all the benefits, it's no wonder this trend is on the rise.
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