It seems as though Urban Farming is one of those things that more and more people are catching on to. A few years ago, when I would talk to people in our community about our chickens and bees and all of the veggie beds we were building, more often than not I would be looked at either in confusion or as though we had officially lost our minds. Now though, I regularly hear, “I want to do that!” or “I have a big garden, too!” or “Oh, I would love to have chickens but I didn’t think we could in the city!” Maybe it’s just because we’re in Santa Fe and it can be a bit crunchy here, but since our little plot was featured in the Homegrown NM Kitchen Garden and Coop Tour last summer, I choose to believe it is because more and more people are seeing the benefits of producing their own food.
So, what are the benefits of urban farming?
Urban Farming Reduces Food Miles
In the United States, the average meal travels ~1,500 miles to reach our plates while producing your own fruits and veggies, eggs, honey and goats milk allows for your meals to come from right outside your door. Not only is the nutritional value of your food then left intact, but the carbon footprint of the meal is next to zero. Plus, it really is true that food you’ve produced yourself tastes better than anything you could purchase in a grocery store.
Urban Farming Encourages Healthy, Seasonal Eating
If you harvest it in June, you’ll eat it in June. Fresh food is the best food. Preserved food (in the way of jams, sauces or dehydrated treats) is the second best. Out of necessity, we (humans on this planet) ate this way for countless years and we can re-adapt our habits back to a more seasonal way of eating. No, it won’t be as convenient and it will take practice and time to break our habits, but if it’s better for the environment and our pallets, then it’s worth a shot, right?
Urban Farming Reduces Food Waste
If you grow kale, you’ll eat kale. If you grow apples, you’ll eat apples. If you raise chickens, you will eat eggs (lots of them). Yes, you can purchase the same foods and you might even eat them, but chances are that you will throw away at least 1/3 of all the food you purchase. Sometimes it goes bad in the fridge before you even have a chance to cook it up, sometimes it’s the leftovers that get tossed. However, if you produce a good portion of the food you eat, your chances of wasting it go down because you have worked very hard to get it and, as mentioned above, it will taste better, therefore encouraging you to eat it all!
Urban Farming Saves Money
Food is expensive and one might argue that it always has been. However, with the droughts affecting many areas and floods affecting others, we’ve all seen the news reports and experienced the sticker shock at the grocery store. Meats, dairy, fruits and veggies are either slowly going up each season or they’re skyrocketing from year to year. While it is very challenging to be fully self-sustainable in an urban setting, growing a bit of your own food and gathering all of your own eggs will save you lots of money in the long run.
Urban Farming Encourages Exercise & Fresh Air
Too often most of us can be found on our couches in front of the TV or in our offices behind a computer. While starting an urban farm won’t stop that entirely, it can encourage (er…force) you to step away from the screen and out into the fresh air to care for your plants and animals. Weeding, hauling soil and cleaning the chicken coop are hard work! It may not be exercise in the “traditional” sense, but I’d much rather break a sweat while producing something I can eat later than by running on a treadmill, wouldn’t you?
Urban Farming Creates Mini Oasis’
Greening our cities is something that local governments are beginning to realize is very important and they (we) are spending millions of dollars to put in parks and gardens where greenery was torn out and replaced with asphalt two decades ago. Green areas reduce urban temperatures and encourage a diverse ecology. Additionally, individuals are finding that adding a few plants or trees or a patch of (drought tolerant) grass not only improves their view of the city beyond their balcony/terrace/rooftop/front porch/urban lot, but it also improves their moods. I mean really, is it possible to be unhappy with your toes in the grass or sitting beneath a huge shade tree or while smelling the flowers or watching the bees? Right.
The truth is, if you are passionate about your current urban farm or planning/hoping to start one, all of the benefits will always outweigh the challenges. This urban farming journey of ours was not planned, it was just an evolution of sorts, and I truly would not have it any other way.