In 1949, farmland made up 63% of the landmass in the US. In 2007, it was down to 51% and has been on a slow decline up until now.
Fewer and fewer acres are used for crop production as we make more room for suburban neighborhoods across the Midwest. This can help to drive grocery prices up across the nation.
So many people are turning to urban farming. Rather than having to rely on farmers across the country, city dwellers are planting their own gardens on their rooftops to harvest their own food, even with very little land to cultivate.
How are they doing this? And better yet, how can you get started with your own urban farm? Keep reading our urban farming tips below to learn more.
What Is Urban Farming?
Farming has traditionally occurred away from large cities. It happens on the Great Plains, in the Midwest, and in regions of the country where few people live.
While the use of many acres makes it easier for farmers to produce crops at scale, the also requires extensive transportation to bring those crops to market. You can get orchard and vineyard supply.
Urban farming is a different approach. It’s the concept of growing food inside of city centers where the bulk of the population lives. This limits the amount of transportation that occurs to sell the produce to the end consumer.
It allows consumers to buy fresher food since it was grown only a mile or two away from their home.
But more importantly, it helps to solve our bigger food problems. The population of the US, and nearly every other country, is growing every year.
This means more neighborhoods are being built, and cities are expanding in every direction. With less farmland and more people, we’re creating a food crisis.
The solution going forward is learning how to produce food inside of our ever-expanding cities. And that’s what urban farming allows. Its importance will multiply in the coming decades.
Residential Urban Farming
If you live in a large city, or even a suburban neighborhood, you can bring urban farming to your backyard, patio, or rooftop. If you get enough sunlight inside, you can even grow food in your apartment.
There are many different options for homeowners and rents. For those who are tight on space, consider hydroponics. This is the process of growing plants with water rather than soil. This lets you grow food nearly anywhere.
You can either set up a larger hydroponics table, or you can use a vertical hydroponics system if you don’t have space for a table.
If you have any space outdoors, such as a small yard or a balcony, you can add a raised garden bed. These are simple wooden beds that allow you to lay a bed of soil and plant herbs and vegetables with ease.
Is your balcony too small for a garden bed? You can get a greenhouse cabinet. The best greenhouse for small apartments will have shelves inside that allow you to stack multiple small plants and herbs to help you grow year-round.
Urban Homes With Yards
In many large cities, homes actually do have yards. In places like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle, it’s doable to find a home with at least a small backyard. If you have a few hundred square feet, then the options for growing your own food are nearly unlimited.
You can build a full-sized greenhouse if you’d like ample produce year-round. Or you can build stacked raised garden beds to give you space for more crops. You can build plant walls and trellis to grow upwards.
And you can even build a small chicken coop so that you have fresh eggs on a daily basis.
Raising chickens in the backyard is one of the most underrated activities for homeowners.
Once you understand the basics, and have a solid coop, raising chickens is easy to do and very affordable. And you don’t have to have much space. A simple coop and small fenced-in area will be enough to keep your chickens happy and healthy.
Urban farming is better when you get a full meal out of it. With chickens, vegetables, and fruit, you can produce a full breakfast each morning organically without having to go to the store.
Not every city will allow homeowners to have chickens in the backyard. Check your local regulations before building a coop. Usually, you can, so long as you don’t have a rooster, which are the loud annoying chickens that small coops have no use for.
Want to kill two birds with one stone? Try Aquaculture.
Aquaculture is similar to hydroponics. But fertilizing your plants to help them grow is done so with fish. Underneath the plants, inside your water tank, is a handful of fish.
Fish will eat bugs and excess plant matter. They will then produce waste, which the plants use as fertilizer.
Aquaponics mimics the natural ecosystem found in the real world.
Because the water is recirculated constantly, aquaponics uses 1/10th of the water that traditional soil gardening uses, which is ideal in drought-prone areas.
And not only do you get fresh produce, but you also get to harvest healthy fish for a full dinner.
Commercial Urban Farming
Homeowners can plant gardens at home through the use of greenhouses in their small backyard or rooftop gardens. But the majority of urban farming is done so commercially.
In major metro areas, there is very little agricultural land anywhere near the city center. It’s all concrete, industrial land.
Luckily, with the right techniques and tools, you can start farming anywhere, even if there isn’t any soil nearby.
Make Use of the Roof
Rooftop greenhouses aren’t new. But they have definitely seen a surge of adoption in recent years.
Many new buildings that go up in metro areas are seeking to be eco-friendly. They use recycled materials and maximize energy efficiency. They may also invest in solar power, composting programs, and extensive recycling.
But another way to go green is to utilize the otherwise wasted space on the roof for crop production. With a rooftop greenhouse, businesses can grow crops in any state, during any time of the year, even with subzero temperatures outside.
And the business model is versatile. The greenhouse can either be run by the company that inhabits the building. Or the greenhouse can be rented out to others. Both pave the way for profits and impact. Here are some examples.
Downtown Market in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Michigan is known for long, cold winters. But that doesn’t stop people from growing fresh produce year-round, especially at the recently constructed downtown market in Grand Rapids.
The building is LEED-certified, making it a model for other new construction projects in Michigan’s second-largest city. And it’s identifiable from far-off thanks to its iconic rooftop greenhouse.
This greenhouse serves multiple purposes. Half of the greenhouse is used to host events. The greenhouse primarily hosts weddings, even during winter when the snow is falling. The inside temperature is warm, the glass provides excellent views of the city, and there are vibrant, green plants all around.
The other half of the greenhouse is used to grow crops. Various restaurants around town will manage their own crops in the greenhouse to ensure fresh herbs and plants for their dishes, even in the heart of winter.
You don’t need to build a greenhouse on top of an existing building in order to start farming in the city. However, for fully established cities like New York or Chicago, that might be the only option.
For cities that have commercial real estate and industrial land available, a commercial greenhouse can be constructed right on the ground. These are essentially much larger, more advanced greenhouses than what you might place in your backyard.
Kubo is a company that produces the best greenhouses for commercial use in city centers.
They can build one on the ground if you have vacant land available for production. Or they can establish one on the roof of an existing building.
With modern farm greenhouse producers, nearly anything is possible. Bringing food to population centers is becoming easier than ever before.
Vertical Farming; The Rise of Farmscrapers
There’s another way to perform urban farming. Vertical farming is the process of growing crops upwards, along the sides of tall buildings. When it comes to skyscrapers, the real estate available for growth is massive.
And it puts even more wasted space to good use. But vertical farming requires more advanced equipment and specialized engineering to bring it to life. It also requires more management and resources, but provides great economies of scale, making it worth it in the end.
It hasn’t caught on quite as much as a rooftop greenhouse, but is likely going to in the coming years as available farmland in the US continues to decrease while the demand for food increases with our population.
Gardens in the City
Urban farming is a new reality. The global population is increasing, urban sprawl is spreading, and agricultural land is shrinking. It’s creating the perfect storm for a food crisis.
But with the use of modern technology and the creativity to utilize otherwise wasted space, we can plant effective gardens almost anywhere.
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