Groovy Green elicited a comment on my Urban Farm post that I thought I would share here as I found it interesting. The comment below was from Joseph:
It’s a nice idea. I would love to see some real, actual effort put into how this could work, because there are a lot of unanswered questions, like: How are unemployed people who can’t even pay their bills, like me, supposed to purchase land? Unless you’re assuming a city government that can’t even pay its backlogged bills is supposed to purchase the land, and in that case, where would that money come from — taxpayers, most likely? Or is this only city-owned, vacant land? Who will clear all of the zoning laws, and pay for all of the permits and property taxes? How will we know what to grow? And if we somehow knew what to grow, how are unemployed people who have no farming background supposed to know what to do? And who is going to find, market to and sell to these mysterious customers, such as restaurants or produce wholesalers? Are municipalities supposed to purchase and convert the acreage, and then hire the unemployed to farm it? And if so, what’s that going to pay beyond minimum wage? And most of all, why would you suggest farming as a possible solution, given that farming is one of the riskiest endeavors in the world — highly dependent on weather/nature and environmental events? It’s good to have your head in the clouds, as long as you have two feet on the ground. Right now, you’re floating.
My response is below:
Thanks for the comment! There are certainly unanswered questions, but not any that I think are insurmountable. The reason I think this is possible is because I’m doing it. Right now. This summer, in a city, on a small plot of about 1/2 an acre. Is it hard? Hell yes it is! But it’s challenging and fun like any other endeavor. And I didn’t know anything about farming but I asked around, found some mentors, read some books and started doing it.
Re: farming being a tough business. You are right. I think a lot of the problems are mitigated though by practicing it on a small scale. Weather and nature become easier to overcome when you have an acre to manage instead of 100. Its easier to water something that size, keep weeds at bay, etc when it’s smaller.
How do you get the land? Be creative. I’m borrowing land from a church and a local organization that has abandoned the building after a devastating flood ruined it. What do I offer them? I take care of the property so it’s kept up and I teach the kids who go to the church’s daycare about farming/gardening and share some food with them so they can taste fresh food. The key is to not find ways you CAN’T do it but find ways that you CAN.
For example, in my city we are working on acquiring more land to expand our farm. How did we do that? We analyzed the situation to figure out how to solve multiple problems for people around us. Our city has plenty of devastated properties so we have offered to take over the care of them so they won’t be eye sores (lots where houses have been torn down), put them back on the tax rolls for the city (because we will own them we will pay taxes on them again vs. the city owning them), create a job creation engine in the local economy (small farms require labor) and do it with no more support from the local government than them giving us the land to use, which it can’t be built on because it’s in a flood plain anyway. It’s a win for us, a win for the city and a win for the neighbors on these properties. Heck, it’s even a win for our customers because we are in the city, thus easier for them to get to and also a win because we are offering half priced shares for low income people who need the help.
What other options might someone have?
If there is a vacant lot around you find the owner. Offer to take care of it for them in exchange for free use. If they don’t like that offer to rent it for a small fee. If they want to0 much move on. Maybe you can find a local corporate office that has a huge swath of land. You could offer to farm part of it in exchange for taking care of it for them for free (ie, mowing it for them) Thus you would trade your time for their land. They save the cost of upkeep on the whole thing and you get part of it to grow food on. Not to mention the ready group of customers you have at your doorstep as they leave the office on Fridays and you have a tent set up to sell them produce. I treat a lot of this like a normal business transaction. If you can make it a win-win for all parties you’ll usually get the job done.
Some of this is covered in a book I wrote about how to start an Urban Farm.
You should check it out. The big key is your attitude and your desire to do something. All the things you mention can be overcome and, in fact have been by many people already operating urban farms. You just have to want to do it and then move forward not letting people throw up roadblocks.
Do any of you readers have any thoughts you would like to add? Add them here or bounce over to the GG site and comment on the article there.