As city dwellers across the U.S. develop an interest in fresher, more local, and more sustainable food, innovative methods of producing food in urban areas multiply. These enterprises take all forms, from nonprofit urban gardening programs serving low-income residents; to massive farm businesses restoring blighted city blocks; to high-tech aquaculture companies producing food on rooftops.
There are thousands of urban-ag projects of many kinds blooming in towns and cities all across the country and serving a variety of nutritional and social needs.
Organizations like City Slicker Farms in West Oakland, California, demonstrate the potential of urban agriculture to help correct an imbalance that has developed in many cities — that of fresh food’s availability in wealthier neighborhoods and relative paucity in inner-cities.
The organization maintains seven community market farms totaling less than an acre, which collectively produce 7,000 pounds of food a year to be sold at a central market stand to West Oaklanders at risk of food insecurity and malnutrition.
The organization also helps local families set up food gardens in their yards, providing free materials — planter boxes, soil, seedlings — as well as two years of free guidance from a volunteer mentor.
On the other side of the urban-ag spectrum are those companies working to find ways to turn a profit growing food in urban landscapes. These businesses can capitalize on city-dwellers’ desire for fresh, local food and thriving neighborhoods energized by local living economies.
Aquaponics combines aquaculture (raising aquatic animals in tanks) with hydroponics (growing plants in water) in a symbiotic system. Once it is fully established, Cityscape Farms will produce and supply local shoppers with fish and greens that are as fresh and local as one can get.
While the San Francisco Bay Area is clearly well represented in urban agriculture, cities around the country are cultivating many such enterprises.
Detroit is a prominent example; residents there have appropriated large tracts of abandoned city land toward a widespread, creative urban farming experiment. Plots of all sizes sprouting foods of all kinds — from humble community gardens to what will be the world’s largest urban farm established by investor millionaire John Hantz — have emerged across the city.