There’s a misconception that urban farming is this new, hip movement, but it’s more of a revival. During World War II, cities were speckled with “Victory Gardens,” and growing your own food was a patriotic duty (a movement which also yielded some amazing poster designs… Google those later). With the onset of industrialized food systems and improvements in refrigeration, apples began to travel more than pilots, and urban agriculture moved to the countryside, where it was out of sight and out of mind.
With the slew of environmental and food insecurity issues we currently face, reviving urban agriculture is a must. I recommend following these
10 urban farmers on Instagram as a way to connect more to food sources, to rethink sustainability in urban design and to find ways to support local agriculture. Additionally, I suggest leaving words of encouragement and gratitude in their photo comments. Farming, whether urban or rural, seems charming from the outside, but it’s a daily battle against critters, the elements, industrialization and physical exhaustion. Yet, without these crusaders, we could kiss those sweet, sweet tomatoes goodbye!
This roundup is merely scratching the surface, so be sure to tell me who else in the urban agriculture world inspires you. I am all ears. —
At 6’7”, already has a mythical presence, but he truly is legendary. The son of sharecroppers, he turned his back on farming to play professional basketball, but he eventually felt the pull of his roots. Through several leaps of faith, he created , agricultural hubs in Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago, where inner city kids come to learn about healthy food, compost and hard work. These sites also provide fresh, healthy food in poorer communities and food deserts, earning him praise from as high up as the White House.
After 10 years working as an organic farmer and traveling in the off season, found a way to combine both her passion for food and travel into , a documentary of 145 food producers from around the world. In addition to the stunning visuals, each journey offers new lessons in sustainable agricultural practices.
Audra Mulkern will act as your eyes and ears into the international farming community. On she shares her project, “,” which documents the rise of women in the agricultural world (though if my Grandma is any proof, women have been doing their fair share to keep farms running long before credit was given). Each photo is a testament to the power of women!
"Grow Food, Not Lawns!" The typical grass lawn does more harm than good (herbicides, running a lawn mower, sprinkler, etc.), so reimagines landscape design and puts those lawns to work! Homeowners donate their property in exchange for a percentage of the harvest, and a team of bicycle-powered volunteers tends to these “farmlettes.” To date, has prevented 8,148 lbs of CO2 emissions from entering our atmosphere. They’e looking to expand beyond their Orlando, FL and Oakland, CA hubs, so stay tuned. They may be biking to your lawn soon!
Not only does , aka Hilary Kearney, harvest and sell her liquid gold, but this passionate beekeeper teaches classes, hosts hive tours, and she also created to teach kids about the various roles bees play in the hives. If you live in San Diego, CA and want to support bees but aren’t quite ready to face the stingers, you can which Hilary will tend for you. Her hope is to spread awareness about the importance of bees by integrating them in the city’s ecosystem, instead of some distant apiary.
At a time when fear is creating far too many barriers, is a shining example of an open-armed welcome. Founded by Catholic Charities in conjunction with (another great urban farming feed!), the program helps refugees “put down new roots" by helping them to found their own small farm businesses. The apprenticeship program enables the refugees to transplant their skills and knowledge as they adapt to life in the U.S. Every city should be so hospitable.
is transforming the South Dallas, TX community of Bonton, an area scarred by poverty, crime, unemployment and a lack of fresh food. refers to itself as an agricultural intervention with the mission to restore health and hope. If you need your faith in humanity to be restored, this feed is a good place to start -- that, and there’s lots of cute goat pictures.
Filled with stunning imagery, tried-and-true tips and real life farmer profiles, it’s always a treat when the next issue of hits the newsstands. In between issues, the account keeps all that useful information coming, including account takeovers by farmers all across the globe. Though not limited to urban farming, the magazine and Instagram feed do offer specific best practices for city growers.
I can’t talk about farming without talking about soil. Remnants often make the most beautiful photos, but more importantly, this feed will get you thinking about waste and renewal. When food scraps or plant matter make their way to the landfills, they rot and become a significant source of methane, a greenhouse gas (more info ). Composting not only prevents that methane release, but it contributes to healthy soil, which is vital for healthy plants, ie: your food. Initiatives like should be replicated wherever possible.
Last but certainly not least, my biggest inspiration and the reason this topic hits so closely to home -- I share a home with this dirt-covered fella. This hand belongs to , aka Kyle Pattison, who happens to be my partner in life, as well as the one to convert me from urban agriculture advocate to down-in-the-dirt farmhand. Kyle is transforming vacant lots in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA into a viable food source for the neighborhood and the city. He fights fracking, teaches courses on beekeeping and makes produce look like little works of art.