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What is an Urban Farm?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2016
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An urban farm is a farm located in an urban area. Typically, urban farms are more like oversized gardens than true farms, but they can be used to produce a wide variety of fresh food, including produce, eggs, and milk. The mission of an urban farm can vary, from being a demonstration site to show people that urban farming is possible, to a working farm which generates fresh food for sale to the community.

There are a number of reasons why people opt to create urban farms. In some communities, farms are used to get the community connected with and interested in the source of their food, by giving people opportunities to work on the farm, meet the people who care for it, and to tour it so that they can see food growing. Nutrition education programs sometimes use urban farms to educate people, especially children, about where food comes from and why a balanced, healthy diet is important.

Fans of sustainable agriculture promote urban farms because they reduce the distance that the food needs to travel from the farm to the table. These groups use urban farms to show people that it is possible to grow food locally, rather than relying on distant locations for food. An urban farm also often focuses on organic methods of production and other environmentally friendly measures, to contrast it from the industrialized agriculture which provides the bulk of the world's food.

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Almost any location with some soil can be used as an urban farm. Empty lots, residential landscaping, rooftops, and highway medians have all been used for urban farming. Because the space is usually limited, dense methods of production are often promoted, allowing people to grow as much as possible on the space that they have. Many urban farms are also designed to be aesthetically pleasing, so that they contribute to the urban landscape in addition to providing nutrition.

Urban farms may be run as community collectives, in which members of the community work together to grow food, and share in the bounty. This can provide access to fresh food to people who might otherwise have trouble getting it, such as residents of low-income neighborhoods which lack markets. Others may run an urban farm on a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, in which people pay a subscription which covers the costs of the farm, in return for regular food deliveries. Urban farms can also be run by schools, advocacy groups, and collections of friends.

People who are interested in urban farming may be able to find an example in their area. Most urban farmers are happy to show people around and talk about what they do, and some may have openings for people who want to join a CSA or work on the farm. Advocacy groups may even help people establish urban farms, for people who want to get more involved.

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