You know that song, "How You Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm After They've Seen Paris?" Lately people are bringing the farm with them to Paris. The hottest thing in food these days is urban farming. On rooftops and vacant lots people are growing food -- and not just sweet little kitchen gardens, either. I'm talking acres of vegetables, honeybees, chickens, and occasionally a pig or a goat.
Who is doing this gonzo urban farming -- and why?
Will Allen started with a two-acre plot in a low-income neighborhood in Milwaukee in the 1980s. Now he's probably America's most famous urban farmer. Through his organization Growing Power, the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" recipient teaches other urban communities how to grow their own food, including how to start a tilapia fish farm!
The largest urban farm in the US was a 14-acre community garden in South Central LA. See the story in the award-winning documentary The Garden (psst, which you can watch instantly on Netflix). Keep a box of tissues handy ... I'm just saying.
Novella Carpenter has been city farming for 10 years and wrote about her exploits -- which include raising a pig in the middle of Oakland -- in her memoir Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. Now she's raising goats, ducks, and rabbits at Ghost Town Farm.
According to the New York Post, Brooklyn has the most farms of all the boroughs in New York City, where bee keeping was just legalized and where there's a backyard chicken on every other block (at least it seems that way). Over half the produce sold at the East New York Farms market is purchased with food stamps! See what an urban farmer looks like in New York Magazine.
On the left here is Brooklyn's smallest farm, Truck Farm, appearing soon in a documentary. And yeah, you can buy their lettuce.
As for why:
1. There's not enough fresh, quality, affordable food in the city.
2. You get the super-fresh flavors you can only get from super-local food.
3. City-grown food has a lower carbon footprint than food shipped in from far away.
4. Need I remind you of the egg recall scandal? And have you ever eaten a fresh-laid egg?
5. Some folks are just bat-s**t crazy about farming but still love city living. It's an addiction.
Is there an urban farm near you?