Urban farming

I’m moving out of the city to go work on a farm, but it turns out you don’t have to. Urban farming is a burgeoning movement here in Seattle and all around the country.  Seattle mayor Mike McGinn has even declared 2010 to be the “year of urban agriculture” here.

Last night I went to a talk by Will Allen, the founder of Growing Power, a successful urban farm in Milwaukee, WI. Will reiterated the importance of growing more food where people live instead of trucking it all in from rural farms. A quote: “We need 50 million more people growing food, on porches, in pots, in side yards.” The concept is apparently taking off in Detroit as well, a city with plenty of vacant land to spare right now.

Here in Seattle, I’ve been working with an amazing group of people called Harvest Collective, which is one of several groups doing urban farming in our city. They form partnerships with landowners in the city in which the group grows food on many properties and the property owners each get a share of the collective harvest. If I wasn’t moving out to Bainbridge, I would be joining this group as a full member, and perhaps I will when I’m done with the apprenticeship. For the moment I’ve been volunteering with them a little bit and enjoying spending time with them.

I don’t necessarily believe *all* of what we eat can or even should come from our own city, but certainly some amount can. There are so many benefits: putting empty backyards to functional use, enjoying extremely fresh and local veggies/fruit/eggs, cutting down on food transportation costs, and allowing people to live in the city and still do agriculture.

All the ingredients are there: people with land, people who want to grow food, and people who want to eat locally-grown food. With enough momentum, we could start to see a really fundamental shift in the way our food system works in cities. It’s exciting to see this happening and to be involved in some small part of it.