Why support urban farming?
For the past few months, we have thought a lot about the various objectives of our work as city farmers. At various Farm Bill related events— including a recent round table with Congressman Langevin, New England and National Farmers Union meetings, and other more local discussions—we have realized that it would be valuable to articulate these thoughts in terms of broader conversations about agriculture in this country. Food security, economic security, nutrition, environmental concerns, and community development are all part of current agricultural discourse in this country. All of these issues are integral to any conversation about urban farming.
After a great meeting pulled together by Leo of the South Side Community Land Trust with a diverse crowd— including urban farmers, farm and environmental advocates, an NRCS representative, urban and rural land trust folks, etc.— Sidewalk Ends composed this list of Urban Agriculture Talking Points. We hope they can be used to align our goals (and our struggle for supportive policy) with those of beginning farmers from all different backgrounds, in all sorts of communities.
Providence Urban Agriculture Talking Points
Who we are:
Sidewalk Ends Farm: A 4300 sq. feet garden on Harrison St. in Providence (a vacant residential-zoned space), run by Tess Brown-Lavoie, Fay Strongin, and Laura Brown-Lavoie. We also have a garden in Olneyville.
The Little City Grower’s Cooperative: A direct-marketing cooperative of four urban farms in Providence and two peri-urban farms (in Johnston and Cranston).
Some reasons we think Urban Agriculture is important:
- Urban farms are incubators for future agriculturalists. For people who do not grow up in an agricultural setting, urban farms can be the first experience of growing food. All of us (Tess, Laura, and Fay) had early experiences on urban farms which inspired us to pursue this work. If we want a new generation of farmers, urban agriculture is an important aspect of recruitment and training.
- Urban farms create local jobs and promote the local economy: Sidewalk Ends Farm alone generated three jobs, and grossed around $7300 this season. Especially now, when Providence is in a dire economic situation, our work is an example of urban entrepreneurship and creative economic development.
- Urban farms promote mutually beneficial local economic relationships between growers, chefs, and consumers. At the farmers markets, in CSAs, and through partnerships with restaurants, urban farms keep our food dollars in Providence.
- Urban farms are a source of healthy food for low-income city residents. The Armory Park Farmer’s Market, where we sell our produce, sold almost $8000 worth of food in EBT credit (as well as significant sales through WIC and Senior Voucher programs). Urban nutrition is a hot-button issue right now, and urban agriculture should be a integral part of future nutrition policy.
- Urban farms can produce A LOT of food: on 4300 sq. ft., in our first year at Sidewalk Ends., we sold over 1000 pounds of food.
- Urban farms have a low carbon footprint. Our scale makes heavy machinery unnecessary, and we don’t use petroleum-based chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Our food is grown in the neighborhoods where it is sold and we transport it by bicycle. Fewer food-miles, fresher food!
- Urban farms divert and repurpose materials from the urban waste stream: we pick up hundreds of pounds of food scraps from local restaurants and soup kitchens for compost, horse manure from the police stables, and scraps of lumber and metal which we recycle for infrastructural projects.
- Urban farms are beautiful. They reclaim wasted space in cities and remediate lead soil. The presence of gardens in a neighborhood improves property values. City farmers are land stewards.
- Urban farms transform city blocks into neighborhoods. A garden communicates care of a space far more than a vacant lot with a “For Sale” sign. A city farm is an informal educational space for their neighbors, and offer many city dwellers a first experience of interacting with the land.
- Urban farms are cooperative. The UN declared 2012 “The International Year of Cooperatives.” Here in Providence, the Little City Growers Cooperative has been producing and marketing food as a coalition of small farms since 2005, with increased production and sales every year.
For more information about Sidewalk Ends Farm or the Little City Grower’s Co-op, contact us: email@example.com