7 Urban Farming Initiatives to Inspire Your Inner Gardener [LIST]

There's no need to suppress your green thumb just because you live in a buzzing metropolis.

Sep 11, 2014

In 2014, an estimated 54% of the world's population resides in urban areas – up from 34% in 1960. As a result, fewer and fewer people around the globe are living close to where their food is produced, meaning produce needs to be preserved, stored and transported before it gets to your plate. The financial and economic effects of this massive industry are stacking up – and so more and more people have decided to do something about it, by getting into urban farming and turning traditional food supply systems upside down. Innovative, fresh and fun, these seven initiatives will inspire the gardener in you – and maybe even get your mouth watering for some delicious locally-grown food.




1. DETROIT DIRT

THE DIRT: This company has no problem rolling their sleeves up and getting down to the nitty gritty. The edgy initiative is helping to transform forgotten parcels of land into urban farms which both feed and revitalize the local community.
THE FARM: The majority of Detroit Dirt's efforts are in compost – because it provides virtually all the essential nutrients for healthy plant growth. The basic operation is simple: collect organic food scraps from partner restaurants and manure from the zoo, mix it all together to make nutrient rich soil, and then sell it to local customers (with a discount to churches and nonprofits).
THE TOOLS: Founder Pashon Murray became something of an internet sensation when she starred in this viral advertisement for Ford Motor Company. Backed by Ford and General Motors, Murray runs the operation by herself with no employees, just a team of volunteers.

Screenshot from YouTube

2. FIVE BOROUGH FARMS

THE DIRT: When you think of New York City, agriculture is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. The densely-populated city has sky-high real estate prices – meaning any available space is crammed with residential and office units. But the Big Apple is actually a leader in urban farming. In an effort to strengthen and expand this standing, the Five Borough Farms project is currently in its third and final phase, providing a roadmap to farmers and gardeners around the world to understand and weigh the benefits of urban agriculture.
THE FARM: Backed by the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, the project aims to survey and document New York City's existing urban agricultural activity. They will also establish shared tools to enable farmers and gardeners to track urban agricultural activity and evaluate their benefits. The end goal is to develop policy recommendations that will help make urban agriculture a more permanent part of the city's landscape.
THE TOOLS: The young, dynamic team consists of a broad range of professionals – from landscape architects and urban designers to photographers and surveyors.

3. SKY GREENS

THE DIRT: Like New York, Singapore lacks farmable land – despite being one of the richest countries in the world. To work towards producing locally-farmed vegetables, Goodnet favorite Sky Greens came up with an innovative solution: a tropical vertical urban farming system that uses minimal land, water and energy resources.
THE FARM: The patented green technology grows tropical vegetables all year round, as the harvests are housed in protected outdoor greenhouses, safe from pests and temperamental weather conditions. To that end, the production yield of Sky Greens is impressively five to ten times more per unit area compared to other Singaporean farms growing vegetables by conventional methods.
THE TOOLS: The low-carbon, hydraulic water-driven green technology was developed in an effort to produce higher yields of edible veggies per unit of land. The vegetable varieties available include lettuce, cabbage, spinach, and a selection of Asian greens.

Photo: Sky Greens

4. JONES VALLEY TEACHING FARM

THE DIRT: Established in 2007, the Jones Valley Teaching Farm hosts a variety of education programs for schools, kids and families. The farm is a welcoming and open space where participants of all ages can get their hands dirty with volunteer opportunities and community garden plots available on a seasonal basis.
THE FARM: Based on a formerly vacant property in the center of downtown Birmingham, Alabama, the JVTF is an oasis of fresh food. The urban farm produces over 60 different organic vegetable, fruit and flower crops and is a mecca for education, intent on growing the next generation of hungry minds.
THE TOOLS: The delectable programs include: working on the farm, cooking and nutrition series and specialized curriculum about food systems.  The "Seed to Plate" track encourages students to explore and investigate the farm, to discover where food comes from and why it's so important.

5. OPENFARM

THE DIRT: Founder Rory Aronson was interested in gardening but didn’t know where to begin. Overwhelmed by Web searches that yielded tons of contradictory and confusing information, he decided to create a unified platform to answer growers’ needs called OpenFarm - the Wikipedia for farming and gardening.
THE FARM: Once launched, Open Farm will be a free, open database where growers can seek advice, share their experiences and find pertinent information. The site will feature growing guides which are structured stories about growing a specific plant according to particular practices and diverse environmental conditions.
THE TOOLS: The Kickstarter campaign is now drawing to an end, and still accepting donations. So far it has over 1,000 backers and has raised over $22,000 – far exceeding the initial $7,500 goal.

Screenshot: Kickstarter 

6. FREIGHT FARMS

THE DIRT: Funky startup Freight Farms makes modern portable growing systems that can produce fresh local food all year round. Capable of cultivating over 3,600 types of plants, these leafy, green plant growing machines may well revolutionize the way we look at local produce from now on.
THE FARM: Crazy as it sounds, Freight Farms crops are grown in 40-foot-long shipping containers, and powered by smartphones.
THE TOOLS: Known as Leafy Green Machines , the containers provide an alternative to relying on food trucked or flown in from warmer climates by allowing farming to take place anywhere, including urban areas. Each unit is climate-controlled, lit by LED lights and digitally monitored, meaning freight farmers can view inside and make necessary adjustments from the palm of their hands by using a smartphone. The machines are super environmentally-friendly, requiring no pesticides or herbicides and operating with limited access to water.

Photo: Freight Farms' Facebook Page

7. RIPE NEAR ME

THE DIRT: Something of a dating site for urban and backyard gardeners, Ripe Near Me gives farmers a chance to sell, or simply give away their offerings to others in the neighborhood. The simple website not only encourages the environmentally-friendly practice of growing fresh produce, it's also a great way for local people to get to know each other and share their passion for home-grown food.
THE FARM: On the virtual marketplace, users post about what their produce and indicate whether it's available for free, to swap or at a price. Users can search the digitized local urban farmer's market based on what they are looking for, receiving notifications when the harvest is ripe and available for pick up.
THE TOOLS: The Australian-based team uses online tools – including social media – to fulfill its aims of reducing food waste, improving access to local, homegrown food, and making the world a better place.

Screenshot: Ripe Near Me

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