Back to Basics – Urban Micro-Farming
Product recalls and food warnings are becoming more prevalent as modern agribusiness giants like Monsanto continue to produce gentically engineered food. Worse is that this food is being grown on land long past its expiration date, due to chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides; while livestock is artificially bloated through hormone enhancement. Aside from the blatant health hazards, the product that hits store shelves is vastly inferior to what can be grown on a family farm. Saddest of all is that farmers who once gave back to the land are now subsidized to destroy it. Lest we think this is all past the point of no return, micro-farming is an option for those who would like to participate in countering the prevailing trend of Frankenfood and unsustainable agriculture.
No worries if you don’t have land available; according to Metrofarm, a recent Census of Agriculture reveals that the most productive farmland in the United States is in the Bronx, NY. The second most productive is in San Francisco, CA. They assert that you can earn up to eight times the average peronal income on as little as one acre of land. Urban micro-farming goes just a step farther, using rooftop space, or available space within a home or apartment. This small-scale operation can be started immediately with modern technology, whereas even a small traditional farm could be a 2- to 4-year transition period to bring online and stabilize living systems.
As the backlash against all things “big” continues, as well as the erosion of a shaky financial foundation in our largest institutions, more people are looking to regain a bit of what has been lost — and not only their money. Current conditions demonstrate what happpens when personal independence and freedom are given away; it runs the risk of mismanagement. The system of dependence encouraged by big business has been revealed for what it was all along: a giant Ponzi scheme where the money and resources from current and future generations have been hoarded and controlled by the very few who started the pyramid. Now that it is increasingly obvious, many people are opting out; eager to reassert their independence and start thinking small.
Much has been made about the inherent danger of our current society having moved off of farmland and into urban environments. It has been suggested that we no longer have the means, or the knowledge, to sustain ourselves within the cities on which we depend for employment and infrastructure. If the cities fail, we fail. Urban micro-farmers tend to disagree, citing that it is the very proximity to vast numbers of people and businesses that provide an immediate client base. With little need for transportation, costs of production and distribution are reduced, thus streamlining operations and maximizing potential profits. Furthermore, with better and cheaper technology available, a small farm operation can be run singlehandedly.
Cityfarmer.org illustrates how technologies such as hydroponics, aquaculture, aquaponics, vermiculture (worm farms), and small animal husbandry can be integrated into the modern city environment. Frugality and ingenuity have combined to where people can use off-the-shelf items to:
A. Take food wastes from local restaurant and shops
B. Put them through biogas digesters to eliminate pathogens
C. Use vermiculture to create nutrients for fish and plants from sterilized food waste
D. Grow fish, crustaceans, herbs, salad vegetables, and selected small animals for sale to local restaurants or food stores
Meanwhile, for those still in the research phase, or those who have decided that there isn’t enough time to be a producer, it is important at least to find a local farm, farmers’ market, or an urban micro-farm. Local Harvest has a searchable directory by zip code or city that will direct you to those taking part in this environmental and personal resnaissance.