Can Urban Farms Translate Popularity Into Profitability?

Chicago Urban Farm
Chicago Urban Farm
image: Wikipedia

In the recent post, A Growing Concern, in The Earth Island Journal, Sena Christian raises legitimate questions about the national urban agriculture movement. She states that farms and community gardens in city centers seem to have struck a chord with the American public and have become media darlings attracting big grants from major philanthropies and the support of upscale chefs.

Many city farms operate off the basic premise that healthy affordable food is a basic human right, in other words, they are a form of “food justice” for all. But, while they may be at the forefront of ecological sustainability, economic sustainability has eluded them. If this new urban landscape is focused on addressing the challenges of our food system, why have most not found a way to thrive in the market economy?  Sena highlights the pros and cons presented by this growing urban vernacular with examples such as Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture and Education Project, in Sacramento, CA, City Slicker Farms in Oakland, CA, and Greensgrow in Philadelphia.

Oakland’s City Slicker Farms runs a weekly produce stand in a neighborhood with no large grocery stores. Photo by: Anne Hamersky, annehammersky.blogspot.com
Oakland’s City Slicker Farms runs a weekly produce stand in a neighborhood with no large grocery stores. Photo by: Anne Hamersky, annehammersky.blogspot.com

In another peri-urban article in Grist by Breaking Through the Concrete, it was asked if Sandhill Organics in Prairie Crossings was the “urban” farm of the future. The largest part of the Prairie Crossing Organic Farm is Sandhill Organics, which is run by farmers Matt and Peg Sheaffer.

Sandhill Organics at Prairie Crossings, photo by Michael Hanson
Sandhill Organics at Prairie Crossings, photo by Michael Hanson

Along with their son Avery, Matt and Peg came to the farm from East Troy, Wisconsin, where they had farmed organically for several years. Their crops include a wide variety of vegetables throughout the season, as well as berries and cut flowers. The Sheaffers want the Prairie Farm residents to consider them their neighbors and friends first, the community farmers second. The article ends with a rhetorical but interesting question, ”Which came first, the City or the Farm?”

by April Philips

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