Last night at my other, non-farming job, I overheard this conversation:
"Have you read Cindy's blog?" asked one person. "It's really good."
"This Cindy?" asked the other person incredulously. She jerked her head in my direction.
"Yeah, this Cindy. You should read her blog," maintained the first person.
"What's it about?"
"She doesn't have a farm," came the firm response.
"Sure she does," my defender replied. "It's her backyard."
"That's not a farm," the doubter shot back.
"It's an urban farm." My friend stretched the word for emphasis. "You should read her blog. It's good."
Urban farming is hardly a modern phenomenon, it's certainly not my invention, and it is growing in America. Today's urban farmers are concerned about sustainability. We work carefully to avoid harming the environment even if it means we might lose part of our crops. Many of us might be locavores, meaning that we try to eat food that has been grown locally. We want to decrease our carbon footprint by consuming foods that have not been shipped for hundreds or thousands of miles.
When I was growing up, our next door neighbors were a German family who had narrowly escaped the Nazis. When they came to America, they brought their European gardening tradition with them. Every inch of their backyard was intensively gardened, and I'm sure they rarely purchased vegetables from the grocery store. Similarly, today's Hmong immigrants show remarkable resourcefulness, ingenuity and productivity from their small community garden plots. Sometimes I ride my bike very slowly past their plots just to learn from them. Remember that large expanses of green grassy lawns are a peculiarly and wasteful American phenomenon.
One well-known urban farmer and author, Novella Carpenter, has documented the story of her farm on an abandoned lot in the slums of Oakland. In her novel Farm City, Novella details her experience of dumpster diving behind restaurants to scavenge food for her pair of backyard pigs. That's commitment.
Urban farming has become savvy and sophisticated. I recommend Urban Farm magazine, dedicated to sustainable city living. It's by the same publishers as Hobby Farms Magazine, but it has a distinctly urban emphasis. There are hundreds of blogs on urban farming, beekeeping, backyard chickens and more. Join the movement, grow at least some of your own food, help care for Mother Earth.
And thanks for reading my blog and defending my farm, LM!