Urban Farming- A Revolution or a Fad?

farming with skyscrapers

I am a loss as to what to call this.  The folks in the video call what they are doing an “urban homestead” and in other instances I have seen “urban farming” and just plane ol’gardens.  But calling it something is important especially if there are certain key characteristics that set it apart from the other terms.  But first you need to watch the video below.

That video is inspirational.  I can’t see, nor do I want too, myself going to the extremes the Darveas family has gone into their “Urban Homestead” lifestyle but I do feel I found an outlet for my outdoorsy disposition.  The following is what I find attractive:

1.  Utilizing land appropriately.

We have yards with lawns.  Lots of green grass that gets cut every week.  We pour abundant amounts of water from a limited, if not scarce, supply of water.  In fact, in Southern California our lawn lifestyle drains an entire natural environment, the Owns Valley, of its water leaving it a barren salt wasteland.

We pour in tons of chemicals to keep the lawns green, free of weeds and green.  The idea of keeping a lawn to me sounds completely idiotic.  Having spent years cutting and maintaining the lawn I value the life lessons its taught me- doing chores, yard work, manual labor.  However, its just not sustainable.  The question I ask myself is that if we were to ration the water supply, would the lawn get priority?

The answer is no, it wouldn’t.  Therefore, like Arizona, Californians need to come to terms with the reality of desert life.  If you can’t turn your lawn into a local-scape because the green is very attractive, then atleast consider turning it into something edible.

In that sense I think I like the idea of Urban Farming: taking vacant properties in urban areas to turn them into neighborhood farms.  I also like the Urban Homestead: converting available space on your plot of land into manageable growth areas for vegetable gardening.

2.  Growing Organic veggies.

Proposition 37 in California was all about knowing what is in your food.  We are informed about the fat, the ingredients, nutrient content; well I want to know if I am ingesting genetically modified food.  I should be able to make the choice based on my wallet, that way farmers and producers can decide how good for their wallet this product will be.

The fear for those supply side folks is that if I choose not to buy genetically modified foods their task of producing factory-like-products will be affected.  That genetically modified food is cheaper for them and therefore cheaper for me on the consumer end of the equation should be a good thing, however, there is one way to test this model- tell me what is genetically modified and what is not.  Let them sit side-by-side so I can choose to buy the foods I want to eat.

I believe that is the ultimate test, however, since I can’t do that I like the idea of growing my own food stuff.  The basics sound good right now- tomatoes especially.

3.  Sustainable living- seasonal, local and fresh.

I talked about the idea of meat consumption in my previous posts.  I am beginning to realize that a similar morphing has happened with the availability of vegetables throughout the year.  We basically have lost sense of whats in season.  This has driven us to live a life of entitlement and disregard to how our choices affect not only others but also the environment.

That takes me to the second issue: buy local.  I stopped buying from Walmart ages ago.  I would only go into a Walmart if my parents take me there.  Similarly, I when I travel I like to find local places to eat, I refuse to be a patron at chain restaurants.  The purpose of chain restaurants was to standardize the your food intake.  When going place to place you knew that eating at one of these chain restaurants you could get your meal the way you got it at home.  All of that is changed now, I don’t want to eat the same meals, and even more importantly, I dont want to eat the fat injected, carb-loaded beasts sold at these restaurants.  I want to buy local.  Local grocery, eat at a local mom & pop restaurant, buy from small sellers on Amazon or Etsy, get my clothes from sellers that are unique and most likely won’t be on the backs of every other person I meet.

Finally, the idea of eating fresh just sounds good.  Imagine picking up a fresh egg.  Cutting off some fresh tomatoes.  The idea of eating food that isn’t or hasn’t packaged and transported and stored for a length of time seems romantic indeed.

In the end I think for me its about preserving a slower, nature connected, environmentally conscious intentional modern lifestyle that values the art of gardening, cooking and being human.

4.  Returning to the land.

I guess the idea itself is a romanticization of the “goo’ole days.”  Up until the mid-1960’s we were still living a consumption lifestyle that was grounded on seasonal eating.  While I appreciate refrigeration and the science behind transporting all the wonderful produce we eat in the country it is something else to be able to grow your own food.

Part of “returning to the land” mentality I have also stems from the whole “end of civilization” thought process.  If our civilization were to end, how do we survive?   Besides scavenging and survival of the fittest it comes down to having some basic level of skills such as hunting and farming.

I am not delusional, doomsday-prepper-I am-not; though its probably not a bad idea- I do think its good to be able to grow your own food.  If not for that skill set, then at least for the ability to impart simple science to my kids; “hey, Fatima, look this is your chicken Molly, ‘whaaack’, now Molly is going to be our tandoori chicken dinner.”

5.  Alternative to the the consumption driven farming policies.

There is a lot to say about this.  Sufficient for now is that I don’t like our current farming policies and I wish to opt-out.  While I can’t completely opt-out, I can begin to make certain lifestyle choices that free my conscience of this crazy farming-complex.  Watch these really informative, unbiased, PBS documentaries on farming (long), transportation (long), energy production (long) and the edible backyard (short, 4 mins).

I don’t know if its a “revolution” or its just a passing “fad.”  What I do know is that growing things in your backyard that isnt just purdy-and-green has been a long established tradition here in America.  A plot of land signified independence.  During the WWII there were plantings of victory gardens.  To that end, I, This American Muslim, have taken it upon myself to start taking steps to beginning a organic vegetable garden.  Homesteader-urban-farmer I am not, but backyard garden I shall have.  Will post up on my first step toward an organic garden shortly: its gonna be a wormy experience!

Watch this incredible 20 minute video on Victory Gardening by the USDOD!  AMAZING!

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7 thoughts on “Urban Farming- A Revolution or a Fad?

  1. Urban homesteading and organic food gardens are not a fad. Americans across all demographic groups are seeking a return to a more traditional way of life in a modern style. Congratulations on deciding to start an organic vegetable garden, there are many Muslims who have already taken this step and many more are following.

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    1. yes i agree its something we can easily start implementing. its part of a shift in thinking. consumerism drives us and also our lifestyles keeps us locked in this idea of time and what we do with- relax and eat out or be conscience in all aspects of life and true to our roots. its an interesting movement and I still am not sold as to whether it will be something that is more of a fad that is in fashion right now amongst the rich well to do Americans looking to set themselves apart. While movements in places like Detroit that are pioneering urban farming seem more like a revolution, however, they are still limited to specific areas. hence why Im not completely sold as it being a complete American lifestyle change. however, change starts somewhere so there is potential here.

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      1. It is definitely not a complete American lifestyle change, not by a long shot. It is more of a separation in American ideology, where one group of Americans are invested lock, stock and barrel into the dominate consumerist culture and the other a counter-culture gaining momentum among some of the more enlighten haves and many of the have-nots.

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      2. agreed, definitely am seeing that. I also feel its along political lines. The more liberal/progressive (blue state) living moving in this direction while the drill-baby-drill (red state) living folks see it as tree hugger status.

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