The Urban Farming Renaissance. ~ Matt Mellen

Via elephant journal
on Aug 16, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

Urban Growth

An urban farming renaissance is budding green shoots in the most lifeless backwaters of the world’s metropolises and the result is happier and healthier residents and more desirable city environments.

As the gravel, concrete and asphalt foundations of modern cities spread in earnest following the industrial revolution they covered and effectively sterilized the land below. Ground that may have once sustained forests, fields or farm animals became lifeless and devoid of ecological function. The immediate impact for residents was that supplies had to be hauled into town along the network of arteries that connect the heart of the city with the land beyond that sustains it.

As donkey carts gave way to internal combustion engines the distance this biological matter traveled grew steadily larger, ultimately encompassing the entire planet. Asparagus from Peru, lamb from New Zealand and cod from the Arctic can now all be purchased in many city centers. In shops selling to the green dollar, the food miles may be stamped on the petroleum-based, plastic packaging. In others, it is left unmentioned.

Today these vast trains of food are kept rolling with the steady flow of oil pumped from distant lands secured with guns and stained with the blood of those that resisted. The spiraling costs and scarcity of this fuel and the commodities it moves is contributing to shifting attitudes. Local food can contribute to cities becoming more resilient and less dependent upon oil and foreign imports. It can also be fresher, cheaper and more enriching in myriad ways.

Interestingly however, today’s resurgence in do-it-yourself agriculture is not being driven by government edicts despite the major strategic benefits it brings. Swathes of grass roots enthusiasts are filling tubs with earth, composting their food waste, collecting rainwater and growing lettuce, tomatoes and herbs on balconies, terraces and any other available space because it satisfies primeval urges that the globalized economy fails to. For the impoverished, this is the urge to eat and for those better off it satisfies a desire to connect with nature, interact meaningfully with food and to create flourishing times and places.

In the favelas of São Paulo, an organization called Cities Without Hunger uses urban agriculture to reduce hunger and unemployment. Its network now includes 700 gardeners supplying food to 4,000 community residents. In Detroit the collapse of the U.S. car industry left a poor, largely non-white population adrift in a vast sea of lifeless tarmac. Their determined transformation of this back into farmland has not just provided them with good food, they also have achieved a quality of life that can rival and even surpass that of the heady years of peak automobile productivity.

In developed cities, hipsters mingle with families, environmentalists and retired people at seed swaps, city farms and shared space all united in the desire to plant a seed and watch it grow. In London, Hackney City Farm has, since 1984, given youngsters and local people who may rarely get to the countryside, the opportunity to experience farming.

In New York, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is resplendent atop a 6,000 square foot warehouse. In season the farmers supply an onsite farm market and bicycle fresh produce to local restaurants. Nearby, professor Martin P. Schreibman and his colleagues, students and assistants from Brooklyn College are intensively producing animal protein in the basements of buildings.

The Brooklyn Fish Farm may both revolutionize food production easing food shortages and ease pressure on heavily overfished wild stocks. The Urban Fish Farm may become a vital component of futuristic vertical farms, which intensively stack different agricultural layers into a dense space providing local food and employment and sparing ecological capacity elsewhere.

Overall, the blossoming interest in horticulture can be seen as part of a broader trend of people becoming less interested in lifestyles of consumption and more concerned with quality time with friends, family and in our communities. Bill McKibben describes modernity as “the liberation from family, from community and, at base, from the soil.” Reestablishing these complex, organic and enriching relationships seems to offer city dwellers something that was missing.

The community spirit that comes about through chatting at the communal compost heap is a foundation upon which capacity can be built to do more complex tasks locally. As neighbors become less dependent on the supermarket, high street and on goods imported from overseas they become more dependent on their shared local intelligence and calloused hands.

Realizing and feeling the interdependency and connectedness that binds us to each other and to the land that supports us seems to be the primeval magic driving this new boom. It is from this earthy base that the good life grows.

The new breed of urban farmer stands shoulder to shoulder with the independent minded: menders, craftspeople, creatives and rebels who reject the role thrust upon them to function solely as workers and consumers. Their radical and disruptive idea is that they can live their lives without depending on a manic, mainstream market place, which increasingly dulls the mind and saps the soul. They are living beings and deep down…and they want to grow.

Matt Mellen is a communicator and strategist specializing in creative ecological campaigns. He founded, edits and regularly writes for EcoHustler (


Editor: Seychelles Pitton

Like elephant Green on Facebook!


About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter. Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of Questions? Send to [email protected]


62 Responses to “The Urban Farming Renaissance. ~ Matt Mellen”

  1. Elephant Journal is world class blog. I am surprised when I visit the blog. I have a question please any one help me ? I need to sell my house my house. Can any give me clear idea about phoenix housing market. Thanks all

  2. GBwhatsapp says:

    Wonderful post, even I can't believe about this growth in urban farming. You guys are always amazed me.

  3. Theraskin says:

    very good article , a lot of interesting information to be learned … go ahead , keep the spirit

  4. Simply want to say your article is as surprising. The clarity on your put up is simply cool and i could suppose you're an expert in this subject.

  5. devidmiller5060 says:

    What a good blog you have here. Please update it more often. This topics is my interest. Thank you. . .
    painting and decorating London

  6. devidmiller5060 says:

    My friend mentioned to me your blog, so I thought I’d read it for myself. Very interesting insights, will be back for more!
    low cost online college courses

  7. devidmiller5060 says:

    Hi there, I found your blog via Google while searching for such kinda informative post and your post looks very interesting for me.
    Luxury villas resort Bali

  8. devidmiller5060 says:

    My friend mentioned to me your blog, so I thought I’d read it for myself. Very interesting insights, will be back for more!

  9. devidmiller5060 says:

    I came onto your blog while focusing just slightly submits. Nice strategy for next, I will be bookmarking at once seize your complete rises
    Luxury villas resort Bali

  10. devidmiller5060 says:

    wow this good but ,I like your post and good pics may be any peoples not like because defrent mind all poeple ,
    bolts and nuts

  11. devidmiller5060 says:

    I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

  12. devidmiller5060 says:

    Yes, great US Military force. Also, in his post you have given a chance to listen about US Military. I really appreciate your work. Thanks for sharing it.
    ts eamcet 2016 hall ticket download