Urban Farming in the American Zeitgeist

NPR’s May 18th Talk of the Nation segment focuses on urban agriculture, and offers an interview with the founder of Philadelphia’s Greensgrow Farm. While not as old as Queens County Farm, Greensgrow is still historically significant because it was created during a period when urban farming certainly wasn’t the hip cultural phenomenon it’s become today, and was actually considered pretty crazy. Mary Seton Corboy founded the farm 15 years ago on a vacant EPA cleanup site, and mentioned struggles with community buy-in and finding interested produce buyers. Corboy defines an urban farm as existing “to grow product for sale or for trade, as opposed to for your own pleasure and consumption.” Why do we need urban farms when America still supposedly operates so many acres of rural farmland? Host Ira Flatow mentioned one particularly eye-opening reason when he pointed out that the average American city would run out of food in 3 days if it were cut off from delivery trucks.

Zoning issues can potentially halt the creation of urban farms, and Flatow pointed out that “there are a lot of pocket parks that were going bad in New York for a while, and people tried to turn them into little farms or little gardens and had trouble doing it.” Corboy responded with the encouraging news that Philadelphia is rewriting its zoning code to provide for urban agriculture, so I will have to do some further investigation into how farm-friendly NYC is.

However, I’m sharing this broadcast (and encouraging you to take a listen) because it highlights the success of urban farms in other cities, and because it is indicative of the way urban farming as a concept is changing in the American psychology. No longer a radical concept, urban agriculture is becoming enough of a pop culture phenomenon to be discussed on one of NPR’s most listened to programs – a big step forward that we should celebrate.


About Alex Holt

I am a local artist from Brooklyn, NY. I love art, design, books, photography, gardening and blogging.
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