Folks who live in small, rural towns might not have the culture, exposure or commercial resources of their city-dwelling brethren. But they do have better access to high-quality, locally-grown, wholesome produce, dairy and meat. The confines of cities and their lack of agricultural space has made it difficult for small farms or even home gardens to flourish. But recent initiatives and developments in farming technology make urban farming a more viable option.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners in urban areas believe they should be able to grow, prepare and eat local, organic food even without the space required for traditional farming.
Hydroponic farming saves space
When most people think of farming, the first thing that comes to mind are vast corn fields, tractors and widespread irrigation systems. But one entrepreneur hopes to change that paradigm through the development of a hydroponic vegetable farm in San Antonio, reported the San Antonio Current.
Hydroponic farming is a technique used by NASA to grow vegetables in the absence of soil. The idea is to maintain a solution of water and nutrients capable of providing the necessary lifeblood for plant growth, along with specialized LED lights that mimic the sun's rays. This method saves space and gives growers better control over the plants' environment.
For Mitch Hagney, co-founder of LocalSprout in San Antonio, hydroponic growing is the future of farming – but not without hard work.
"If our pumps fail, our plants die the next day. If our nutrient solution goes out of whack for three days at a time, our plants look bad," Hagney told the San Antonio Current. "Whereas natural farmers just put the seed in the ground, water it and hope for the best, we have a better option because we can produce better plants. But if we mess something up our plants are much worse than they would have been in the field."
With hydroponic farming, consumers can be confident their food is not affected by pesticides or chemical additives. Given the limited space of urban areas, it represents a way forward for the industry.
Asheville farmer wants to bring food back home
These days, consumers are often several degrees of separation away from the food they eat. Between the original growth, preparation, packaging, transportation and so on, it is difficult to say when and where a TV dinner actually originates.
That's why Sunil Patel of Asheville, North Carolina, has founded Patchwork Urban Farms as a means of connecting farming to the people who live on the land, reported the Tri-Valley Dispatch. The initiative allows landowners to essentially rent out a plot of their property to be farmed. In return, the owners receive a portion of the crops grown on their land. Patel and his partner Charlie Hodge want to reassess individuals' and communities' interaction with the land.
"People walking down the street, on their daily commute, would know a lot of people who eat from that land," Hodge told the Tri-Valley Dispatch. "If more and more people see that, we'd have a subtle shift in our relationship with the land. Then we'd have awe and respect for the land. We'd see it as something that should be cared for."
Through these and other similar initiatives, small farms can make full use of the limited land available to provide fresh, organic produce at a local and regional level.
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