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Grow Your Own – Urban Farms

by Juan Jardinero

“The shorter the chain between raw food and fork, the fresher it is and the more transparent the system is.”
– Joel Salatin.

The simple act of planting a garden can shape issues like economics, health, and politics all at the same time because food is an essential focal point of human activity. It is therefore important that we stay connected to the source of our food. However that´s becoming harder these days, our food can now be shipped from across the world and a single meal can contain ingredients from every corner of the planet. We can’t deny that having avocados all year round is one of the best parts of globalization, but in return we’ve lost our connection with our food and farmers. In Xela however we are still able to purchase most of our food from local producers; vegetables from Almolonga, fruit from the coast, both places no more than a few hours by car. However international markets are increasing the presence of imported foods. Xela once a region where apples grew in almost every home have now been replaced by homogenous tasteless imported apples.

Big cities around the world have found a possible solution: Urban Farms. The idea is simple, reclaim abandoned land around the city, and grow food on it. You have the benefit of sourcing your inputs locally and creating an immediate community of consumers. As this movement spreads around the globe, there are five ways in which they can transform the world.

Renewing local economies: the urban farming movement has reinvigorated local commerce. If urban farming continues to grow, it would cause a massive and positive economic disruption by introducing local food production that would compete with the corporate mainstream on price, quality, convenience, and level of service.

Environmental Stewardship: Industrial agriculture is a major source of fossil fuel pollution. Petrochemicals are used to fertilize, spray, and preserve food. Plastics made from oil are used to package the food, and gasoline is used to transport food worldwide, all this at a huge environmental cost.  Urban farming unplugs us from oil by minimizing the transport footprint and using organic cultivation methods.

Local Politics: Urban farms allow city people to reconnect with their food and nutrition which will inevitably shift their consumer habits and lead to people taking political action to change the way our food system and its policies work. In the USA and specifically in California, urban farms have pushed for things like the California Cottage Food Act, which will allow people to legally sell certain homemade goods like jams and breads.

A revolution of health and nutrition: Increased awareness about the negative health effects of food from the industrial food chain is itself a big reason why urban farmers grow their own food. When you feed your produce to your family, you’re less likely to douse it in poisons. Local food has more freshness, flavor, and nutrient retention because it goes through less transportation and processing.

Growing a community: For urban farms, community is indispensable. Growing food is, after all, a cooperative effort. Urban farms become hubs for the exchange of knowledge, where seeds are swapped, labor is shared and the yield is traded. As urban farming grows, a stronger interdependence within communities is likely to result as local food systems bring more community interaction into people’s daily lives.

Juan Jardinero is starting Xela´s first urban organic farm: contact us if you´d like to be part of this community:    juanpa@elinifinito.org

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