Urban Farms

Growing crops is no longer exclusive to rolling farmland and grassy plains. From roof-top gardens to vacant-lot farms, more city dwellers are relishing the opportunity to get their hands dirty and make green things grow in an environment of concrete and steel.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, approximately 15 percent of the world’s food is now grown in urban areas. Why the growing interest in urban farming? The reasons vary from farmer to farmer. Some are driven by frugality in a shaky economy, while others are passionate about growing and eating locally. Whatever the motivation, urban agriculture is a growing trend, even in Ohio, which is abundant in farmland.

In fact, Ohio is home to one of the largest contiguous urban farms in the U.S. — Ohio City Farm located in Cleveland’s historic Market District. Encompassing nearly six acres, Ohio City provides urban farming entrepreneurs low-cost land, shared facilities and technical assistance. In addition to the farm, Ohio City also includes a farm stand and a community kitchen.

While Ohio City has plenty of acreage to till, many urban farmers make do with small plots of land. For example, Swainway Urban Farm, in the Columbus neighborhood of Clintonville, rests on just a third of an acre.

The farm is operated by Ohio transplant Joseph Swain who, according to a recent Edible Columbus article, stumbled into the agriculture business.

After relocating from California, Swain began growing produce in his backyard and soon discovered a hidden talent.

“I grew all kinds of vegetables,” said Swain. “First year, second year, third year … it was pretty clear that I have quite a green thumb. We had more than enough food to feed ourselves.”

Eventually, Swain began selling his crops — micro greens, mushrooms and pea shoots — at his local farmers market. He has also opened his farm to curious locals for tours and as an educational opportunity for children.

Interested in starting your own urban farm? The Ohio State University Extension in Cuyahoga County is offering a series of urban-agriculture workshops. Topics include:

•    Urban farming policy 101
•    Irrigation strategies
•    Organic pest control
•    Setting up your chicken yard

 Photo obtained from: cutandfill.blogspot.com

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