Urban farming is on the rise throughout the western world, with manicured lawns making way for vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and compost. Thanks to frugal spending habits, a health-conscious population, and growing environmental awareness; more people are getting out their gardening gloves and enjoying the wonders of sustainable living. While the practical benefits of growing food are just as 'old world' as they are 'new age', there is something very 21st century about bringing a little farm life into the modern home.
People have always grown food at home, from small herb gardens through to large vegetable patches and fruit trees. Since the industrial revolution and the rapid growth of urban living, however, the food needed to sustain life has increasingly come into cities from rural farming areas. This pattern of rural production and urban consumption has been especially prevalent in the west over the last few decades, with relatively few people growing any sort of produce, even as a hobby.
While the separation of food production and consumption is a global phenomenon, small domestic and commercial farms in urban areas are still common in the developing world. According to figures from the U.S Department of Agriculture, "around 15 percent of the world's food is now grown in urban areas". A growing number of western homeowners have decided to join the party lately, by growing fresh produce, raising livestock, and generally asking more from their property.
There are numerous reasons why people are going back to the garden, including the high cost of buying food and the simple joy of getting back to nature. Like lots of recent lifestyle trends, however, the Internet and social media are also playing a big role in this movement. Foodnotlawns.com and the Grow Food not Lawns Facebook page continue to turn people on to urban farming, through a mix of practical advice, meme creation, and political activism.
Heather Flores' book, "Food Not Lawns, How to Turn your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community" illustrates why gardening has become a political act for some people. For many inspired by this movement, decentralising food production is seen as an important step towards global sustainability, and a creative way to build communities and break away from throwaway culture. With a growing percentage of people purchasing organic produce and rising concern about genetically modified ingredients, food gardens are also a very practical and inexpensive option.
The urban farming movement is not without its issues however, with a number of barriers to overcome that restrict agriculture in urban areas. While small gardens in back yards rarely cause concern, there are a number of examples of householders in the United States being prosecuted for growing food on their own property. In a recent positive move, however, the city of Detroit in the U.S recently began moves to legalise urban agriculture within city limits, with other cities also looking into the issue.
If a manicured lawn is a symbol of luxury and recreation, for many, a good old fashioned vegetable garden has come to symbolise sustainability, physical exercise, and abundance. While not everyone wants to grow their own food, there are an increasing army of urban dwellers out there looking to redefine the farm and take back control of this most basic and necessary part of life.