Foodie Underground: Urban Farms Benefiting More Than Just Consumers


There’s a lot of talk about growing your own produce in urban spaces, but most of that is devoted to gardening for personal use. Even with most co-op type urban farms, food is grown to be taken home and hopefully replace having to go to the grocery store to get green goods for the dinner table. Eating fresh, local produce is great for your health, and a key component of any foodie’s repertoire, but when it comes to urban farmed food, the consumer isn’t the only one getting a benefit.

First off, there’s the economic benefit. In San Francisco, Little City Gardens is trying to prove that small scale urban farms can be economically viable, and change the way that urban communities eat and think about food. The goal of the operation is simple: “to craft a way for urban food production to sustain us economically, to build community through innovative, collaborative local food systems, and thus to help establish the path of “˜urban farmer’ as a career.”

In other words, this urban farm is just one of many fighting against big agribusiness, something that a lot of urban farms around the country are doing, and the trend is taking hold, having an impact on a diverse variety of communities.

Because urban farms often depend on the help of the surrounding community, there is often an educational element to these spaces and initiatives – spreading the message of sustainably and locally grown food far and wide – while at the same time providing healthy and affordable food. Giving back to the community becomes just as important as making a profit, which means that along with growing food, they’re also improving the lives of individuals.

To help bring freshly farmed food to disenfranchised communities, Earthworks in Detroit, MI, works with a program called Project Fresh (Michigan Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program) to provide coupons that can only be used for Michigan grown produce to eligible women with children in the local CHASS clinic.

Working with youth in Brooklyn, New York, Added Value focuses on growing a just food system. Using farm-based learning to empower youth, this urban farm is closely tied to its community and has several key restaurant partnerships with locally-owned, award winning restaurants, ensuring that the work of the youth gets an economic benefit.

With the current success of urban farms, it’s no surprise that they’re not just for foodies obsessed with local produce anymore. As they move from underground trend to mainstream food sources, urban farms are proving that communities benefit from them in a variety of ways, including education, improved health and a stronger economy.

That’s something that should bring all foodies together. So the next time you’re prepping your dinner, ask yourself where it came from and who it’s benefiting.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground. Each week, Anna will be taking a look at something new and different that’s taking place in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to culinary avant garde.

Image: Little City Gardens

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.