Urban Ag is really a young child going through a massive growth phase. The problem I’m seeing though, is that urban farmers are approaching urban ag as if it was traditional farming. They are still seeking continuous acreage. They are still working completely independently. They still think they need to go through righteous suffering, that being poor simply comes with the package. They are growing crops in rows (wide rows included). Most use tillers. Many use “organic” pesticides and herbicides the same way traditional growers and gardeners use synthetic ones which is no better. They struggle with the things that are not involved with the act of growing, and do not consider themselves as “real” businesses. They don’t see that they are entrepreneurs. They throw out the baby (financial success) with the bathwater (distaste for the current system). I have tons of ideas about how things can be done differently, and I’ll be posting them periodically.
Imagine an organization that is created for the sole purpose of making a space, literally and figuratively, where new ideas in sustainable urban agriculture can be explored, researched, and if successful can foster the implementation of these ideas on a larger scale.
For a simple example, comparing the cost/benefit of permaculture with typical urban farming techniques. The results would have to be measurable. I haven’t thought through exactly how that would work, but I know there’s a way. Imagine two locations very close to each other. One farmed as permaculture, the other as established. Probably general productivity measurements such as the end production of tomatoes per pound per plant. Soil analysis before and after. Impressions from neighbors. Cost outlay. Someone who is more experienced in research development and analysis would have to help with that.
Or how about a “field” trial site? What varieties work best in OUR area, in the ultra urban southern environment?
Do grafted tomatoes really produce more fruit with fewer bugs and disease? Which grafts work best? Is the cost/benefit ratio worth it? What ways can it be done that are quicky, easy, and inexpensive?
Propagation technique comparisons (such as the single-node figs above).
What about a site where the focus is on hybridizing?
How can we use mycoremediation?
What about techniques from other cultures or periods of time?
Marketing/sales tests: what market table layout gets the most business? What aspects of the farm attract the most positive attention? Where do people gravitate, and to what?
Most of these aren't particularly groundbreaking, but it gives you the idea.
I have an idea that I'm currently obsessed with using espalier and interplanting to take advantage of vertical space without the need for special watering or electrical support. This idea would also make farming accessible to people with mobility challenges (including wheelchairs), the elderly, and children. It would also make frost and insect protection much, much easier. I’ll write about that idea at another time.
There are, no doubt, people with tons of fascinating ideas floating around out there that deserve to be tried out that for some reason do not get that opportunity or that disappear into the mist.\