Urban Agriculture: It’s Worth More than You Think

When the phrase ‘Farm in the City’ is mentioned, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps, if you really were the kind of person who took phrases literally, a barn house amongst the Chicago skyline? A couple of cows roaming the city? For speakers Harry Rose, John Edel, and Naomi Davis, it meant a twist on a lifestyle that used to be America’s economy, only to be replaced by manufacturing factories and industry. Agriculture, once present in every common American’s life, is now a part of life that every average American overlooks in favor of electronics and city life. To many young people, agriculture is something that seems to have existed centuries ago, an important part of American life that was left forgotten. As I walked into the event, I have to (shamefully) admit that I did indeed think about a red barn house, displaced from its original surroundings and plopped along the Chicago skyline. I mean, what did ‘Farm in the City’ even mean?

To Harry Rose of Growing Home, John Edel of The Plant, and Naomi Davis of Blacks in Green (Chicago-based organizations), ‘Farm in the City’ proved to hold a much more meaningful definition, contrary to my rather ignorant initial opinion of the phrase; urban agriculture. Despite what many young people believe these days, urban agriculture is much more than simply growing vegetables in a little greenhouse in an empty lot in the city. Urban agriculture has the potential to give opportunities, second chances, jobs, and revitalize a fading community. Although these three speakers were a part of three different organizations, they were united under one single cause – urban agriculture.

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Urban agriculture, to these organizations, was more than simply growing food and providing to those who needed it. Growing Home focuses on urban agriculture in the Englewood area as a privilege and job training; a second chance for those who desperately seek it, such as homeless people and those with a past they might not be proud about. A specific moment that stood out to me from Rose’s talk was a particular quotation from Les Brown that he chose to quote, “Homeless people are often without roots. They’re not tied down, not connected, not part of a family anymore.” To Rose and the organization of Growing Home, urban agriculture not only provided food, but a second chance by employing these people to work in greenhouses to develop urban agriculture. The Plant and Blacks in Green both have similar goals as Growing Home. John Edel of the Plant spoke of education and running a Farmer’s Market, and Naomi Davis of Blacks in Green spoke of cultivating a Village Farm. Although urban agriculture may often be overlooked, to Davis, developing a Village Farm and spreading the idea of urban agriculture was imperative to created a much needed connection with our communities, and created a cultural connection. In the words of Naomi Davis – “People get inspired when they see people in action.”

It’s extremely inspiring to see Americans go back to their traditional ways to a certain extent. This lecture proved to many that urban agriculture was more than just of some kind of project to cultivate food – urban agriculture can be utilized to give people certain privileges that they never had the chance to experience before in the past, and to tie communities together. Listening to the goals and accomplishments of these organizations that focused on urban agriculture was extremely heartwarming. Urban agriculture has a much more overwhelming influence on a community than most think – a positive influence.

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