Citizens as urban farmers – How to be urban farmer and the social levels

By: Anni Valkola

Urban farming is “the practice of cultivating food in a densely populated area.”  It is a step towards more sustainable agriculture and urban living where fruits and vegetables are produced in the city. Slow food is the main ideology behind the system. It was founded to promote alternative for fast food. Slow food speaks for local production and traditional cuisines. Compared to mass production in urban farming the process is visible when citizens are responsible for the whole life cycle of the plant from seeding to harvest. That guarantees the food being safe and good when it is farmed with love and thought. Also environmental impacts are reduced to minimum when massive processes like transportation are lacking. For urban people it is a good way to get rid of bio waste.

In Helsinki there is an organization called Dodo behind the urban farming movement. The idea is to use wastelands and abandoned sites for food production. Citizens can rent a piece of land or a concrete sack like in Kalasatama. Regular care and commitment is needed to keep up the best growing environment. In Finland the most common way has been so called home farming of herbs and other easy to plant things as germination. The process has been private and personal. So these common sites provided by Dodo have created new kind activity around urban farming. It is a social environment where individuals are farmers of their own site. You can meet people with same interest and share ideas.

In many cities community service has been contributed through urban farming. It is a way to empower people and raise the knowledge of origin of the food and the production. There are many cities around the world where urban farming has been chosen as the strategy of the development of the city. It is a good way to rise the wealthy and wellbeing of the urban people.

The phenomenon is not totally new. The history leads back to wartime when there was a lack of fresh vegetables and food in general in the cities. It was easy to plant something in a flowerpot on windowsill or balcony. The trend of small scale farming or urban farming has connection with unstable times. Recessions have brought up new practices to empower people and contribute personal wellbeing. So when urban farming provides some good nutrition there is also something bigger involved. As once we were created as part of the nature the connection is still in us. Touching the soil and being part of the nature´s most natural process is very relaxing and therapeutic I think. Many people who have started this are now hooked. For example in Kalasatama there are seldom open sites. So just gather a group of people and start your own urban farm in your courtyard! You only need enthusiasm and some soil to start!