Understanding the homesteading trend and how it affects urban environments is being studied across the United States. Columbus, Ohio released its urban farming study with the desire to address the pain points for small farmers. The study was guided by its objectives to describe what factors influenced community attitudes towards urban food production. and the regulatory areas that can be addressed to make small farms successful.
Understanding complex communities
The dynamics were recorded for in-depth interpretation following interviews, observations, and review board analysis. While the scale of the study was small, its findings were representative of many areas experiencing the same speed of urban growth.
Fifteen producers were interviewed in January of 2017 and physically observed by the lead researcher. The observations allowed researchers to learn about urban farm operations, the individuals conducting the work and their reason for farming. Of the fifteen operations that participated in the study, ten of them were owned by women and eight participants had completed a 4-year degree. While annual income was below $10,000, the number of individuals transitioning to community-based business is increasing.
Economic analysis is important for community success
Economic and societal studies are being studied in many community environments with similar trends. The north country of the New York State Adirondack State Park conducted a similar study from 2017-2018 and found that 20-34 year old’s were moving away from their communities due to lack of economic opportunity. Those who stayed continued in community driven businesses focused on manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture.
Complete analysis can be found on the ANCA website
Non-profits were repeatedly found to be the biggest challenge to urban farmers. Without access to investment funds and grants, urban farmers are often unable to grow their operations or upgrade operations to be more productive. Unlike non-profits, urban farms are supported by consumers interested in keeping their money local and ease of access for individuals with transportation burdens. Urban farms are also supported by the Cooperative Extension Service which teaches individuals how to be proper stewards of their piece of land.
Community changes reach beyond food security
With more studies being conducted, regulations are slowly beginning to change and investors are diverting their attention to small businesses. Easing access to land and education has the ability to impact more than urban economies. Children who live in close proximity to green spaces are better able to focus on single tasks while lessons conducted in a natural setting resulted in greater attentiveness in classrooms. Urban farmers also have the potential to change communities on a greater scale. Penn State found that feelings of depression and hopelessness decreased, incidents of mental health crisis’ decreased, and gun violence dropped following beautification of vacant urban lots.
Addressing deep issues within our communities can be done with minimal effort. Given the correct resources, individuals are finding social and financial engagement to be positive when allowed to choose where their food comes from and how a piece of land is treated or maintained.