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Urban Farming Enterprise

Vibrancy arises with a healthy and active community and a thriving local economy. Developing an urban farming enterprise would give the locals and schools access to fresh, organic produce while generating funds to support other community projects.

Photo of Tejas Shah
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With the support and initial coordination of government and non-profit organizations, this concept will create and inspire new local markets and ventures and introduce sources of cashflow into a community. Areas facing economic decline are often forced to sacrifice many community services. An urban farming enterprise can help by restoring and revitalizing a community's vibrancy.

Community members would grow fresh produce to market both internally and externally. Urban farms can be made on rooftops of buildings or in unused lots or parks. Initially, via a farmer's market, a community could benefit by gaining access to fresh produce to which they would otherwise not have access. Eventually, as the operation expands, the community enterprise can form partnerships to supply produce to nearby restaurants and local school cafeterias. Also, the fresh produce can be used to manufacture preservable products such as jams that can be sold in local supermarkets or online.

This community enterprise would give people a sense of entitlement and responsibility while enabling them to gain skills in business, personal finance, and planning. Moreover, participation of school groups would allow for children to develop key life skills at an early age. This initiative also aims to ensure food security for a community, which is important in urban areas.

Profits from this community enterprise would be reinvested into the community either to support the urban farming operations or to support other community projects such as recreation centers, new parks, or cultural centers.

This project is also a means of beautifying a neighborhood. By re-purposing neglected or vacant plots of land and rooftops, urban farms can add bold beauty in colors and shapes in areas where such features are absent.

What resources (money, time, people, technology, etc) will your concept need to be successful?

This concept would require backing from government and non-profit organizations for initial start-up and establishment. Furthermore, this effort must seek support from landlords and businesses and restaurants from more thriving parts of the city.

Primary resources:
- Space
- Manpower
- Supplies and Equipment
- Technological Infrastructure
- Initial Management and Coordination
- Marketing and Distribution Support
- Landscape Designers

This is a big project that can start small and expand. While initial investment in infrastructure is required, this project is designed to be profitable for the community during operation.

What steps could you take to implement this idea today?

Since this project would require many groups and individuals to come together, it is important to build enthusiasm and interest within a community. The first steps would involve seeking the support of local politicians, church leaders, school leaders and teachers, community activists, and businesses.

Once the idea gains traction, the organization coordinating this effort can begin setting up the infrastructure. This includes acquiring space for farming and setting up a headquarters.

Next steps would include teaching people farming techniques and how to grow fruits and vegetables. Eventually, pilot farms can be constructed.

How can your idea be scaled so that it's implemented in cities around the world?

The concept is not singular to one city or to one region of the world. This concept can be implemented across a broad spectrum of towns across the world to enable and encourage healthy and sustainable living.

An operation in each town could become a chapter of a global organization that encourages collaboration in spreading vibrancy. While cities around the world can be significantly different, the effect of introducing a self-sustaining community enterprise can have a profound impact to revitalize a local economy.

My Virtual Team

Michael Jones, Camila Ojeda, Lisa Torjman, Sai Bhaskar Reddy Nakka

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Photo of Michael

A few projects to hopefully spark your refinement: Majora Carter Group's America City Farms - not much on the web but here's a start: http://laureniveysvine.blogspot.com/2010/06/farming-on-american-roofs.html

And check out Oakland, CA based City Slicker Farms http://www.cityslickerfarms.org/ who continue to work with in the community to enliven nutrition, subsistence and local economy. City Slickers provides produce to neighbors through a series of neighborhood markets that rely on a pay-what-you-can system.

Photo of Tejas

Hi Michael, thanks for these links! City Slicker Farms has put together quite an impressive operation. This will definitely be a great source for refining the Urban Farming Enterprise concept. There is no reason why similar programs cannot be implemented in other areas.

Some takeaways after briefly viewing their website:
- fee-based consulting to help other communities build a similar operation
- it was started in "a neighborhood with a very high poverty rate, and liquor store on nearly every block but no grocery stores."
- Community became very supportive of the program after realizing the benefits
- Offers internships and paid apprenticeships

Photo of Michael

Hello Tejas, I'm glad the link was informative. A few other highlights about City Slickers that came to mind:
- also work hard to collaborate with other community organizations and the City of Oakland to maximize funding, grant, and volunteer opportunities
- volunteers from the neighborhood are a vital key to success, providing hard work and dedication which builds a sense of community ownership, pride, and protection for the farms.

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