Traditionally, farmers grow crops in the soil over a vast stretch of land. But as buyers gravitate more towards locally grown farmers markets, urban farming gains more profit potential. The Wisconsin urban farm movement is leading the way for farmers to switch, from rural agriculture to urban.
Urban farming explores efficient, creative, and novel methods of producing market-ready produce in a dense, urban environment. This article provides a guide to growing an urban farm in Wisconsin.
What is an Urban Farm?
An urban farm produces the same crops as a rural farm but by different means. Rural agriculture involves clear-cutting acres of land and altering the soil composition to cater to crops. Urban farming involves the use and adaptation of existing infrastructure and spaces to support the cultivation of produce.
Urban farms bring much needed fresh produce to areas with limited access to whole foods. Unlike traditional farms, an urban farm in Wisconsin is not dependent on the soil as the primary growing medium for crops.
Where to Start an Urban Farm
Along with providing a benefit of accessible fresh produce to the neighborhood in which you start your urban farm, it is important to turn a profit. Your farm doesn’t do anyone any good if it goes out of business.
So, the best place to start an urban farming project is in an area with inexpensive land and a community that is eager for engagement.
Unlike the country, cities are comprised of densely populated neighborhoods that provide ample opportunity to recruit volunteers, helpers.
Since an urban environment is less conducive to farmland that is spread out, consider vertical farming. Vertical farming is a soil-less growing method that employs hydroponics. Urban hydroponic agriculture works to grow plants using a nutrient solution and neutral growing medium.
Vertical farming is ideal for urban agriculture because it maximizes your harvest, enhances the quality of your crop, and uses 70 percent less water than traditional soil agriculture.
The startup cost of a hydroponic, vertical urban farm is higher than a soil farm, but the payoff is much greater over the long term. And, customers taste the difference in their recipes that use hydroponically grown produce.
Hydroponic produce retains a maximum nutrient value, which is responsible for the fruit or veggies flavor content.
Since vertical farming uses so much less water, the weight bearing needs of your infrastructure is vastly mitigated. The urban jungle provides plenty of spots to build in-ground or soil-less farms.
Non-Centralized Urban Farming
If only you could commandeer a few blocks worth of residential front yard space, you could grow plenty of crops in the middle of Milwaukee. Well, why can’t you? Urban dwellers jump at the opportunity to bring a bit of green into their lives.
Start a non-centralized urban farm that is spread all over the city. Talk to landlords, building owners, and residents to form a large co-op that farms the front and backyard plots of the urban residential buildings.
Have you ever looked at a city from above? Milwaukee is chalk full of multi-story buildings that have access to the roof. A roof garden, not only makes use of previously unused space but also reduces the building air conditioning bill.
Talk to building owners about forming a partnership to produce and distribute local produce from urban roof gardens. Once you bring enough local entities together in cooperation, your non-centralized urban farm will really start to take off.
If you’re interested in becoming involved in Wisconsin’s up-and-coming urban farming revolution, get involved with the Emerging Farmer Program.
Urban farming is the agriculture of today and tomorrow. As the population gradually moves towards urban centers, the demand is great for locally grown, fresh produce. All you need in order to succeed is a bit of creativity, ingenuity, and community engagement.
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