Not very long ago the majority of people grew vegetables and fruit in their home gardens. It was a valuable part of the ‘household economy’. It made practical use of available land and offered a modest level of self-sufficiency, at the least. In some cases, it provided a large proportion of a family’s vegetable needs.

Over the past 50 years, there has been a significant decrease in the number of people who ‘grow your own’. As the work-life balance has leaned steadily towards the work side, the ‘home economy’ has become largely outsourced as people are ‘money rich’ but ‘time poor’.

However, in many places the ‘grow your own’ ethic is making a comeback. The idea and practice of urban farming has played out in many different ways since the exodus of rural population into cities began. It can be as simple as a small vegetable garden in a family’s backyard to a large, complex market garden that is owned and run by communities for the community.

A notable success story is the Urban Homestead owned by the Dervaes family in Pasadena, Los Angeles. Annually, they grow 7000 lbs (3,125 kg) of food on one-tenth of an acre of usable land using organic methods. The food they produce includes vegetables, fruit, herbs, eggs and honey. The Dervaeses (a father and three adult children) are vegetarian and they produce 90% of their food requirements. See the video below for their inspirational story.

The benefits of urban farming

The health benefits of fresh produce are well-known. Furthermore, studies have shown that people who grow vegetables and fruit eat twice as much of these as people who don’t grow them.

Gardening increases levels of physical activity and time spent outdoors which also have health benefits. Self-sufficiency will save you money, but it also has the significant benefit of providing feelings of resilience, peace-of-mind and achievement.

Community gardens support the social well-being of individuals and the whole community.

Urban farming is the ultimate in locally-grown produce, reducing your food miles and therefore ecological footprint.

By growing food on land that was previously lawn you increase the biocapacity of the earth which is another way to mitigate your ecological footprint.