Gardening and Farming In Our Communities
There are some amazing reasons and benefits with gardening. Just thinking about gardening, makes me believe I can smell fresh flowers and homegrown vegetables. And that thought alone, makes my hands start itching to go out and play in the soil. I remember living in our small town-home in Sweden with a yard that was about 0.05 acre (202 square meter), basically a tiny plot. We pulled out a small area of lawn, and planted a row of onions and radishes. And that pretty much summed up our garden back then. Since those days, I’ve been able to landscape and maintain not only my own but also help others. I have loved working in our community, with youth as well as adults in multiple non-profit organizations, teaching and instructing in gardening. I have seen first hand in others (as well as myself), the incredible positive effects of being out in the nature. Beyond health benefits of gardening, there are other reasons for it. Gardening and farming can provide us with beautiful flowers, fresh vegetables, fruits and other crops, but also stronger communities. Urban farming is becoming more common, as agriculture farming is changing as we know it.
Gardening provides food, fun and health, as well as bringing people together. This was a natural way of life for most people back before the industrialization era. We know that farm life was really hard, but for most part, it was also very rewarding. Farming and gardening techniques have changed a lot the past 100+ years, but the rewards and benefits have remained the same. Gardening in our communities bring neighbors closer and it provides a healthier environment for children to grow up in. Communities across the world are seeing more and more, the increasing gain of gardening and urban farming. I see and read daily on how people come up with more efficient ways to improve and to increase production in small areas and spaces. It’s very common to see potted veggies, raised beds, and variety of table containers with fresh produce growing in balconies and on porches. I know of farmers that are making a good living on both Vertical as well as Hydroponic gardening.
Gardening Vs. Farming
I’ve had people ask me what’s the difference between farming and gardening. Depending who you ask, you might get a slight different answer. I grew up in the city and in order for us to experience real farming, we had to take a drive out to the country. That was always an adventure for us kids. Gardening was what we did in the city more for an aesthetic reasons rather than for food production. My dad loved gardening, so we did have a small area of veggies, but it was minimal. So for me at the time farming meant, the old farmer, with a shovel and a tractor sowing and harvesting on his 100’s of acres of land or milking 500 cows.
When we think of farming, we most likely think of a large area that is used for production of crops (or animal products) in larger quantities as primary income for the farmer. Whereas gardening is thought of a smaller lot with no profits other than personal use and enjoyment. According to the British Ecological Society there are over 800 million people currently that do some type of gardening and city farming. This means that farming and gardening is closer related to each other than perhaps we believed.
FDA’s Definition Of Farming
If you are still wondering difference between the two then, think about these questions in your mind for a minute. Can someone with a small lot (backyard) make a good living gardening? Is it possible for a commercial farmer to not make enough to sustain his living? Can a person raise crops without soil and land? The answer is yes! to all of them. The point is, it’s not the lot size, the location nor what venues you use to sell, that determines whether or not you’re a farmer or a gardener.
According to the FDA, a farm is any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products are produced and sold in a year. This means, even a person who grows herbs in ceramic pots and sells them for over $1,000 is technically called a farmer. FDA considers any “farm” that earns less than $750,000 a year, a small farm. And that consist of 95% of all the farms around in the US.
Let’s not forget that there are hobby gardeners as well as hobby farmers and then there are commercial gardeners as well as commercial farmers.If we consider and use FDA’s definition then the main difference between farming and gardening is, profitability. One other difference is, that most of the time a farm specializes in a crop, whereas a gardener grows more variety.
Which Is More Productive?
The next question might be, which is more productive, gardening in smaller spaces or farming. Unfortunately the traditional way of farming is starting to suffer from the ecological impacts. Land that was ones used for farming, arable land, is gradually becoming more and more unsustainable and less productive. According to a research published by the Journal of the environmental management, the soil in private gardens are much better quality than the soil of arable land which results in better crop yield. Back in the early 80’s John Jeavons started the bio-intensive gardening movement. This technique focuses on the soil quality and instead of single rows, you plant your crop real close. Which consequently leads to higher production and gain. Aero farming is a recent high tech way of improving yield in small spaces. The modern tools and approach are resulting in better productivity than common farming. World’s largest farming, in Japan, is showing us how indoor gardening can be 100 more productive than traditional farming.
Urban living has been increasing really fast these past couple of decades. We are seeing more and more people draw closer to the larger cities, where land is usually more expensive and living is tighter. Farming and gardening has changed with the rapid growth of world population. The Danish economist Ester Boserup did a research while working in low- and middle income countries on improving food production. Her researched showed that motivation and encouragement with better and improved farming techniques increased production. We are also seeing an heightened awareness and willingness of communities across the world, trying to make necessary adjustments for better and higher yield for the ever growing world population and demand. While reducing the negative effects on nature.
By changing the way we think of farming and gardening for both profit or personal use, people around the world are starting to see the positive impact it has on their communities. I know I have seen the change in our community these past two decades. Going to farmers market is totally awesome now. I can find variety of produce that is locally grown with better care and a lot less pesticides. Not only do I get higher quality products for less, but I also get to support local backyard farmers. This means more money and more job opportunities locally. It’s amazing to see how the modern urban farmers are consistently trying to figure out new ways to solve challenges like, drought, space or unproductive soil. I have met local farmers at these markets that produce and sell high quality and quantity of vegetables on quarter of an acre as well as couple of acres. That is the beauty of gardening, you can decide if you are going to garden or farm for profit or for personal use. Just don’t forget to check your local ordinances before you replace your front lawn with tomatoes and cucumbers.
The impact that gardening and farming has in our local communities are huge. The best gift we can give our children and grandchildren is to introduce them back to nature. Unfortunately too many kids are growing up indoors with processed foods and with all the side effects that come along with that lifestyle. Sometimes gardening whether it’s for aesthetic or food, can seem a bit overwhelming, but as we reach out for help or offer to help, I am a firm believer that our communities will benefit from our efforts. The long term impact includes both us as individuals as well as our surroundings.