Urban farms on the rise in Raleigh

December 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Raleigh’s City Council will be hearing about urban farming in tomorrow’s council meeting.  WRAL reports that supporters of Raleigh City Farm, which is a community farm that was started on a vacant lot on Blount Street, will be appealing to the City Council to support the growing urban agriculture movement. Specifically, they will be asking the city to ease some of the requirements, such as the $200 fee and special permit requirement, that are needed in order to develop a community garden. Produce from the Raleigh City Farm– kale, carrots, arugula, and radishes (all grown by volunteers)– is used by the community members and it is also sold to local restaurants.

Raleigh City Farm is a unique endeavor that is both non-profit, but also has  built in sustainability into its model as well. This means that its aim is to support the operations of the farm through the sale of produce and services.  It was recently one of three winners of the “People and Planet” Green Business Award, which is an award by Green America that that recognizes “innovative entrepreneurial U.S. businesses that deeply integrate environmental and social considerations into their strategies and operations.”

One of the neighbors of Raleigh City Farm notes the positive impact that it has had on the neighborhood.  As residents of many communities face challenges in accessing healthy, fresh foods, urban farms can in fact provide an affordable way to not only expand access to healthy foods but also help revitalize neighborhoods. PolicyLink recently published a study examining the impact of urban farms on communities. The report found that community gardens not only improve the health of individuals, but they also improve local economies by creating jobs, creating opportunities for job training, incubating new businesses, and allowing families to save money on their food bills. In cases like Raleigh City Farms, the garden also helped to transform a vacant lot into a productive use of community space.

As the issues of healthy foods and sustainable agriculture gain more steam, it is important to keep equity and access at the forefront. Low-income families– both urban and rural– face significant challenges in meeting their nutritional needs since many of these communities lack proper grocery stores or farmers markets. This leads to health issues down the line, which not only affect individuals but communities as a whole. Projects like urban farms can help educate people about food choices and re-connect people to healthy fresh foods. Perhaps most importantly, involving residents in reshaping their environments and in the production of their own food can help empower people to become leaders and teachers in their own communities.

Entry filed under: Economic Development, Economy, Healthy Foods, Jobs & Employment, Small Business. Tags: , , , , , , .

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