Next Stop: Farming in Times Square?

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One attribute of the caveman era was that early humans farmed where they lived; there weren’t massive tracts of land that required machines to operate and feed thousands.

Early farmers raised their crops on small patches of land that were within a short distance of where they lived. That made it easy to get to work and to carry the produce back home.

This might sound great to someone living in suburban or rural areas where there is space for a garden, although less practical for city living. It might seem at first glance that there would be no place for that kind of thinking in modern big-city life.

But not so fast. More and more cities are finding that urban farming can help feed their residents while making efficient use of available space.

Sometimes, this is an old-school solution, such as the increase in backyard farming. Other times it’s a newer solution like aquaponics, which raises plant life and aquatic animals in a symbiotic environment.

Or it may be something like vertical farming, which seems like a modern innovation (raising animals and growing plants in a skyscraper?), but is actually a concept that has been around for nearly a century.

There’s often land available for cultivation in surprising places. With the recent economic troubles in many cities, foreclosures in both commercial and retail spaces are lingering on the market for extended periods.

Some cities are electing to return some of the vacant earth to the Earth, bulldozing condemned properties to keep the more ramshackle properties from falling down while keeping housing prices from collapsing in the wake of decreased demand. Rebuilding could perhaps occur when the economy improves and demand rises.

In addition, enterprising people and groups are finding space even in crowded areas, by using the roofs of buildings to grow plants—which has the added effect of reducing the heat coming off the structures, and thereby reducing the global warming effect.

The main question then becomes, what happens to that available land? Many community groups are taking the initiative and putting the dirt to good use, starting up gardening and small farming efforts whenever possible.

Some groups are looking to feed segments of the population ordinarily forgotten, distributing the produce to food banks and homeless shelters. Others try to make a small profit, particularly among those looking to buy more of their food locally.

This isn’t always easy. Land that hasn’t been farmed for a long time has to be cleared, both from the rubble of whatever was there before and from any contaminants that may have leached into the soil.

Few are willing to take on such a task without some assurance that they’ll have use of the land for a period of time, which is often hard to come by from the private owners. In addition, there’s often skepticism from both local leaders and the general population that farming in the cities can really work as anything more than a novelty.

Perhaps those skeptics should take a closer look at the past. Farming in urban areas has been a hallmark of humanity for centuries, for the convenience and the practicality.

As the number vacant lots increases, there’s no reason that we can’t behave like cavemen and use the land closest to us to help keep us fed.

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Pat Cavemen

PAT is the clueless flirt. Hey, every tribe needs one, right? She also enjoys swimming, fishing, eating and taking long romantic walks on the prehistoric beach.

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