Urban Farming and Your Family
By Dana DeMercurio
With the ever-rising cost of produce –fresh veggies, fruits, and eggs— single families and entire communities around the country are taking matters into their own hands, though not without getting them a little dirty.
Urban farming may not be a new concept to thousands of people who have been living off their land for decades, yet for certain urbanites the adage “reaping what you sow” was never meant to be taken literally.
Families in major metro areas including San Francisco, Boston, and even New York City have been experimenting with urban farming for quite some time, and with their proven success, this sustainable lifestyle has spread like wildfire around the nation. Tight-knit and sprawling communities alike are picking up their shovels, throwing down their seeds, and reaping the benefits of their edible efforts.
But adding a small garden to your backyard or contributing to a neighbored farm is not just about lowering your monthly food budget. Children between the ages of six and sixteen who participate in gardening and farming activities are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables that are home-grown, and have the added bonus of developing a close relationship with the earth and its ecosystems.
Julie Cummins, Director of Education for the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture located in San Francisco (CUESA), says that urban farming projects “give children a sense of purpose –growing their own food—and an opportunity to nurture and take care of something.” Teaching sustainable and healthful practices through hands-on experiences not only allows children to feel accomplished, it provides an extended education of fresh, whole foods and their benefits on living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“Understanding where food comes from, and understanding what it takes to grow food are the foundation for making informed food choices later in life,” says Cummins. “When they learn about the industrial food system and how much food is produced today, and they compare that with their own experience in the garden, they can easily understand that pesticides and overly processed foods are not a necessary part of the diet.”
When getting your child involved in farming or gardening projects, parents should steer clear of treating the experience like a chore, Cummins suggests. “Try to come up with games, art projects, or other creative ways to interact with the garden.” Allowing kids to pick their own seeds and cook with the harvest are other ways to keep kids engaged and eager throughout the entire farming/gardening experience.
Not all families can be committed to live animals for produce such as chickens and bees, however. For such families, Cummins suggests starting off small with a manageable project so that both parents and children have the chance to acclimate to the new sustainable lifestyle.
Want to learn more about urban farming and how your family can get started? Check out www.CUESA.org for more information on how to cultivate a healthy food system.