When thinking about gardening and farming, images of inner city Detroit, South Central Los Angeles or the Bronx do not normally come to mind. On the contrary, you may envision rolling fields, red barns, and cow pastures.
However, as urban agriculture and community gardens continue to grow, helping city-dwellers return to their roots in a whole new way, these stereotypes are beginning to change.
If you’ve been following this blog or paying attention local news in just about any major city in America, terms like urban farms and community gardens are nothing new. In fact, as you walk the streets of the Bronx, Southside Chicago or East Oakland, you may see have even seen large plots of ripening fruits and vegetables being harvested.
However, what exactly are urban farms and community gardens? Are they different? If so, how? And more importantly, how can you support them?
What is urban farming?
Urban agriculture, urban farming, or urban gardening is the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in or around urban areas. It can involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping, and horticulture.
Generally, urban farming as a practice is a larger investment than gardening. There are countless more hours spent into the minutiae of farming, from the crop plan to the tending of your beds. This time commitment takes on a whole new meaning once you realize the goal that is being worked towards and committed, namely that of gaining a bountiful yield of crops to be consumed.
Urban farms often receive formal institutional support, becoming integrated into local town planning as a “transition town” movement for sustainable urban development.
What is a community garden?
A community garden is a single piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people. Community gardens utilize either individual or shared plots on private or public land while producing fruit, vegetables, and/or plants grown for their attractive appearance. The basic model here is that a large group of people each contribute a relatively small amount of time to working their own plot, and receive the fruits of their labor as a result. Around the world the community gardens can fulfill variety of purposes such as aesthetic and community improvement, physical or mental well-being, or land conservation.
Community gardens provide fresh products and plants as well as contributing to a sense of community and connection to the environment and an opportunity for satisfying labor and neighborhood improvement. They are publicly functioning in terms of ownership, access, and management, as well as typically owned in trust by local governments or not for profit associations.
Community gardens range from familiar “victory garden” areas where people grow small plots of vegetables, to large “greening” projects to preserve natural areas, to tiny street beautification planters on urban street corners.
There are community gardens, many of whom Small Axe Peppers has partnered with, that offer assistance to refugees, low-income families, children groups, and community organizations by helping them develop and grow their own gardens.
What is the difference between a community garden and urban farm?
The differences between community garden and urban farm are nuanced, though in the end the same basic activity takes place—food crop cultivation— but within different organizational structures. In the urban farm model, you have a fewer number of people spending more time working on about the same area, whereas the community garden has more people working on smaller plots.
Urban farms are generally more business and technology oriented, with the primary purpose of maximizing yields and selling produce. Commercial urban farms are often aimed at expanding production on generally small land area with innovations in technologies such as aquaculture, hydroponics, and greenhouses — and may partner with a commercial kitchen to create locally-produced value-added products such as jams and sauces.
Community gardens on the other hand are generally more socially-driven, focused on the benefits of having green spaces and the educational access that grows from them. The produce is normally grown on a much smaller scale and is taken home to eat at home or to share. By providing much needed green spaces in destitute, concrete urban areas, they allow for the benefits of backyard gardening to those lacking backyards, and serve as excellent examples of self-organization and community activism.
Community Farms and Urban Gardens
In recent years, however, encouraged by the American Community Gardening Association, community gardens are increasingly seen as partners with urban farms in becoming important elements in a community-based food system.
Some community gardens, often in urban areas, move into growing for commercial use while some urban farms open up their land for more socially conscious benefits.
Small Axe Peppers Supports Both
Regardless of how you define and differentiate the two, they are both positive forces for good in cities around America and the world. They both offer easier access to fresh, local produce; improve a neighborhood’s aesthetic; and serve as excellent educational tools, teaching people where their food comes from.
Small Axe Peppers has already partnered with over 73 community gardens around the United States. We are steadfast in our belief that these community gardens are bring about positive change — revitalizing formerly decaying urban areas while bringing about access and awareness to locally-sourced food.
As all of Small Axe Peppers’ hot sauces are sourced with peppers from community gardens, your purchases directly help fund these local projects. So, take part in the revolution by purchasing a bottle here!