American Family Insurance How to Start an Urban Farm

Tips for Urban Gardening

Greening up your yard or your neighborhood starts with a commitment to your community. Take a look at our urban gardening tips for ideas on which types of urban farming will work for you.

Have you been bitten by the urban agriculture bug? Today more and more people are interested in growing their own food and even raising a few animals in an urban setting. If you’re interested in city farming, the following tips can help get you started on raising organic, homegrown veggies and more.

The Types of Urban Farming

The resurgence of personal plots and tracts of land donated to community gardening is the result of social movements that share the common goal to raise fresh food, locally. From garden clubs to horticultural societies, the green movement’s taken root across the US. With small plots of land in metropolitan areas, local residents are making gardening part of the daily life. There are a few basic types of urban gardening:

Community gardens. Land that’s collectively owned by a group of people — or made available by local municipalities — that’s shared and broken into small plots. Individuals then sign up or pay a fee to raise plants and fruit for their individual consumption.

Rooftop gardens. From raising bees for honey to managing rooftop temperatures in the summer, urban roof gardens have helped to add habitats and corridors for wildlife in areas that were otherwise lacking. They provide greenspace in dense urban areas and offer residents a chance to get their hands dirty.

Aquaponics. Typically using a pond or lined pool, these closed-loop aquatic systems raise fish in a small self-sustaining fish farm/hydroponic process. The plants consume the nutrients from fish waste which filters out the water’s impurities.

Backyard chickens. Also known as urban chicken raising, local residents will work in accordance with local and state laws and raise a few chickens in their back yards. They’ll benefit from fresh eggs, locally raised meat and rich compostable chicken waste that helps keep their gardens fertilized.

Tactical gardens. Making use of available, unclaimed land and converting it into gardening space, this type of gardening makes use of medians and small plots across a neighborhood.

Greenhouses. Leveraging the power of the sun to extend a limited growing season, greenhouses can extend vegetable production and help growers get a head start by raising seedlings.

Urban beekeeping. Locally stocking your block with pollinators can have real ecological benefits. Fruiting trees, nearby community gardens and wild plants are more productive with bees on-site. Plus, home-grown honey can’t be beat! Check in with your municipality to learn about codes and restrictions.

How to Start a Community Garden

Are you looking to create a community garden for others to use or are you interested in simply growing foods for you and your family? Maybe you want to raise chickens and eggs locally and get involved with farmer’s markets. Whichever way you choose to direct your green thumb, do your homework first. Here are a few tips on launching a community garden.

Get the word out. Start a discussion on or Facebook with local residents. Introduce your idea to city councils and urban representatives. Build momentum and work with people who feel the same way.

Form local alliances. Seek partnerships with horticultural societies and landowners in the area.

Think outside your box. If you’d love to create an urban farm but live in an apartment with no green space, it’s time to get creative. Try finding groups that would be happy to participate in urban farming. Look to local government, private companies, churches, schools or service organizations to see if you can partner with them and use their extra land.

Research laws and regulations. Every region has different rules about what types of urban farming they allow. While your city may be okay with you having a few chickens, your homeowners association may not allow it. Learn about the legalities before you invest time and energy into the project.

Build a budget. You’ll probably need materials like gardening equipment, a secure shed and perhaps a water supply to start. Figure out the costs to get the project off the ground, and build out a phased approach that includes money for raised beds and onsite watering systems.

Educate yourself and the community. Taking courses, researching and seeking out expert advice will help you develop an educated foundation for future successes. Invite community sponsors to learn as well, and you’ll all be informed on how to make your dream a reality.

Get technical. Once you’ve got a parcel of land, gather soil samples and have them analyzed so you’ll know how to supplement the dirt to best boost your harvest.

Keep the kids in mind. Reserve a section of the garden specifically for kids. Parents will love that their children have a role to play and may be more willing to sign on.

Build out the bylaws. Be sure that members understand the gardening ground rules. By building a small agreement with people that enroll in your garden, disputes may be resolved more quickly. Spelling out how funds will be used in that document can also help new members understand how their donation will benefit the garden.

Start small and grow. The best way to dive into any agricultural venture is to start small, journal about everything you do and then grow as you learn what is most successful. Think about becoming a member of the American Community Gardening Association, which is a rich resource full of ideas, best practices and ways to keep your garden flourishing.

Love what you do. Gardening is a wonderful way to celebrate the earth and share your hard work. You can find a real sense of pride in sharing your passion with neighbors and friends.

How to Protect Your Community Garden

One final step: remember to protect your urban farm. You’ve invested a lot of yourself in this venture and you deserve committed support and peace of mind knowing that your project is well-protected. So connect with your American Family Insurance agent today to make sure you’ve got the insurance coverage you need.

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