Celebrating Urban Agriculture

On October 25, 2010, in Boston, by Nathan

Tomato plants growing in old coolers, herb gardens outside of kitchen windows, and pies made from fruit found around town. This is the world of urban agriculture: a counter-intuitive paring of words with the potential to bring a connection to the land, to the heart of the city.

Cambridge, MA is one city where urban agriculture is catching on. The work of many of these spare time farmers was on display in Harvard Square at the Cambridge Urban Agricultural Fair. From contests to find the best (and ugliest) produce in the city, to pickling and canning demonstrations, to delicious local fare and local music, hundreds of people came out learn, celebrate, and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of the labor of their friends and neighbors.

Urban agriculture is a growing part of the movement for people to get back in touch with the origins of their food. While I couldn’t find much hard data on how many people actually participate in urban agriculture, anecdotally, the numbers are surprising.

Having a fair or other public celebration for the efforts of urban agriculturalists can help to reinforce and expand the practice within a community. If you are interested starting an event in your city to celebrate and promote the practice of urban agriculture, it is surprisingly easy to get started.

In talking with the founder of the Cambridge Urban Agriculture Fair, I learned that there were essentially three elements that need to be in place:

  • Get approval from your city or town.  This can be achieved through getting a few friends together and talking with someone on the city council to see if they will help you.  Most elected representatives will at least point you in the right direction, if not jump at the opportunity to help their constituents.
  • Get some local businesses on board.  If there is a local chamber of commerce (even a green chamber of commerce) they will be interested in having a festival that will bring people out, and get exposure for their businesses.  Get them on board and they can help to get businesses interested and involved.
  • Make it fun! At the Cambridge fair, a local restaurant called Grendel’s Den sponsors a beer garden.  Add live music, and a lot of interactive booths and displays and people will come because you are giving them something fun to do.

So if you want something like the Cambridge Urban Agriculture Fair in your town, there is a reason you are reading this blog.  Get to work!  If you need help, I’ll be watching to comments, and I’ll be happy to put you in touch with the organizers in Cambridge.

Happy Growing!

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