Understanding the homesteading trend and how it affects urban environments is being researched across the United States. In early 2019 Columbus, Ohio released its urban farming study with the desire to address the pain points of small scale farmers and define the factors that influenced community attitudes towards urban food production. Determining the regulatory areas that are in need of modification will be important for small scale urban farms to succeed.
Understanding complex communities
Interviews, observations, and review board analysis allowed researchers to determine social dynamics. Fifteen producers were physically observed by the lead researcher and interviewed in January of 20173. The observations allowed researchers to learn about urban farm operations, the individuals conducting the work and their reason for farming. Ten of the fifteen operations that participated in the study were woman-owned and eight of the participants had completed a 4-year degree3. While annual income was below $10,000 on average, the number of individuals transitioning to community-based business is increasing3.
Economic analysis is important for community success
Social and economic research is being conducted throughout many communities that are experiencing similar growth trends. Communities in the Adirondack State Park of New York participated in a similar study between 2017 and 2018 where researchers found that 20-34-year-olds were leaving in large numbers due to the lack of economic opportunities1. Those who stayed continued in community-driven businesses focused on manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture1.
The biggest challenge to urban farmers comes from competition with government-supported non-profits. Without access to investment funds and grants, urban farmers are often unable to grow or upgrade their operations. Support for urban farms relies heavily upon consumers interested in keeping their money local and the ease of access for individuals with transportation burdens. The Cooperative Extension Service also supports urban farms by educations individuals on how to be proper stewards of the land.
Community changes reach beyond food security
With more studies being conducted, regulations are slowly beginning to change and investors are diverting their attention to small businesses. Education and land access have the ability to impact more than just urban economies. Children who live in close proximity to green spaces are able to focus better on single tasks2 while lessons conducted in a natural setting resulted in greater attentiveness in classrooms4. A Penn State study found that the beautification of vacant urban lots led to a decrease in feelings of depression and hopelessness5.
When individuals are able to make informed decisions, community engagement and personal wellbeing are increasingly positive.
2. Frontiers. (2018, January 11). Students more engaged and attentive following outdoor lesson in nature: Following an outdoor lesson in nature, students were more engaged with their schoolwork, and their teachers could teach uninterrupted for almost twice as long. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180111115340.htm