Thursday, March 29, 2012

SPIN Farming: Growing Urban Farmers

[caption id="attachment_14887" align="alignleft" width="300"] Courtesy SPIN Farming[/caption]

Bob Ewing - What people really want is a job- a steady income that enables them to pay for food, school and medicine, for example.

The way out of the social and economic mess we are in is to create those jobs, cooperatively and individually, thereby allowing people to work and earn enough money to take part in the market place, and purchase the goods and services they need.

There are a number of ways that this can be done. Urban agriculture is often presented as one of the ways people can generate income. Urban agriculture involves growing food and raising livestock within municipal limits, while the movement is growing it is still controversial. The keeping of livestock, chickens, goats and pigs, often encounters stiff opposition

I will look at livestock in a separate article, and for now focus on herbs, vegetables and salad greens when using the term urban agriculture.

Despite the controversy, there are people and organizations who are working to make urban agriculture a viable business opportunity. Roxanne Christensen is one of those people.

I first talked with Roxanne Christensen for an article that was published in Digital Journal in November 2009. The article focused on a new, at the time, urban farming technique known as spin farming.

Roxanne Christensen co-founded Somerton Tanks Farm, a half-acre demonstration urban farm that served as the U.S. test bed for the SPIN-Farming method from 2003 to 2006.

SPIN stands for S-mall P-lot IN-tensive, and it makes it possible to earn significant income from land bases under an acre in size by growing common vegetables.

The method sounds perfect for anyone who lives in an urban environment, and wants to make a living growing herbs and vegetables, for example. However, there is much more to running a farm that growing the vegetables, Even if you are an excellent gardener and grow great tomatoes you may not understand the market place, pricing, promotion and how to sell to restaurants.

In her article, The Professionalization of Urban Agriculture, Christensen states what she feels makes Spin Farming a viable business model for the urban farmer.

“While most other farming systems focus primarily if not exclusively on agricultural practices, SPIN emphasizes the business aspects and provides a financial and management framework for having the business drive the agriculture, rather than the other way around.”

People need to eat and most of us appreciate food that is fresh and the closer to home the food is grown the fresher it is likely to be. Urban agriculture moves the farm into your neighbourhood and SPIN farming provides the farmer with the tools needed for success.

People want work. Urban agriculture can create those jobs. If it is embraced by municipalities who can then develop the bylaws that assist, rather than hinder, the growth of urban farms, and if the future urban farmers get the business training they need to succeed.

If this happens, then economic revival at the local level will begin to happen and spread from community to community across the country.