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Farm The City
A Toolkit for Setting Up a Successful Urban Farm
Urban farming has the power to change diets, economies, and lives. Yet starting an urban farm can seem daunting with skills and knowledge that extend beyond growing to include marketing, sales, employees, community relations, and navigating local regulations.
In Farm the City, Michael Ableman, the "Spartacus of Sustainable Food Activism," offers a guide to setting up and running a successful urban farm, derived from the success of Sole Food Street Farms, one of the largest urban agriculture enterprises in North America. Sole Food Street Farms spans four acres of land in Vancouver, produces 25 tons of food annually, provides meaningful work for dozens of disadvantaged people, and has improved the surrounding community in countless ways. Coverage includes:
- Selecting land and choosing the right crops
- Growing food in city farms, including plans for planting and harvesting
- Fundraising and marketing strategies, philosophies, and vital information for selling fresh products
- Navigating local government and regulations
- Engaging the community and building meaningful livelihoods.
Farm the City is an invaluable tool kit for entrepreneurs and activists looking to create economic and social value through urban agriculture.
Michael Ableman, a commercial organic farmer for the past 45 years, is co-founder and director of Sole Food Street Farms. He founded the nonprofit Center for Urban Agriculture and has created urban farms in California and Vancouver, BC. He farms with his family at the historic 120-acre Foxglove Farm on Salt Spring Island, BC.
Publishers Weekly (02/24/2020)
"Organic farmer and first-time author Ableman translates his experience as cofounder and director of Vancouver's Sole Food Street Farms into a useful manual for anyone interested in turning the concrete jungle green. His first steps include taking on a farming apprenticeship (with an actual farmer who's successfully yielded crops for more than 10 years); establishing a strategy for raising capital; purchasing or leasing vacant lots sufficient for establishing a small but commercially viable farm (in cities with lower property values, he points out, more land might be available); and, last but not least, making friends with the neighbors, for whom "the crow of roosters the smell of compost" may well be new, not to say unwelcome. Once these hurdles are overcome and a clear mission has been established, the rest is execution, for which the book also serves as a reliable guide. Whether addressing how to create fertile soil in urban areas, determine a farming plan for limited space (his own enterprise occupies four acres), or figure out crop rotation, Ableman offers guidance from season's start to end. Beyond the agriculture itself, Ableman addresses selling produce and value-added products. This book is a must-have for any urban dweller serious about farming. (Apr.)"
Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission
"Most of the world's people live in cities, and Farm the City is a story of how to bring cities back to life, literally and emotionally. The cold, forbidding landscapes of urban life bring our hearts to a standstill. When streets, medians, abandoned land, parks, and byways are transformed by soil, bugs, microbes, pollinators, and seeds, lives bloom, connectedness flourishes, and people become denizens once again. Local food is not a mere talisman or gesture. We localize food webs near our homes for identity, nourishment, and taste. Taste is a sense, but it is also a common sense. Local food not only addresses quality of life, economy, and food security, it changes our hearts. Michael Ableman has a finely honed sensibility. Read how he gardens society, grows well-being, weeds out despair, and sows hope in this wonderfully written testament to life."
— Paul Hawken, author, Drawdown and Blessed Unrest
"Michael Ableman documents that generating paradise by grow- ing vegetables amidst the urban jungle also rehabilitates lost souls, builds community, and creates genuine economic value. "
— Gabor Maté, MD, author, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts
"There is much to admire and emulate in the work of Sole Food Street Farms. Their commitment to create employment for people with barriers, ingenuity in container orcharding, and diversified marketing schemes are just a few examples of their profoundly practical and ethical approach to urban farming. Ableman's Farm the City is an inspiring how-to guide for any urban grower who is serious about success."
— Leah Penniman, co-director, Soul Fire Farm, author, Farming While Black
"Michael Ableman is one of the handful of inspiring visionaries on the planet who are redefining our future food systems."
— Patrick Holden, founding director, Sustainable Food Trust
"So you think you want to farm in the city? In this book, Ableman raises that question. It is more than a toolkit on growing food. He explains what it takes to be a farmer in municipalities daunted with rules and regulations. Yet in the end he explains that farming is more than a passion, it's a business. This book is a testament to all farmers: that our hard work has value and the food we grow and sell for any reason is invaluable."
— Karen Washington, farmer-activist, Rise and Root Farm
"This man really connects with his readers. You can feel the diffi- culties he, and so many others in urban farming on this scale, have faced. His honesty about the problems and the mistakes they originally made is both illuminating and reassuring. I find it fascinating, after reading Street Farm, to read about the amazing progress and durability of Michael's urban farm in Farm the City, and how many people are being helped. Experiential capital is indeed vital, and he has it in spades, buckets, and boxes! There are many out there growing food in the city, but few have Michael's experience and ability to understand problems that keep arising. I salute him. This book will help so many urban farmers. I urge you to read it."
— Charles Dowding, gardener, writer, teacher
"Whenever Michael Ableman sees a barrier, he runs over and kicks it in. Lucky for us, this strikingly focused anarchist writes about it too, sharing the deeply moving story of reclaiming land and building real community in the most unlikely places, from the ground up."
— Dan Barber, chef/co-owner, Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, author, The Third Plate
"The goal of this five-acre network of four farms— begun in the poorest postal code in Canada— is to produce, from thousands of boxes of planted dirt, not just delicious food but salvaged lives. Candid about the difficulties of creating flourishing farms on hot pavements and of making reliable farm workers of dispirited locals who struggle not only with poverty but with assorted personal demons, Ableman has written an important, inspiring, and bravely honest book."
— Joan Gussow, author, Growing, Older and This Organic Life
"Sole Food Street Farms is living proof that creative social enter- prises, thoughtful land use, and green jobs can combine to make cities more inclusive and resilient. Michael Ableman's work and passion helped make Vancouver a global leader in urban food systems, with happier and healthier people."
— Gregor Robertson, former mayor, Vancouver, British Columbia