NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Real Estate News

November 29, 2011

Little Farm in the Big City

- — Do your neighbors make strange clucking sounds? Have you noticed any nasal-awaking scents of earthy fertilizer?

With a local food movement, a downsized economy and more people eager to find practical and hands-on methods of satisfying some basic needs, it could mean finding yourself living amongst chickens, goats, rows of lettuce or a forest of towering tomato vines.

Welcome to the new era of urban farming.

Residents within the limits of many U.S. cities are learning that some neighbors want to make more full use of their property. And that has put some pressure on municipalities to revisit local laws that regulate the occupancy and management of animals and crops.

This Austin home for sale is within city limits, yet boasts a chicken coop and vegetable garden.

According to the USDA, urban farming is booming with around "15 percent of the world's food now grown in urban areas." The numbers have been goosed thanks to national, local and healthy food advocates like Michelle Obama and her White House garden and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who has a plan for converting vacant lots into farm space. The new interest in urban gardening and farming could push the movement beyond the victory gardens during World War II.

Erik Knutzen, author of “The Urban Homestead,” “Making it: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World” and the blog rootsimple.com, said several factors are in play.

“Bad economic times get people thinking about common sense ways to use their yards. Why grow a lawn when you can grow food?” Knutzen said. “People are also concerned about where their food comes from. There’s been a lot of scandals with our factory farm system and the only way to deal with it is to grow your own.”

Many urban governments see it as a way to encourage healthy living. It is also a way for people to make a connection with nature. Judi Gerber, who writes the blog LA Farm Girl, said urban farming can take shape in different ways, including a “mini-farm literally on one acre of more or even just a backyard edible garden.”

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