The Rise of Urban Agriculture
As the U.S. economy struggles, the obesity epidemic rises and transparency increases on pesticide use and genetic modification of the food we consume, Hoosiers are more aware than ever what they’re putting on their plates at dinnertime.
“I think most people already know that it’s cheaper, healthier and better for the environment to produce your own food,” says Lanette Erby of the Greenscape Gals, LLC, “but not everyone is born with a green thumb. At this point, it’s about helping someone set up their garden and teaching them how to take care of it.”
Part of the Greenscape Gals’ business model is consulting with Indy residents on where and how food gardens can be placed and grown on their property.
The company also builds and installs raised beds and are on-call for their clients throughout the entire growing season should any problems or questions arise.
“I promise that getting your garden started is the hardest part,” says Erby. “With a little education, anyone can be an urban farmer.”
David Stuckert of the recently opened Agrarian Urban Homestead & Supply agrees. In addition to carrying items for raising chickens, growing mushrooms, canning and keeping bees at its South Broad Ripple location, they also encourage area residents to use the store as a meeting place for sharing information.
“It’s about providing a resource center and teaching facility where people can exchange ideas about how to be more self-sufficient,” says Stuckert. Agrarian specializes in locally sourced products and resources to benefit the urban homesteading community and is Indianapolis’ first and only urban homesteading store.
For Indy residents not in a position to be self-sufficient, urban farming is still very important. Tyler Gough operates Indy Urban Acres Organic Farm on Indianapolis’ East side. All of the produce grown on the two-acre plot is donated to food pantries that feed Indy’s hungry.
“Those that can’t afford to be concerned with how their food is produced should still have access to healthy options,” says Gough. “If you can’t afford food, you also can’t afford to get sick. A healthy diet is the best way to avoid that.”
Gough also points out that people receiving food assistance may also receive healthcare assistance from the state. “If we can provide options to food insecure people that keep them healthier, healthcare costs for all Hoosiers will decrease. That’s a win-win.”
There are also less obvious benefits of urban farming. For example, produce from grocery stores typically come from places like Peru, Mexico and California, demanding tremendous amounts of fossil fuel to transport all of this food all the way to Indiana. Furthermore, increasing the amount of urban farm space in cities decreases the amount of vacant lots and increases property values.
Urban farms also create more green space, which reduces inner-city temperatures caused by the urban heat island effect, improves air quality as more plants need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and may even reduce crime partly by helping to create healthier, prettier and more soothing environments.
Urban farming is a healthy, fun and educational hobby. With all of the new urban farming resources around Indy, it’s never been easier to learn how to start your own. “Even if you can’t or don’t want to grow your own food, purchasing it at farmers’ markets from someone who grows it locally is a great way to drive Indy’s market toward urban agriculture,” says Erby.