Environmentalists have grown used to thinking of urban agriculture as something that occurs on pinched vacant lots in former industrial towns. But as farms of 20 acres or more start appearing in more cities, their owners are reworking the definition of “urban farm,” and causing some agtivists to question whether bigger really is better.
In San Diego, there’s the 140-acre Suzie’s Farm. In Albuquerque, there is 40-acre Skarsgard Farms. Not only are both located within the city limits, they both grew more than $1 million in organic produce this season.
The success of such farms, combined with urban agriculture’s broad appeal, is inspiring city officials to consider dedicating large chunks of vacant land to farming.
In San Francisco, redevelopment plans for the former Navy base on Treasure Island include an “urban agriculture park” of more than 20 acres, according to Michael Tymoff, the project director. In Cleveland, a 26-acre farming district has taken root where houses once stood. In Kansas City, Mo., leaders are considering turning a 420-acre former prison, or some portion thereof, into a farm.
“We believe that there is room for both food system-related uses as well as more ‘traditional’ types of development” at the site, says Gerald Williams, a planner with the City of Kansas City. Depending on how much land Williams and his colleagues ultimately dedicate to agriculture, they may be building the biggest urban farm in the country.