Urban farms are booming across major metropolises in America. Many of such farms are funded by non-profit organizations. For instance, Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture and Education Project based in Sacramento, California provides funds to local residents for growing crops in small areas of land across the city. Although, urban farming is achieving its purpose of achieving food sustainability but they are far from achieving economic sustainability.
The urban farms will not be able to make a significant impact economically if they keep getting voluntary labor and charitable funds. Even though their popularity has caused them to become quite widespread, they still lack in filling pockets.
The biggest issue here is scalability. They can only be profitable if they satisfy the demands of the large sized communities in urban areas. Many communities who suffer from lack of food shortage end up spending 60 to 70% of their food money outside the community. And urban farming in such areas has only been able to bring the spending down by 10%.
Soil Born initially started as for profit urban farming company but it became nonprofit in 2004. They make community supported agriculture boxes which include shards, beets, collards, broccoli and carrots amongst others. They have hired a few teenagers at a wage of $8 an hour who give 20 hours a week to harvesting these crops and making these boxes. The farm also has 80 chickens, 11 lambs, four cows and just one pig. It is located next to apartment complexes and the American River. The owners did not have to make their initiative nonprofit because there was not a lot of profit, they always wanted to make it a nonprofit institute that promotes urban farming.
They have gone on to become big. Their budget has become nearly one million dollars. Almost 60% of the revenue comes from government grants. They accept that what they need is a revenue making idea. Their urban farms although very successful fail to make big revenue.
There are many other examples of urban farms that are there only for meeting the food needs of the less fortunate. In West Oakland, City Slackers named farm produces vegetables and fruits for the local people who cannot afford to pay high prices for basic food items. This is achieved by using a sliding pricing scale. Then there are those customers too who can easily afford pricey foods but come to their market to contribute to the cause.
People’s Grocery was one initiative also from the same city that aimed to provide affordable food but also raise revenues. They had a decorative van that roamed around the city selling food at low prices. However, they could not make substantial profits as 60% of their revenues came from charities.
City farming’s potential in bringing in money is limited. They provide healthy food and ensure sustainability, however, they cannot feed the entire country. Their main hindrance is scale. Nevertheless, urban farming is an effective tool for bringing food to communities who cannot afford it.