According to the United States Census Bureau 62.7% of the population live within city limits, that’s over 203 million people. When we consider that most of those people live in homes with at least a small yard and many without yards have community gardens available to them we can begin to see the potential of a solution for many of the problems we now have and many of the looming future problems we are facing.
First let’s look at the problems we are facing.
Present and Future Affordable Food Availability Crisis – Over 45 million people receive food assistance in the United States because they cannot afford food at it’s current prices and those prices are rising rapidly. Booming population and economic struggles are a reality for our future as a nation and the current food availability cannot meet the challenge as prices increase because of imported foods and the supply and demand of more local food. We simply cannot rely on the system we currently have to supply all of our food without significant increases in cost and with great sacrifice to the nutritional value of our food as well as environmental impacts to our land. What we are doing cannot work long term.
Healthy Food Crisis – While more than 68% of all adults are considered obese in the United States they are actually starving to death nutritionally. High calorie diets are not the the same as a nutritional meal, so while we are overfed we are in fact starving for nutrients. Processed foods, stuffed with high fructose corn syrup, refined flours and trans fats crowd out more nutrient-dense foods because they are inexpensive and convenient. Our current food system thinks this is the answer for feeding the booming population but it is having great consequences to our society. This way of thinking has created a health care crises like never before with both economic disaster and great personal cost to the health of individuals. Cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes among other health problems plague our nation and there is no doubt that our current food system plays a major part in that role.
The Critical Impact To Our Environment – The food system we currently have relies on factory farming of livestock and monocrop industrial farming of the land. Both of these farming systems have a significant impact on the planet. This kind of farming relies heavily on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that pollute our air and water and destroy the natural nutritions in the land. We would be foolish to think this doesn’t have long term implications toward our individual health and our planet.
What Are The Solutions?
Americans have faced potential food crises before although never on the scale they do now. During World War II, Victory Gardens were planted by families in the United States to help prevent a food shortage. By 1944 Victory Gardens were responsible for producing 40% of all vegetables grown in the United States. The majority of these victory gardens were grown in the postage stamp lawns of small towns and in the window boxes of apartment dwellers. Schools and churches used their land as community gardens and tall buildings made use of rooftop gardens.
During this time people were encouraged to raise small livestock in urban environments as well. Chickens, rabbits, goats and even pigs were found in rural areas supplying home owners with healthy food without putting a strain on the system. People were urban homesteading before the term had any cliché meaning behind it, this was simply about the survival of families and our Country.
When urban homesteading is done right using organic practices it can not only supply a family or multiple families with good nutrient dense food but also benefit the environment greatly. The organic practices will supply the land with nutrients and keep synthetic fertilizers from polluting our air and water. The food being locally grown will lower the use of fossil fuels being burned through the transport of food. The input of the mass amount of food being put into the system will relieve food shortages to the population boom and the healthy nutrient dense food will have long term results in our health individually and on our health care system as a whole.
Urban homesteading supplies many of the answers to the problems we are facing both now and for the future. We must get past the idea of what we think a city home with a small backyard should look like with its manicured, synthetically fertilized lawn and ornamental trees and bushes and start doing what makes sense with what we have. Cities need to get on board and change laws and ordinances that prohibit city farms, eyes need to open about the real problems we are facing and the real solutions that are right in front of us.
What To Do Next.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi.
Turn your home into a homestead. Start doing everything you can to be more sustainable and self sufficient. Grow a garden, plant fruit trees and berry bushes instead of ornamentals, start raising urban livestock, learn to preserve your homegrown and home raised food, learn to cook and prepare healthy food at home. Do whatever you can do even if you can’t do everything because every little thing makes a difference.
Stop being deterred by the the things that are standing in your way and start working toward the solution. If you live in a place where city ordinances or laws are prohibiting you from planting gardens or raising livestock then work to get those changed. First find out if there are any efforts already underway and join those efforts, if no efforts are underway, you can set the changes in motion yourself. You can look to other cities similar in size, density, population, and environment and examine their related ordinances and use these examples of successful policies to demonstrate the viability of similar codes in your city. You can start a petition to present to boards in a position to change such laws and ordinances, Change.org is one such place to start a petition.
It would be naive to think urban homesteading or homesteading in general can fix all our problems or that it can fix our problems overnight but it is a step in the right direction. So join me and other homesteaders in the cause to make the world a little better by growing and raising our own food, changing the mindset of the majority toward the homesteading lifestyle and doing all we can to care for the future of our children and our planet.