Friday, November 22, 2019

Dystopian Survival - City Farming

By Timothy Gamble 

In a dystopian future, we aren't going to be able to rely on factory farms and grocery stores to provide our food for us. Just look at what is happening in Venezuela over the last few years. Store shelves are mostly empty, food is rationed, "middle class" folks are dumpster diving for scraps, and there are even reports of people eating pets. Oh, the elites still have plenty to eat - wealth and power has its privileges - but the ordinary folks are finding times extremely difficult.

Growing much our own food is one possible solution. A great solution if one lives in a rural area with lots of land for farming, but what about folks living in cities and suburbs? You can't farm in a city, after all. Or, can you?

City Farming - It Can Be Done

All hope is not lost. You can grow at least some of your own food. Here are some ideas:

1) Consider container gardening indoors, and on windowsills, porches, and balconies. A lot food can be grown in containers, including all herbs, all lettuce varieties, all greens (spinach, collards, turnip, mustard, Swiss chard, etc.), tomatoes (both regular size and the mini ones), carrots, beets, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, and zucchini. In fact, almost everything can be grown in containers. The only drawbacks are that container gardens need more frequent watering than regular gardens, and plant size may be limited by the size of the containers you are using.

For some ideas and inspiration, watch these two You Tube videos

There are a number of books available on container gardening. One that I think is particularly good is The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible: How to Grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs, and Other Containers. Another book I often recommend is Patricia Lanza's Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces, which includes a lot of info on container gardening. Both are available on Amazon- just click the links. 

2) Consider joining a community garden. Community gardens are plots of land that are gardened collectively by a group of people. Each person or family may be assigned a particular plot within the larger piece of land, or the whole garden may be worked collectively. Rules vary. You can find more information and locations of community gardens in your area on the American Community Gardening Association website.

3) Start your own community garden. If there is not a community garden in your area, that would make a perfect project for your church, synagogue, YMCA, or other civic organization. I'm proud to say that my church has recently decided to grow food on its property! The idea of community gardens became popular with the push for "Victory Gardens" during WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII, then fell out of favor. It is time to bring back that concept in a big way.

4) Learn small plot gardening techniques. If you have even a little bit of land, you can have gardening success. You don't need a huge garden to grow food. Check out my articles Small Plot Gardening Tips and Lasagna Gardening.

For city folks and suburbanites fortunate enough to have a small yard (many do), I recommend the books Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre and The Mini Farming Bible: The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre, both by Brett Markham. You'll be surprised how much you can grow on a small plot of land, even if its less than a quarter acre!

5) Try Forest Gardening. If you have even a small yard, forest gardening techniques might prove useful in urban areas. Forest gardening is a type of permaculture in which mimics a woodland ecosystem or forest edge. The advantages of forest gardening include: 1) extremely productive, 2) does not require man-made fertilizers, pesticides or other chemicals, 3) more efficient use of water, and 5) can be grown and maintained by anyone with even a very small plot of land.Search the archives of this website for a number of articles on forest gardening (several were posted in November 2019). 

6) Try Rooftop Gardening. Like its name sounds, rooftop gardening is simply gardening on rooftops, using containers (which can be quite large if the structure can support the weight). Rooftop gardening has become quite popular in recent years. You can find out more by searching "Rooftop Gardening" in Duck-Duck-Go, StartPage, or some other privacy-respecting search engine (please tell me you're not still using google, bing, or yahoo). 

7) Get involved with vertical farming. Dr. Josh Axe explains vertical gardening this way: "Vertical farming is a method of producing crops that’s quite different from what we normally think of as farming. Instead of crops being grown on vast fields, they’re grown in vertically, or into the air. This normally means that the “farms” occupy much less space than traditional farms: think farming in tall, urban buildings vs. farming outdoors in the countryside.  

Vertical farming is credited to Dickson Despommier, a professor of ecology at Columbia University, who came up with the idea of taking urban rooftop gardens a step further, and creating vertical farming “towers” in buildings, that would allow all of a building’s floors, not just the rooftop, to be used for producing crops." -- Dr. Josh Axe, Vertical Farming: Farms of the Future? The Pros & Cons, June 5, 2017

There is even an association for vertical farming. Check out their website at

The Bottom Line: The point of this article is that their are things you can do to raise at least some of your own food, even in the cities and suburbs. But, you have to get started now, not wait until things get as bad as they already are in Venezuela. 


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