New Stories From 'Urban Agriculture Notes'
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Is There an Urban Agriculture Bubble?

Illustration By Lauren Adolfsen.

Betting the Farm

Story By David Lepeska
Volume 2, Issue 40.
Complete 15 page story costs $1.99.


But such heroism doesn’t come cheap. Growing Power spends about $3.2 million a year, according to tax filings from 2010, the most recent year for which reports are publicly available. That year, the organization took in $1.2 million in revenue and $2.4 million from grants and donor funding, which means that two-thirds of its annual budget came from philanthropy and public support.

In other words, the country’s most prominent urban farm can’t put the proverbial food on the table. It’s a situation that doesn’t bother the farmer-in-chief. “I’m not going to say we’re ever going to walk away from trying to get grants and funding,” Allen said in an interview later that morning in a Growing Power greenhouse. “Farmers get tax breaks, tax credits, subsidies. So when people say this isn’t totally self-sustaining, what does that mean? No business is totally self-sustaining.”

The federal government certainly isn’t shy about helping Big Agriculture. The 2008 Farm Bill included $75 billion in subsidies, and 2011 USDA subsidies to Illinois farms alone totaled more than $1 billion. Further, a recent New York Times study found that U.S. cities, counties and states give businesses about $80 billion in subsidies and incentives each year.

The problem is that revolutions are generally not bankrolled by the powers-that-be. “If we are going to foster a revolution in the methods of American agriculture, we must pioneer ways to make small-scale farming economically viable,” Allen writes in his book, The Good Food Revolution, published in May. “The honest truth is that with urban agriculture, we are not there yet.”

Read the complete 15 page article here – costs $1.99.