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HOMEGROWN Life: Gardening vs. Urban Farming






What is that tipping point between being a gardener and being an urban farmer? Is there a checklist one must follow before they can legitimately call themselves an urban farmer? To me there is a definite line between “gardener” and “urban farmer” but it doesn’t involve some complicated list of specific tasks one must achieve.

Paul James, the Gardener Guy from HGTV put it best:
“Finally, let me say a word about the term home farming. When I first heard it, I thought it was a tad awkward. After all, I’d always described the process of growing vegetables and herbs as a form of gardening. But the more I thought about it, the more it grew on me. Growing edible crops, whether in your backyard or on your balcony, is a form of farming really. And calling it that distinguishes it from growing flowers and shrubs and trees and so on.”


This is also the line that I draw. If you are producing food, whether it’s for yourself and your family or whether you are selling it, you are involved in farming. It’s agriculture. If it’s in a city, it’s urban agriculture. But I prefer the term “farming” over “agriculture” because in today’s political climate the term “agriculture” contains the allusion of the industrial factory farming that permeates the food industry today.

After all, the definition of farming is:
“the business, art or skill of agriculture.”
The definition of agriculture is:
“1. the science, art, or occupation concerned with cultivating land, raising crops, and feeding, breeding, and raising livestock; farming.
2. the production of crops, livestock, or poultry.”

Some people would probably say if you’re not selling anything then you are “homesteading” not farming. Homesteading has recently taken on a new meaning. The definition is more in terms of the legal process of acquiring land under the Homestead Act. But the definition given to it by the current homestead movement is it’s more about living self sufficient regardless of whether you are in rural or urban areas. You can find a good set of criteria for urban homesteading here for more information. In the end, however, you can’t homestead without farming (just one small part of homesteading).

Dog Island Farm

So am I a gardener or an urban farmer?

I’m both. However, I consider myself more of an urban farmer. My non-food producing landscape is very low maintenance so I stay rather hands-off with it. My primary focus is producing food. Flowers are pretty, but not utilitarian and for me, form follows function.


Rachel Dog Island Farm

My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter acre as humanly possible. With my husband, we run Dog Island Farm in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

11 Responses to “HOMEGROWN Life: Gardening vs. Urban Farming”

  1. […] » Blog Archive » Living HOMEGROWN: Gardening vs. Urban Farming. blog comments powered by Disqus […]

  2. Wonderful blog – looking forward to following you. I can relate to the homegrown definition. I’m on 17 acres, 11 wooded and about 5 acres of blooms. I grow veggies and blooms for my family and friends to enjoy. I would prefer to be called a ‘creative grower’.

  3. The definition of a garden is “a plot of land where plants are cultivated” so the plant part of your urban homestead IS a garden. It’s just that all the plants in it are food producing. I’d say that gardening is a necessary skill to be a successful homesteader/farmer. :)

  4. Maybe you could call it production gardening… or culinary gardening… lol

  5. But “gardening” and “production gardening” are too generalized. You could be producing cut flowers and be a production gardener. Farming is easier to say than “culinary gardening.” I’m not denying that my food production isn’t a garden but it’s also farming as I’m producing food. Saying I’m just a “gardener” doesn’t specify what I’m growing as much as saying I’m an “urban farmer.” Saying simply “garden” could mean I’m growing anything.

  6. You have spent a lot on time on agriculture, but what about horticulture? The fun half of the two!

  7. It reminds me of a general class, say of “artists”, who are then whittled down to “musicians,” “dancers,” “painters,” etc. — then narrowed down even further from there.

    LOVE this post. :)

  8. I guess it must depend on your area… because if you said you were a gardener where I live, people assume you are growing for food. If you weren’t, you’d specify THEN. (I have a flower garden) Interesting!!

  9. Great post. I wrote about the same topic recently on my blog too.

  10. Farming is cash crops. It is systematic, using proven reliable methods to make enough money to live off of. Gardening and urban ‘farming’ is wishy-washy, part-time hobby. If you are supporting your entire family from the land, that is farming.

  11. Loved your post. :)

    I too didn’t classify between urban farming and Gardening. But now, through your post all my doubts are cleared.

    Thanks for sharing such an exclusive information.

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