The "Farm Flip" has been a pet project for several years now. I've talked with our mayor, my councilmembers, numerous other urban farmers and wanna-be urban farmers, community members, even Ron Finley (http://ronfinley.com/) has heard about this from me. Not everyone gets it (mainly the non-ag people), but those who do all love it.
The photo above is an urban homestead in Pasadena, California in a highly urban area almost exactly like the one we are in here in East Point, Georgia. They have 1/5 acre, with 1/10 being house footprint. They grow 6,000 pounds of food on their 1/10 acre.
6,000 POUNDS OF FOOD from 1/10th of an ACRE.
I've been following this family since 1999, and though there has been some political controversy, there is no doubt that what they've done is amazing. I would strongly suggest checking out their website and looking at their photos.
So, about this "Farm Flip" idea:
1. Our city, like cities across the country, has many, many blighted properties. They pepper the neighborhoods, creating a less-than welcoming, unhealthy environment for the folks who live near them. They are owned by non-tax paying, remote owners who have zero investment in our town.
2. We also have a tremendous urban agriculture movement happening here, including some terrific training programs that are bringing people into the world of agriculture, many of whom have barely grown a tomato.
3. We suffer from the misconception that agriculture, even urban ag, requires acreage, certainly more than what most of us have in our backyards.
4. We have tons of people who are either un- or under-employed, or who have skills that aren't being used and who want to share those skills (i.e. the senior population)
5. Much of our city is considered a "food desert", and even many of those areas that are not part of that definition still suffer from quality fresh food.
What if we transformed these blighted properties into turn-key urban farms? What if we were able to buy (or have donated) a house that we can either renovate or raze and rebuild that is designed with farmers and farm businesses in mind? Soil tested, irrigation spigots in place, wash station built, maybe even a coolbot cooler? How about an outdoor shower, or an entrance directly into a bathroom with shower from outside? Also, a kitchen that is completely prepped to be inspected for a cottage-kitchen license. Ideally zoning would be changed to Agriculture, and it would be a FOR-profit business.
And what if we sold the property to the trained urban farmer at below-market cost?
So now we have:
- a negative asset becoming a positive asset
- tax paying property from non-tax paying due to negligence
- an attractive property from blight
- tax paying business
- entrepreneurship (farmer)
- HOME OWNER (this has created the most excitement, which surprised me)
- neighborhood fresh food access
A civic and socially minded investor in East Point pointed out that we could also use many other underutilized resources and opportunities, such as onsite/jobsite training in construction, landscape, plumbing, electrical, etc.
This one project could solve so many of the issues we face, and I have yet to find a downside. What are your thoughts about it?