Gardening vs. Urban Farming

Part of our ornamental garden

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).

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.