Resources for Urban Farmers

Tips from the 2014 MOSES Conference workshop “Farming in the City,” presented by Anne Pfieffer, Julie Dawson, Alex Liebman, and Claire Strader.

• Succession planting is vital to the success of an urban farm operation. Make up for limitations in space by maximizing the amount of time that beds are producing saleable crops.

• Tight spacing (and soil fertility to accommodate it) is important for maximum productivity. Use a tape measure to ensure exact spacing.

• Begin as early as possible in the season and continue as late as possible with the use of cold frames, low tunnels, row covers, etc.

• Crop rotations are just as important in urban ag as in rural ag. Rotating blocks of beds among crop families can reduce the risk of diseases and pests even in small spaces.

• Consider harvest windows as well as crop families when planning blocks of crops. Grouping crops that mature at the same time can make transitions to later successions easier.

• Effective weed control also facilitates easier transition from crop to crop.

• Plan crops to minimize changes in irrigation equipment throughout season. For example, a succession of carrots→arugula→spinach can be on overhead sprinklers all season.

• Crops such as radishes, carrots, or lettuce heads where the entire plant is pulled at harvest are excellent preceding crops for finely seeded plants like salad mix, spinach, etc.

• Soil tests are vital to make sure nutrient levels are maintained over time.

• Build soil while crops grow with hay/straw mulch. Mulch is best used on transplants that will be in place for most of the season (leeks, kale, tomatoes). Also, clover can be sown beneath the mulch in the spring to improve germination and allow it to grow slowly through the season.

• Cover crops can grow under cash crops. For example, clover can be sown under crops like melons or winter squash at the first weeding; oats/peas or rye/vetch can be broadcast under crops like kale or tomatoes in late summer.

• Leaves can be used to mulch beds in the fall. Hundreds of pounds of biomass can be collected along city streets or by contacting landscape companies to drop off shredded leaves.

• Urban farms have access to plenty of labor. Knowing how to hire, train, and manage good help can make a big difference in getting the work done.

Handouts from this workshop are available along with many other resources for market farmers on the FairShare CSA Coalition website.

Business Planning
The Urban Farm Business Plan Handbook and Urban Farm Business Plan Worksheets

Soil Testing
Test bags and testing services usually are available through county extension offices.

The Upper Midwest Organic Resource Directory lists companies that provide soil management consulting and soil inputs under the category “Fertilizer and Soil Inputs.”

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