Urbanization has narrowed physical gaps between some rural and urban areas, making it integral that peri-urban regions have agricultural practices that are efficient, and well-informed, and that farmers are able to quickly adjust and diversify their operations. The Peri-Urban Agriculture Network has released a docuseries Farming on the Edge, which examines the challenges and uncertainties surrounding farming against urban sprawl.
According to the network, “‘peri-urban’ refers to dynamic transition zones where urban landscapes, lifestyles, values, and cultures intermingle with rural landscapes, lifestyles, values, and culture.” These areas typically feature blurred landscapes in between city and countryside, intermingling of urban and land-based economies, and complex community governance issues due to a wide gap in cultural values and land-use planning.
» Related: Living on the (urban) edge
Previous generations have intentionally built cities near certain areas based on surrounding farmland. However, with improved transportation and refrigeration, being close to where food is grown has become less and less of a priority — resulting in urban sprawl. As a result, people have moved away from rural areas, breaking down the connection between urban populations and the way that food is made.
“My family members before me, I don’t think they ever envisioned that we would have this much growth and development at all,” says Bill Zimmerman, Bizi Farms, whose farm is located outside of Portland, Oregon.
Despite challenges such as the increased costs of land on peri-urban farms, higher worker wages, and urban policies, peri-urban farmers reap the benefit of a close and large direct consumer base. One network farmer discusses the difference between two people per day passing your fruit stand and 2,000. Another, says that their farms cannot keep up with the demand. Because of demands, and the cost of operation, peri-urban farmers are intensely focused on increasing efficiency on their smaller-acre operation.
Peri-urban farmers have also connected with their neighboring communities by donating to food banks and other programs that give back to their communities. Some operations provide agritourism opportunities to generate revenue, educate the public, and build connections with neighbors.
The entire five-episode series can be seen here:
Episode 1: Farming Within the Peri-Urban Context
Reframing the paradigm of what viable agricultural economies look like in urbanizing regions.
Episode 2: Peri-Urban Farm Start-Ups and Expansions
Navigating access to land, capital, and enhanced production capacity.
Episode 3: Peri-Urban Farm Evolution and Succession
Navigating the learning curve of capitalizing on new markets and diversifying business plans
Episode 4: Farming in Tight Quarters
Producing on a limited land base and near residential communities
Episode 5: Collective Support, Advocacy, and Policy
Competing interests and policies: Collective support and advocacy for peri-urban farms