Job creation is an extremely necessary and desired goal for any community. In any good business plan, the need for a good ROI (return on investment) is critical to success. Focusing on urban agriculture, backyard industry and manufactured value-added product provide the much needed industry jobs while beneficially impacting the community. In addition to environmental, health and social benefits, economic benefits could also be promoted in the growing agri-tourism market.
Here’s a few examples of how urban agriculture impacts the community and economy:
• Agri-Tourism/Job Creation: An estimated 13.2 million visitors to Colorado engaged in some agri-tourism in the last report (2006), spending approximately $1.26 billion. Of that group, agri-tourism was the primary trip focus for 4.1 million visitors who reported spending $807 million. Agri-tourism generated an estimated 14,665 jobs in 2006; equivalent to 7% of all the state’s jobs in tourism. In places around the country such as California (wine country) and other areas have agri-tourism to thank for an important piece of economic stability.
• Small Business Creation: SB11-258, “Colorado Cottage Foods Act” exempts small producers from licensing requirements placed on retail food establishments and requiring producers to be certified in safe food handling and processing. This allows limited home use for creating products to sell directly to the consumer at farm stands and farmers markets. This enables value-added products to be created and sold. Could a cottage act initiated in your area be important to your economy? As more people seek to support local business, the farmer, the outlet (restaurant, etc.) as well as the community and tax base all benefit.
• Job Training/Youth: In 2013, Growing Power (started by Will Green) trained and employed over 300 at-risk youth in urban agriculture and community food system development. Through their work in urban gardens and greenhouses, youth learned how to grow soil, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and [business creation] of a unique line of hand-crafted beauty products. In many towns that have vacant buildings and land along with nonprofits needing to boost their bottom line and training outlets, this is an untapped opportunity.
• Community Welfare/Social Impact: In the 1970s, New York City’s Union Square was a seedy, crime-ridden area of Manhattan until a small farmers’ market took root and revitalized the area. The market has grown into one of the world’s best, with more than 140 regional farmers, fishmongers, bakers and butchers catering to more than 60,000 shoppers on peak days. Celebrity chefs often use the space for cooking demonstrations, there are school tours that teach local kids about healthy eating and education programs, including one that helps New Yorkers learn about composting. Recent additions throughout various regions of local food sources as well as the growing amount of farmer’s markets in our city, show that more people are seeking good food and products which equates to local sourcing=local economy.
Local Investment: Michael Shuman, author of Local Dollars, Local Sense states that “of Americans’ long-term savings in stocks, bonds, pension, life insurance, and mutual funds total about $30 trillion. But not even 1 percent of these savings touches local small businesses, the source of half the economy’s jobs and output.” A good business investment is one that people need consistently, constantly and will need to return to acquire more of your product. There is no greater business than that of fresh food and value-added product made from foodstuffs.
However, beyond the initial benefit to the entrepreneurial homesteader, additional major impacts can be seen in job creation and training, business incubation, and food access and security. Entrepreneurial homesteading shows no signs of slowing down but continues to gain converts and you’ll often find activists and advocates alike touting its benefits to the community. The reason for this movement may be due to people realizing they need to diversify their life and their work.
However, as the homesteading movement grows so does some resistance by municipalities, HOAs, and even, neighbors. Does urban agriculture add or detract from property values, where do property rights end and how serious is food sustainability for our area?
Check back next week for Part Three.