The Difference Between Urban Agriculture and Gardening

A friend of mine recently commented in a discussion about gardening that “It’s interesting, I’ve always thought that farming as a practice is somewhat like gardening. There are similar aspects to both don’t you think?” To the layperson that comment from my friend would have gone without much thought, it sounds reasonable so why not take it as such? But as I spent more and more time in my Urban Agriculture class I’ve come to realize that to say that gardening is a mini extension of agriculture would be a bit of stretch.

Sure there are many similarities between the two. They both revolve around the care of plants for some goal – that can be sustenance, profit or just the enjoyment of the craft. Furthermore they both require a monetary investment on top of a time investment, something that a lot of people in our fast paced life do not have a lot of. Most importantly they are both practiced within the context of the urban panorama. We can see that the similarities are abundant, but are the differences enough to create a distinction?

As a student at NYU I have the opportunity to work with the leave It Better Foundation, a group that teaches basic nutrition and gardening to high school students. This experience gave me an in-depth foray into the world of amateur gardening beyond what most people have been in contact with. On top that experience I have also had the pleasure of tending to NYU Urban farm Lab’s farm and gained experience on Urban Farming. With these in hand, I can safely say that these two activities are quite frankly different beasts.

Farming as a practice is a larger investment than gardening. There are countless more hours spent into the minutiae of farming, from the crop plan to the tending of your beds. This time commitment takes on a whole new meaning once you realize the goal that is being worked towards and committed, namely that of gaining a bountiful yield of crops to be consumed. Gardening is a more sedentary activity that has neither the level of planning nor severity of goal. The average gardener goes about his duties as a chore rather than a necessity and as such distinguishes his or herself from the farmer.

However with this difference in hand, they are both soothing and relaxing exercises that anyone can pick up, which by itself should be an advertisement for both. So do the environment a favour, pick up a trowel/shovel/pair of gloves and plant away! The benefits of both outweigh the costs and the crop that you get will make everyone else green with envy of your green thumb!

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