US: 'Urban farms are more important than ever'

DeMario Vitalis likes to try new things. He also likes to stay busy. With two degrees from Purdue University and an MBA from Wayne State University, he has the confidence of a self-starter tempered by the prudence of a businessperson.

So when the idea came to him in 2018 of starting an urban farm on a small patch of underutilized land in his east Indianapolis neighborhood, he didn’t feel especially daunted. Then again, he didn’t expect to be rebuffed by a government agency that’s literally designed to help farmers—including brand-new farmers like himself—get the money they need to start farms or expand existing operations. 

The way Vitalis saw it, he was seizing an opportunity to do two worthwhile things at once. “I wanted to be able to own a business that I could retire to after working my day job,” he says. “And I wanted to own a business that could provide a good to the community by giving people access to fresh foods.” 

He learned everything there was to learn about the specific type of farm he was envisioning: an indoor, vertical farm spread out over a pair of retrofitted, climate-controlled, high-tech shipping containers that offered year-round protection from harsh weather and pests. He lined up the space for the containers, first making sure that he was meeting all the zoning requirements for an urban agriculture project within the Indianapolis city limits. Finally, he went to his local Farm Service Agency (FSA), the branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that is set up to support farmers in obtaining the necessary loans.

Read the entire article at NRDC

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