Urban and suburban farms grow in popularity

Julie Nelson, owner of The Painted Shovel in Avondale, has been a 'suburban farmer' for years.

Nelson explains, "We call it the suburban and urban farmer, because it can be anybody, anywhere"Nelson grows her own vegetables literally along-side her store."We took cattle panels and stacked them three high, and we are growing our tomatoes on the side of the building," she says.Nelson and others are taking to growing their own fruits & veggies, tending chickens, even making their own compost.

Nelson sees the trend growing. Which is why she started her own shop to help supply the urban and suburban farmer. She says, "I don't think it's a trend that's going to go away. I think it's something that's going to stay with people for a long time and hopefully it will."

Nelson says, part of what brought on the movement, is an influx of "local-vores." People who want locally grown produce, with no pesticides. So they know exactly what they're eating and where it's grown.

John Obert who operates J-3 Organic Farms runs his urban farm on an acre plot in Bessemer. Right off the Bessemer super highway.

"We've got a bowling alley on one side of us and a used car lot and transmission shop on the other," Obert explains. "This is a different model. Trying to bring it back to closer to restaurants, and the population center here in downtown."

He continues by saying. "It's just about bringing the agriculture in closer, having a better relationship with the people around us, providing fresh, local, produce."Despite being a small-time, urban operation, Obert has grown produce for some of the most popular chefs and restaurants in town. Including, Highland Bar & Grill, Chez FonFon, Botega, El Barrio and Hot & Hot Fish Club.Obert says, "The only reason we do what we do with (those chefs & restaurants) is because they are aware of the value of the product."Obert says, as the urban and suburban farm movement continues to take root, he expects more plots to be developed in the cities and the 'burbs."I think each community will start developing their own acre, two acre plot to where they can grow enough to support the people around them," says Obert.