We can transform our soulless suburbs into lively, productive villages. Here’s how.

I just ordered a copy of this book.

The Urban Farmer: Review

January 14, 2015

by Rob Hopkins



Book Review: The Urban Farmer: growing food for profit on leased and borrowed land. Curtis Stone. New Society Publishers (266pp).

In my visits to meet different Transition groups, I get to see lots of community gardens. Community gardens can be amazing spaces, places for communities to come together, to run events, to learn new skills, to taste good food and to see it growing. They clearly grow much more than just food. But what might it look like if they were also designed to maximise the productive use and economic potential of the space available? If the intention was to create as much employment as possible, how different would they be? If they were reimagined to act as a spark for an entrepreneurial, REconomy-based approach?

We could allow ourselves to dream how it might be if that approach extended beyond community gardens, and large swathes of land in our towns and cities hosted beautiful, diverse, abundant gardens growing good food and viable incomes. Curtis Stone’s brilliant new book ‘The Urban Farmer’, is one of the most important contributions to Transition thinking over the last 10 years, and sets out in great depth and detail what that could look like. And he knows because he’s done it. Here’s the promotional video for the book which gives you a sense of it:


The Urban Farmer is simultaneously deeply visionary and immensely practical, always a heady brew. “What if we could repurpose the suburbs to be the new frontier of localisation?” writes Stone. “What if all of these new suburban streets turned into areas for transition, reeducation and abundance? I believe this is not only a possibility but an inevitability”.

Curtis Stones. Perhaps the most inspiring, and powerful, part of the book is his “start-up farm models”. Here he sets out 5 different business models on different scales, what kind of initial investment you’d need and what kinds of return you might expect. You could start on a quarter of an acre or smaller, or go a bit bigger. For each he sets out the kinds of crops that could work well, and the kinds of profits you might expect.

He captures a spirit emerging in all kinds of different settings. The craft brewing movement takes a similar approach, as Tony Naylor argues in a recent article in The Guardian:

“Rather than international craft brands, I would argue that what beer needs is more small local breweries, for both practical and ideological reasons. Beer begins to deteriorate as soon as it is shipped from the brewery, so drinking fresh, local beer is the ideal“.

Scaling up the approach Stone sets out here has the potential to reimagine our towns and cities. We can get a sense of what that might look like by looking to Tordmorden, to Detroit, and to other places, as the film ‘Demain‘ so beautifully captures. An economy that values taste, innovation, relationship, place, is already here, and is growing fast.

I was sent an early version of this book, and wrote an endorsement for the cover. I wrote:

“If I were 18 again and given this book, it would put a fire in my belly and set me on a career path that is cutting edge, deeply entrepreneurial and profoundly responsible. The Urban Farmerdeserves to be a best-seller”.

Read it, and dream small (in a good way). Vital stuff.

More information, and order your copy here.

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0 Responses to We can transform our soulless suburbs into lively, productive villages. Here’s how.

  1. rose day says:

    Ann, this is lovely, yet I must share…suburbs are not necessarily ‘soul-less’ but in many instances a primal alternative to unaffordable housing, convenience store staples and errant gunfire.

  2. Jean Hopkins says:

    Neighborhood care homes for our chilldren, differently abled and elders would bring us together as well as gardens in affordable continuing and sheltered care. Then we wouldn’t have to pay the corporate nursing home and home health care industries that are taking money from the middle class. It would be easier to walk our children to day care and we wouldn’t have to travel so far to see Mom and Dad in their senior years.

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