Rurbanism – a modern urban twist on traditional agricultural concepts, also known as rural urbanism or urban agriculture – is being described as a “movement” by the editor-in-chief of Modern Farmer magazine, Ann Marie Gardner.
The new quarterly magazine will focus on where food comes from. Recent scary revelations like Horsegate and the news about meat from animals with bovine TB have given us a short, sharp shock and made us think about provenance, even if it is just for a moment. Good timing for a magazine like this?
The stereotype of middle-class organic obsessives and working-class processed meat munchers probably contains some grains of truth, due to the costs of these types of products, but it seems that ‘grow your own’ is always being positioned as accessible, good for you, good for the environment, financially beneficial, etc. From desktop plants to window boxes and edible bus stops, everyone can grow something edible. In fact, there’s no excuse not to participate and it seems that people really want to join in. Try putting your name down for an allotment…
You don’t have to work in PR to see that all of this is quite convenient – a so-called rise in rurbanism coinciding with the launch of a magazine called Modern Farmer. ‘Launch of new magazine, called Modern Farmer, for farmers who live on farms’ isn’t much of a story and limits the intended readership/potential sales.
Gardner describes Modern Farmer’s intended audience as “anyone who cares about where their food comes from. This could be someone who grows herbs on their windowsill in Williamsburg or a third-generation farmer.”
According to the magazine’s website, “there has been a movement afoot in recent years to make connections between what we eat, how we live and the planet. Modern Farmer exists for people who want to be a part of that movement—it is for window-herb growers, career farmers, people who have chickens, people who want to have chickens and anyone who wants to know more about how food reaches their plate.”
The debut issue “tackles monsoon season in India, the rise of organic farming in China, how wild boars may take over the world, and a deep look at the current state of humane slaughter.”
However, it seems like the magazine is tapping into a growing trend. Looking back over the last five or six years, the seeds of the rurbanism movement have been gently sown in the UK through some innovative and appealing initiatives.
FARM:shop – Hipster heaven Hackney, unsurprisingly, is the home of the ‘world’s first urban farming hub’/ ‘world’s first farm in a shop’. Crops are planted and harvested on the shop’s shelves. The produce is sold and served in the café. There’s a chicken coop on the roof, a ‘high tech indoor hydroponic allotment’ …and a mushroom-growing room. A mushroom if you will.
Edible bus stops – A community gardening scheme that aims to transform “neglected sites across London’s bus network into valuable community growing spaces”.
Urban beekeeping – Two years ago, there was a lot of buzz around office rooftop beehives, giving eco-conscious young urbanites a way of doing their bit for the environment and something fulfilling at the same time. Honey production boomed and The British Beekeepers Association said its membership grew grown from 10,000 in 2007 to 20,000 in 2011. However, the government raised concerns over dwindling bee numbers last week and is launching a ‘national pollinator strategy’. Urban beekeeping is surely going to be one of the tactics employed/encouraged.
Garden centre dining – Again, two years ago, this was tipped to be the next big thing, with dining among plants possibly the closest many people would get to their own personal ‘farm to fork’ experience.
The rurban lifestyle
It’s not just food that makes rurbanism a lifestyle/movement. According to the Sunday Times’ Style magazine, three-legged milk stools are “gaining cult status here” while “a casually tossed hay bale” is “this summer’s hot garden furniture”.