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Urban Farmers Need Their Own Research Farms

Urban Farmers Need Their Own Research Farms

About 80 percent of Americans now live in urban areas, and more and more of us are growing food in cities as well. But where's an urban farmer to turn for a soil test or when pests infiltrate the fruit orchard?

Increasingly, they can turn to institutions that have been serving farmers in rural areas for more than 150 years: land-grant colleges and universities. From Cornell University to the University of Florida to Texas A&M, land grants dispense practical advice to farmers and hobby gardeners across the country.

The agricultural arms of these universities have historically focused on regions far from cities where the majority of our food is still grown. But their research on crop varieties, soil quality and pest resistance is just as relevant — and now in high demand — inside the city.

Just ask Mchezaji "Che" Axum, who runs a research farm for the University of the District of Columbia, the only land-grant university in the country with an exclusively urban focus.

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