Breaking Through Concrete, building an urban farm revival – a book review

This post contains affiliate links.

Breaking Through Concrete: Building an Urban Farm Revival takes a look at 11 urban farms around the country and a large community garden in the South.  At the end of each chapter is a “how to” section.  This section is connected to part of what that particular location is doing or faced – raised beds, hoop houses, rooftop gardens, accessing startup capital, changing zoning codes, etc.  Breaking Through Concrete follows a trip taken by the authors to visit these farms and gardens, as they:

“… collected stories and images from a representative selection of American urban farms as they exist in 2010.  We gleaned the country for the best examples of the diverse ways urban farms operate and benefit their communities.”

Early on they talk about what an urban farm is and is not.  For example, it isn’t a school garden or a community garden.  That seemed to be the easy part of the answer.  Pinning down what it was took more effort.  In the end here is the definition the authors came up with:

An urban farm is an intentional effort by an individual or a community to grow its capacity for self-sufficiency and well-being through the cultivation of plants and/or animals.”

Each chapter of the book begins with a narrative of the farm being highlighted.  It tells the story of its beginning, or purpose, or some other aspect the authors are focusing on.  At the end of each chapter was a synopsis of the farm or community garden they were talking about – when it was established, how large it was, its mission and other details.

I really wanted to like Breaking Through Concrete, to learn about different aspects and see what the various farms around the country were doing.  While I did get that, I almost didn’t make it through the book.  It was very difficult to stay motivated to keep reading and I almost quit more times than not.  After the first chapter, the next 75 percent of the book read very much like a dry school text.  Many times I had to stop reading because I found myself falling asleep.  Then I reached the end, the last 15 percent of the book.  Here was the hand-on part, the part I had been waiting for the whole book.  The authors gathered the culmination of all the knowledge they had shared through the first part and laid out steps you would need to take or how to overcome certain hurdles.

After making it to the end, I see this book much more as a reference book than a “sit down by the fire with a beverage of choice and enjoy a great read” book.  While the layout makes sense after finally getting to the end, I think there could have been a better way to put it all together that would not have been so painful to the reader trying to get through it all.

If you are wanting to read about and see the authors’ travels, here is a link to articles with pictures following them as they traveled across the country in 2010.

Breaking Through Concrete from david Hanson on Vimeo.

I was provided a copy of this book for review.

This post contains affiliate links.