In the United States, about 23.5 million people live in food deserts, low-income areas with limited access to affordable, healthy food such as fresh fruits and vegetables (United States Department of Agriculture). Residents of food deserts often have poor diets and related health problems, including diabetes and heart disease. Most food deserts are in cities such as Detroit, Milwaukee, Phoenix, and Oklahoma City (Johnson). However, living in a rural area does not guarantee an abundance of fresh food options. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that around 2.3 million people, or 2.2 percent of all U.S. households, live in low-income rural areas that are more than 10 miles from a grocery store.
A recent trend in agriculture called micro-farming presents a possible solution to food deserts. A micro-farm is a small-scale farm that uses less than five acres of land to raise vegetables, fruit, nuts, herbs, mushrooms, and even small livestock (Movahed). Because micro-farms are compact, farmers do not need to invest in expensive equipment such as tractors and harvesters but can use hand tools to manage their plots. Rather than relying on harmful herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers, micro farmers use organic methods such as composting that build the soil and encourage plentiful harvests. The aim is to build a sustainable ecosystem that promotes growth (Ames). For example, composted soil uses worms to process waste, add fertilizer, and serve as a food source for small livestock. Beds of straw discourage weeds and support mushrooms. Flowering plants attract bees, which pollinate fruit trees and bushes.
Micro farms include private gardens in yards and on rooftops, community gardens in vacant or underused lots, hydroponic growing operations in underused buildings, and sustainable farms that produce cheese, honey, herbs, and other goods for sale and profit.
In cities, micro-farms do more than provide food for their owners and others. They also improve the quality of life for residents by reducing heat islands, clusters of structures that are warmer than surrounding locations (Harris). Planting crops and fruit or nut trees in vacant lots freshens the immediate and nearby areas. Instead of using heat-absorbing tar or asphalt to cover roofs, rooftop gardens keep buildings cool, absorb rainwater, and dilute pollutants in the water and air.
In rural locations, micro-farms can sustain families and provide local employment. For example, Jean-Martin and Maude-Helene Fortier use low-technology, organic practices in Quebec to manage a micro-farm that realizes about 45 percent profit and produces an income for the couple and two employees (Fortier 25).
In short, for communities in food deserts, micro-farms provide affordable sources of nutritious food and possible avenues for profitable enterprises.
Ames, Judy. “Ideal Harvests.” Farming Times 8 July 2017: 20-22. Print.
Fortier, Jean-Martin. The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2015. Print.
Harris, Lionel. Heat Islands. 24 October 2017. Electronic. 12 October 2018. <http://www.urban.cengage.com>.
Johnson, Nathanael. America’s worst food deserts. 28 March 2014. <http://grist.org/food/americas-worst-food-deserts-map-lovers-edition/>.
Movahed, Neva. Micro Farming Overview. 22 July 2015. <www.lexiconoffood.com>.
United States Department of Agriculture. Food Sources. n.d. Electronic. 12 October 2018.
 Such practices are called companion planting.