What could be more mundane or predictable than the sight of a chain link fence in the city. Especially one that’s seen better times; twisted, rusty, the very image of abandonment and urban blight.
That image is changing as the concept of urban farming takes hold. Concrete jungles are greening into urban gardens, changing the way people think about and live in their cities; transforming junk strewn, abandoned lots into neighborhood parks, community vegetable and flower gardens, even nature preserves. More and more, we are seeing chain link urban farm fences.
Ironically, the selfsame qualities that made chain link fence a poster child for blight are the ones that make it a perfect companion to renewal. It’s well-nigh indestructible. Long after buildings crumble, the fence surrounding them is still there. It’s incredibly strong. Drive a car into a chain link fence, and the car comes out the loser. It’s downright cheap when compared to wooden fencing. It’s quick and relatively easy to install. It lasts a very long time. It’s as close to transparent as a barrier can get, yet still maintains a high level of security.
Though it’s thought of as modern, chain link fence has actually been around for nearly two centuries. It was invented back in 1844 in Norwich, England; a town known for cloth manufacturing. So it’s no accident that this metal manufacturing process resembles weaving more than anything else. If you ever need a break from binge-watching kitten videos, take a few minutes to view one that shows how chain link fence is manufactured. It’s downright fascinating to see how these bits of metal are joined, or more accurately, knitted together to make a roll of fencing; one of those “how did anyone ever figure out how to do that” moments that leave you in awe of the human capacity for invention.
Now that same capacity for invention is turning abandoned city lots into farms. Granted they’re small, but that’s part of their charm. And it brings a whole new aesthetic to the image of the urban chain link fence.
It’s a given that such farm fences are meant for protection, but they do so in a thoroughly transparent way. Urban gardens are a point of pride for their caretakers, and a chain link fence lets the outside world look in and admire without touching.
On the not-so-transparent side of the equation, it’s a natural support for fruits and vegetables. Most anything that grows on a vine will find a happy home on a chain link fence. There’s a horticultural technique called “espalier” that is making a comeback in urban gardens. It dates back to Ancient Rome and involves training fruit trees to grow out on trellises rather than up into the air. There’s no better trellis than a chain link fence. And there’s no easier way to pick fruits than from a four-foot tall tree.
Moving from the vegetable to the animal world, chain link fence is designed to be kind to critters both wild and domestic; a jungle gym for squirrels, a natural perch for birds, a rest stop for butterflies. And if a small flock of chickens happens to live down on the farm, a chain link fence will keep them at home and away from crossing a busy urban intersection. On the other side of fence, unauthorized canines can look but not chew or dig or “you-know-what” on the veggies.
The possibilities are unending and continuously evolving. There have always been creative types who wove yarn and plastic ribbon and discarded CD’s and who-knew-what-else into a canvas of chain link fencing. Now new mosaic and stenciling techniques are turning chain link fences into true works of art and urban gardens into galleries for their display.
So when you next have occasion to visit a big city, you might want to take some time to explore the urban gardens growing there. Most likely, they’ll be protected by a chain link fence that will be as beautiful as it is functional.
We supply and install chain link fencing for city farms, country farms and all places and spaces in between. Contact us for more information.