Urban agriculture is the practice of farming in or directly around a city or town. Today, it usually refers to large outdoor gardens in the center of urban areas either in vacant lots or on rooftops. While it is often considered a sustainable practice, this label can be misapplied depending on the way the agriculture is being undertaken. No matter whether it’s sustainable or not, however, urban farming has definite direct benefits to the environment and the people around the farm.
Benefits of Urban Agriculture
The greatest benefits of urban agriculture are the food security and food safety it brings to the community around it. Cities are required to ship in food, since the landscape of a city does not allow for easy food production. Urban farms reduce this requirement and give the local people a source for available, fresh produce and meats.
This sourcing of locally-produced, fresh food gives food safety as well since the foods do not change as many hands when being moved from farm to consumer.
Other benefits are environmental. These include a reduction in the amount of fuel used to ship foods into the city, the increased benefits to the local atmosphere around the growing plants on the farm, and the social benefits of the interaction between consumers, farmers, and others in the smaller, localized food distribution network.
Perhaps the greatest benefit is the way that urban agriculture builds communities. Most urban agriculture is planned, but some happens ad hoc with those involved coming together in an unplanned, loose network of growers and gardeners.
Get Involved and Support Urban Farming
There are many ways to support urban agriculture. Many cities and local governments are purchasing or foreclosing on blighted properties and converting them to community gardens and farms for agricultural use. Getting involved in this type of farm usually requires only that you live in the area in which it’s being created or has been established.
Other urban agriculture happens when property owners decide to create an agricultural enterprise or cooperative on the property. This can be encouraged by asking those who own property suitable for gardening or farming to consider this as an option and to encourage local cities and towns to give exceptions to zoning rules that may block the farm’s legality.
Urban agriculture also often takes place on the rooftops of buildings in the city. Residents of buildings, whether commercial or residential, should seek to have building managers, owners, etc. allow this and then encourage neighbors and other tenants to get involved in building gardens and grow houses on the rooftop.
Many other ways to get involved in urban agriculture can present themselves to those actively involved in the community. Many vertical farms, stacked greenhouses, and even porch and terrace gardens are created solely through the initiative of the people who live where they are built. Check out these other cool urban farming ideas.
Want to learn more about urban agriculture?
Urban Guide to Farming in NY from Cornell University
Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food Security
American Community Gardening Association
The Urban Farming web site covers the entire subject from A to Z.
Chow covers urban farming in a compelling 12 minute YouTube video.
Food Abundance features a YouTube video about someone who grows 6,000 pounds of produce on 1/10 of an acre.
PBS also covers the subject on YouTube in a four minute video.
Modern Farmer shows you how to turn your yard into a four season farm, with garden plans.
TED Talk: Ron Finley — A Guerilla Gardener in South Central Los Angeles
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