Cities need to meet the demand for fresh, local, healthy food. Here are 5 cities that are recognizing that as urban agriculture is changing life in cities.
Urban agriculture has been growing for several years through urban farms, community gardens, school gardens and residential gardens. People aren’t just growing fruits and vegetables, either. They raise bees, chickens, small livestock, mushrooms and fish. Unfortunately, all that fresh local food doesn’t always get distributed throughout the city.
City residents, especially those living in food deserts, deserve and need healthy food. Ordinances need to be put in place to allow more urban farming and sharing of food that is currently being grown. Can you believe in some cities it is illegal to sell food from your garden, even to your neighbors?!
The demand is there. Cities need to meet that demand and help put fresh local food on everyone’s table.
Climate change is altering the face of agriculture everywhere. Frosts are later in the year, killing fruit trees and young seedlings. Hurricanes and tornadoes are more frequent and stronger, wiping out mid- and late-season crops. Varieties of plants grown in a region for generations are not acclimated to the new weather extremes, causing crop failures.
We cannot depend on Big Ag and the Bread Basket for a majority of food eaten in major urban areas. What happens when a city imports most of its food, and the source gets less dependable as weather gets more extreme? They can’t let their residents suffer and go hungry.
Urban farms can be set up as education centers that teach children the importance of what they eat and how to grow it. Through gardening, they learn about the natural cycles of the environment, and they learn to respect nature and ecology.
School gardens can create study plans and classes, integrating gardening right into the curriculum with math, English and art. Why not?!
Here are five cities making a difference.
1. Sacramento, CA is getting ready to vote on the Urban Agriculture Ordinance, which will allow urbanites to sell what they grow from their homes. This could include livestock as well as vegetables. People already grow and sell covertly, so basically, the ordinance will be in sync with what’s currently going on.
Urban lots could be made available for growing and selling as well. Future plans are to give tax incentives to landowners for putting land into agricultural use. A major benefit that I see is that pesticide use will go down, because farmers and gardeners will have to adhere to state pesticide regulations, which are very tight.
2. Dallas, TX is doing something similar to Sacramento. They are rewriting code to allow urban gardeners to sell from home and off-site. Community gardens would be allowed to have a farm stand at the site. Chickens and aquaponics would also be allowed.
3. In San Francisco, the College Hill Learning Garden will be an educational garden for elementary school children. Gardening will become part of their regular curriculum.
The demand for urban gardens in San Francisco is huge. About 1700 people are being served in community gardens, but there is a waiting list of about 750 more! There are plans to open more space for gardening.
4. In northeast Los Angeles, a walkable, mixed-use development is being planned for an area next to the Los Angeles River. Urban farming is now going to be included using abandoned buildings and lots, rooftops and community gardens. This part of LA is a food desert, so urban ag will be welcomed. It will also create jobs for construction and in the food industry.
There are many obstacles to overcome, such as the politics surrounding the area. The plan is to irrigate from the river, but the water needs to be filtered and cleaned first.
5. Feed Denver is an incubator for urban gardeners and wannabe urban gardeners. They have a 2000 square foot garden, worms and compost as a model. They show people how to garden profitably, and they have a weekly farmers market so their students can sell their produce.
Feed Denver teaches business classes, and offers marketing opportunities. They would like to see a million farms in Denver, whether it is a backyard or a large plot of land. Feed Denver knows that small urban gardens will get food distributed throughout their neighborhoods.
Urban agriculture is a necessity
One thing all humans have in common is eating. Food is what keeps us alive, and by growing and sharing it, we help each other and create community. Community makes us feel safe. Urban agriculture is good for the well being of city dwellers. The greenery of urban farms and gardens also beautifies the city, especially old run-down neighborhoods.
There are many more benefits than detriments to expanding urban ag. Scrap the politics, and let people grow what they eat!