The importance of Urban Agriculture - Fitleaf

The importance of Urban Agriculture

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Agriculture, Home Growing, Sustainability

People associate agriculture with farming and they typically think that farmers grow all of their food crops in rural communities. But rural areas have little to offer people who aren’t farmers, or who didn’t grow up in rural environments. But the influx of people moving to cities in search of employment and other opportunities creates a need to make fresh food more available closer than home. Urban agriculture exists because necessity is the mother of invention.

What is Urban Agriculture?

Urban agriculture is a term that’s self-explanatory. It describes the practice of growing food crops in urban locations. But purists argue that urban agriculture involves growing products to sell. In this context, urban agriculture is a business enterprise. 

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), defines urban and peri-urban agriculture (PUA) as the practice of growing plants and raising animals in and around cities and urban areas. We know that planning and zoning regulations throughout the United States will dictate or restrict the capabilities of any urban agriculture endeavor.

Photo by Emile-Victor Portenart on Unsplash

The thought that it might be possible to grow fresh food in major cities where urban development created virtual concrete jungles probably sounds incomprehensible. But it’s not. Urban agriculture forces people to get creative about the use of space for growing things. It challenges everything we thought we knew about the source of our food. But the rising cost of transportation, the impact of transporting food in vehicles that are significant contributors to the release of carbon emissions is inspiring people to look for alternative ways to get their food.

The farm-to-table and locally sourced food movements are fueling the desire of people in major urban areas all over the country to find alternatives to grocery store shopping.

What Forms Does Urban Agriculture Take?

Urban agriculture exists in many forms. There is no limit as to the possible ways through which people in urban communities can get involved with urban agriculture efforts.

  • Three elements are vital to the success of any urban agriculture project. One must have soil, adequate sun exposure, and access to water.

We find urban agriculture in community gardens, many of which give people who live in food deserts, access to fresh, healthy food that would otherwise be unavailable. Urban agriculture happens when schools plant fruit and vegetable gardens to teach kids about the source of their food, and what it takes to get it to them. School gardens produce healthy foods that cafeteria staff can incorporate into school lunch menus.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Urban agriculture exists on rooftops where people plant food to get access to high-quality fresh food, but rooftop gardens block heat, and that helps the buildings on which they planted the rooftop garden, cut down on their cooling costs when temperatures are hottest.

We can also find churches, community centers, senior living communities, and non-profit organizations getting involved in urban agriculture as a way to bring people together, encourage healthier lifestyles, and encourage people to make healthier food choices.

Hydroponic and aquaponic business ventures are also bringing fresh food to urban communities, making it possible to get local food more efficiently. Both hydroponics and aquaponic systems eliminate the seasonal restrictions that outdoor gardening imposes in most parts of the United States.

Photo by Fitleaf

Why Urban Agriculture?

It helps the local economy.

The simplest way by which urban agriculture helps the local economy is through the connection it creates between people and the source of their food. People want to know about the origin and source of their food. They want to be able to trust the suppliers. Urban agriculture encourages people to buy fresh food from their local growers.

Photo by Anna Earl on Unsplash

The success of an urban agriculture venture encourages expansion. Growth necessitates the need for more workers, and that means job growth for the community. The specialized nature of urban agriculture requires training, so success and growth suggest that job opportunities will come with the necessary training.

The Educational Component

Urban agriculture endeavors offer schools and interested students, the opportunity to connect the things that they learn in school with real-world problems, and the need to find solutions to those issues.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

And students who are willing to take advantage of internship, volunteer, and apprenticeship positions will learn how to solve those problems. They’ll also develop a deeper understanding regarding what it takes to produce food and ultimately bring it to the table.

Environmental Impacts

The Transportation Factor

We know that cars and trucks are among the most significant contributors to the release of greenhouse gasses in our environment. Much of the fresh food that we get in local grocery stores get there in heavy, diesel-fuel-guzzling 18-wheel trucks and trailers. Those vehicles use even more fuel because of the refrigerated compartments that keep the food cold. Urban agriculture lessens the need for communities to be dependent on food producers that are hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Increasing Urban Green Space

Urban agriculture increases the amount of green space there is in cities. When vacant lots are repurposed and turned into community gardens or urban agriculture operations, they create beauty in the city, and beautiful spaces encourage people to get outside and get involved with nature.

Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash

But more than that, plants clean the air. We often hear people refer to big cities as concrete jungles. Those concrete jungles create heat islands – areas in cities where the vastness of cement and concrete retain heat, making it all but impossible for those areas to cool off. The hotter those heat islands get, the worse the situation gets when it comes to climate change, global warming, and the release of greenhouse gasses.

Using Urban Agriculture to Embrace Green Roofs

The beauty of urban agriculture is that it encourages proponents to think outside of the box, and to look for available space – wherever it may be. And in metropolitan areas, rooftops may be one of those options. According to Michigan State University Green Roof Research, green roofs are a viable option for reducing the negative impact of constant urban development. They also yield the same economic, environmental, and social benefits as other urban agriculture endeavors.

Image by cocoparissiene from Pixabay
  • Green roofs are useful for improving stormwater management because they reduce runoff, and they improve overall water quality.
  • Green roofs can provide substantial overall energy savings. Green roofs create a barrier that reduces the amount of heat that builds up on the roof and then enters the area below the roof, creating intolerably hot spaces below the roof that are challenging, if not impossible to cool.
  • Green roofs will extend the lifespan of roof membranes.
  • Green roofs are helpful for alleviating some of the impacts of the urban heat island effect.
  • Green roofs are efficient at buffering the inescapable non-stop, never-ending city noise level.
  • Green roofs combat air pollution by cutting off the release of carbon emissions. While a green roof may not obliterate air pollution, it may help reduce its impact.

Urban agriculture has the potential to eliminate food deserts that plague the most economically disadvantaged areas of cities. The fact that they exist is proof that cities haven’t addressed the problem or investigated possible solutions.

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