Urban agriculture

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Urban (or peri-urban) agriculture is the practice of agriculture (including crops, livestock, fisheries, and forestry activities) within or surrounding the boundaries of cities.

The land used may be private residential land (use of private pieces of land, balconies, walls or building roofs), public roadside land or river banks.

Urban farming is practiced for income-earning or food-producing activities. It contributes to food security and food safety in two ways : first it increases the amount of food available to people living in cities, and second it allows fresh vegetables and fruits to be made available to urban consumers.

Because it promotes energy-saving local food production, urban and peri-urban agriculture are sustainability practices.


A new definition of urban agriculture

Urban agriculture is an industry located within (intra-urban) or on the fringe (peri-urban) of a town, a city or a metropolis, which grows and raises, processes and distributes a diversity of food and non-food products, (re-) using largely human and natural resources*, products and services found in and around that urban area, and in turn supplying human and material resources, products and services largely to that urban area. (* Natural resources refer to soil, water, genetics, air and solar energy.)

(This definition has been created by the Luc Mougeot of the International Development Research Centre and used in technical and training publications by UN-HABITAT’s Urban Management Programme , FAO’ s Special Programme for Food Security , and international agricultural research centres, such as CIRAD.)

Why urban agriculture has grown in importance

Local economies

Localized food production in urban and peri-urban areas creates stronger local economies by creating jobs. Some researchers indicate that unemployed populations in large cities and suburban towns would decrease if put to work by local food movements. Schools, such as the Waldorf School, have foreseen the asset of local food production and are beginning to incorporate an agricultural section in their curriculum and present it as a career opportunity. Urban agricultural projects are beginning to open a new labor market in areas that have been negatively affected by industrial outsourcing of jobs.

Energy efficiency

The current industrial agriculture system is accountable for high energy costs for the transportation of foodstuffs. According to San Diego's Community Forest Advisory Board, a group that is promoting urban agriculture in the city, 95% of the food produced within the United States is exported, while 95% of the food eaten in the United States is imported.[citation needed] The energy used to transport food would be greatly decreased if urban agriculture could provide the US cities with locally-grown food.

Quality of food

Although the taste of locally grown food is subjective, many participants in the urban agriculture movement report they prefer the taste of local agricultural products, or organic food, to that of industrial food production. Also, urban agriculture supports a more sustainable production of the food that tries to decrease the use of harmful pesticides that result in agricultural runoff. Urban and local farmers also eliminate the need for preservatives, as their products do not need to travel long distances.

Roxsen 21:09, 6 April 2007 (UTC)==Implementations of urban agriculture== Historically, urban agriculture has been used as a tool for sustainable development in the third world, or as an add-on to not-for-profit urban community gardens in the developed world. Thus far, cities have not marshalled or encouraged the entrpreneurial aspects of farming. What has held back entrepreneurial urban agriculture in the was the lack of a farming method that is commercially viable and replicable. SPIN-Farming, which stands for S-mall P-lot IN-tensive provides such a method because it adapts commerical growing techniques to sub-acre (less than an acre) land masses. Developed by Canadian farmer Wally Satzewich, it has been tested and refined at Somerton Tanks Farm in Philadelphia. By applying many of the principles of SPIN, Somerton Tanks Farm has produced levels of production and income that many agricultural experts claimed was impossible. In 2006, its fourth year in operation, the farm generated $68,000 in gross sales from a half-acre. SPIN provides a model for re-casting farming as a small business adn is defined by these key characteristics:

• Sub-acre • Environmentally friendly • Low-capital intensive • Close to markets • Entrepreneurially-driven

SPIN-Farming provides a commercially viable method that is stating to be used to move urban agriculture beyond the realm of environmentalists and social activists, and is helpign to demonstrate that urban agiruclutre makes good business sense.

Community-based infrastructure

Creating a community-based infrastructure for urban agriculture means facilitating how crops are grown, how the food is processed, and how is it transferred from the farmer (producer) to the consumer.

To facilitate the growing of crops and food production, cities have established community-based farming projects. A common land, much like that of eighteenth-century Boston Common, would effectively centralize food production in urban areas where space is limited. An example of a community farm is the Collingwood Children’s Farm in Melbourne, Australia. Other proposals include creating community tool sheds and processing facilities for farmers to share, once again centralizing the resources. The Garden Resource Program Collaborative based in Detroit has cluster tool banks. Different areas of the city have a toolbank where resources like tools, compost, mulch, tomatoe stakes, seeds, and education can be shared and distributed with the gardeners in that cluster. Detroit's Garden Resource Program Collaborative also strengthens their gardening community by providing to their members transplants; education on gardening, policy, and food issues; and by building connectivity between gardeners through workgroups, potlucks, tours, fieldtrips, and cluster workdays.

Farmers' markets, such as the Farmers' Market in Los Angeles, provide a common land where farmers can sell their product to consumers. Large cities tend to open their farmers markets on the weekends and one day in the middle of the week. For example, the farmers' market of Rue Richard Lenoir in Paris, France, is open on Sundays and Thursdays. However, to create a consumer dependency on urban agriculture and to introduce local food production as a sustainable career for farmers, markets would have to be open regularly. For example, the Los Angeles Farmers' Market is open seven days a week and has linked several local grocers together to provide different food products. The market’s central location in downtown Los Angeles provides the perfect interaction for a diverse group of sellers to access their consumers.

Individuals outside of the farmer/buyer market have incorporated food production into their urban fabric through roof gardens. Roof gardens allow for urban dwellers to maintain green spaces in the city without having to set aside a tract of undeveloped land.

Finding a labor force

Cities that are serious about introducing urban agriculture face the problem that there is no ready labor force to produce food. Programs such as Welfare-to-Work offer a source of labor for the urban agriculture movement. This would cause the positive externality of lowering the unemployed and welfare-dependent population in large cities and suburban areas.

Another proposal is to train prison inmates how to produce food. The San Francisco County Jail, in conj unction with Tree Corps and Garden Project, provide inmates with an agricultural education and individual plots to grow their own food. Jails use horticulture to teach inmates how to work cooperatively with other inmates and also how to be responsible for their own nutrition and health. Agriculture and gardening provide a fresh air environment for inmates in which they can learn skills that will help them assimilate into society. The San Francisco County Jail’s recidivism rate dropped from 55% to 24% within two years of implementing the Garden Project. Therefore prisons could begin to implement the Garden Project and transform the institutions into rehabilitation and agriculture education facilities. Ex-convicts could then fill the labor gap for urban agriculture projects.

Sustaining a labor force

Schools have begun to implement agricultural curricula into traditional school environments. The Waldorf School campuses use school-wide community gardening to teach nutrition to the students. Such organization exposes students in urban environments to rural agricultural practices that they would not have been exposed to otherwise. Students are taught to appreciate agriculture as an integral part of their urban education; this education in turn provides an avenue for a future career in urban agriculture. Introducing nutrition through agriculture in urban and peri-urban school thus increases the likelihood that an urban agricultural labor force will be sustained in future generations.

Community centers and gardens educate the community to see agriculture as an integral part of urban life. The Florida House Institute for Sustainable Development in Sarasota, Florida, serves as a public community and education center in which innovators with sustainable, energy-saving ideas can implement and test them. Community centers like Florida House provide urban areas with a central location to learn about urban agriculture and to begin to integrate agriculture with the urban lifestyle.

Other examples of community centers are Greensgrow Farm in Philadelphia and Northey Street City Farm in Brisbane, Australia. Greensgrow uses an abandoned site as an urban farm to teach the community how food is grown and how to grow their own food. Northey Street City Farm hosts weekly community activities to educate and involve local residents in agricultural practices.

Government interaction

Another way in which urban agricultural practices could be advanced is through government interaction. One researcher proposes tax breaks be given to sellers and buyers of locally-grown food. Other researchers suggest discounts be given at farmers’ markets or tariffs be placed on imported foods that can be grown locally.


Urban agriculture has been criticized by those who believe that industrial farm production can produce food at larger volumes more efficiently.

A major argument is whether urban farming alone - that is farming very intensively on small land areas - could replace land extensive production in rural areas which produce the bulk of our food products. Yet, hunger persists in both urban and rural areas (see more on food security), despite a subsidized industrial agriculture. The degree to which urban agriculture can address these food needs systemically is undetermined, though there are indications in some communities it is an important source of food [1].

Other opponents argue that localized food production and the introduction of common resources and common lands into the urban areas would produce a tragedy of the commons. Though, as referenced earlier, many urban farms and community gardens are managed privately or through other civil society organizations.

A potential concern associated with urban agriculture is suspected or real soil contamination, which can be costly to address. However, strategies exist to improve the soil quality safely [2] while still meeting the food needs of urban residents [3].


Pacione, Micheal. "Local Exchange Trading Systems - A Rural Response to the Globalization of Capitalism?" Journal of Rural Studies. Vol. 13, No. 4

See also

External links

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