Learning Objectives - After this course, you should be able to:
- Discuss challenges to establishing agricultural produce in the urban environment.
- Cite examples of how urban agriculture works with and enhances ecosystems within cities.
- List techniques that help urban farmers establish productive farms in urban-scale spaces.
- Understand the environmental and community benefits that accompany urban agriculture.
When we think of fresh vegetables in the city, we often think of the farmers market. Now a staple of many an urban neighborhood, farmers markets provide a space for connecting the urban with the rural, bringing together the growers of our food with those who eat it in a celebration of one of the planet's most elemental transactions. But while the shoppers at farmers markets tend to be intensely local, many walking from nearby residential areas, most of the vendors truck their wares in from outlying rural areas-an average of 56 miles for a piece of produce sold as "local," according to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. That's a far cry from the 1,500 miles that the average American supermarket vegetable travels before it's eaten. But with nearly 80 percent of Americans now living in urban areas and food transportation energy accounting for as much as two-thirds of the energy required to grow it, there's a powerful argument to be made for keeping the foods we grow, buy, and eat even closer to home-in the backyards, vacant lots, and rooftops of even our most densely built urban areas.
Why grow food in the city?
A lower carbon footprintis far from the only benefit that an increasing number of urban farmers, gardeners, and consumers have realized through growing and buying food right where they live. Urban farms and gardens can bring nutritious food (and its attendant public health benefits) back into "food deserts"-places where fast food chains are plentiful but fresh produce is rare and the nearest full-service grocery store may be inaccessible to residents without a car.
Photo: Darren Braun