The different methods of urban farming include community-supported agriculture, city farmers’ markets, indoor farming, vertical farming, and a host of other alternative means to produce or deliver food in an urban environment. Understanding the tradeoffs from an economic, health and safety, and environmental perspective is imperative to selecting the right urban farming options for a particular locale. This will vary depending on location, alternative sources of food, and local income levels.
According to the RUAF Foundation, a partnership that studies sustainable agriculture and food security issues, the urbanization of the world will contribute to poverty and food insecurity if not addressed.
RUAF cites that by 2020, developing countries like Africa, Asia, and Latin America will find three-fourths of their populations in urban areas. These areas often will not be able to employ that population effectively, provide food reliably, or manage waste or wastewater properly. Urban agriculture is one way to address these issues in poorer nations.
In addition, more developed countries like the United States continue to lose arable farmland at an alarming rate. In fact, scientists estimate that the world has lost one-third of its fertile farmland in the last 40 years.
As both technology and the push for sustainability continue to develop, many urban agricultural ideas have surfaced. Here are some of the most popular and innovative ones.
Perhaps one of the earliest efforts to keep fresh produce local, community-supported agriculture (CSA) systems allow local food producers to serve a set number of urban members who agree to pay a subscription fee for a share of locally grown produce. CSAs can successfully reduce shipping costs and related carbon emissions, as well as boost a local community’s economic development.
Small family-farms simply located within an urban environment can supply local grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and the community with produce and meats. These pockets of farming can help enhance the local soil, reduce the greenhouse effect, and improve air quality.
In some neighborhoods, housing complexes, or even downtown rooftops, a community garden can be planted by those who live and work nearby. Often, these gardens help clean the air, absorb carbon emissions, and provide healthy, fresh food for those participating. Such endeavors are usually run by volunteers who share in the garden’s production.
The precursor to the high-tech indoor farming developments that are currently growing in popularity are simply greenhouses. By controlling light, temperature, fertilization, and other growing conditions in an enclosed area, many have increased their germination and yields. Today’s Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technology artificially controls temperature, humidity, light waves, and gases to maximize the growth of particular plants, medicines, and foods. In addition, indoor farms may eliminate the need for herbicides and pesticide usage. Technology also allows urban farms to embrace preventive maintenance requirements within agriculture.
Vertical farming is a means of urban food production that grows produce vertically, instead of on a single, horizontal plane as conventional or greenhouse farming may use. The major benefit is the ability to produce more food in a tighter space, especially in urban environments where space is a premium. Vertical farming is commonly part of skyscrapers, or repurposed warehouses in the city.
Urban farming can benefit a community in many ways. When urban farms incorporate more green space on rooftops or within pockets of the city, the community benefits from cleaner air, fresher food, and a reduction in the greenhouse effects of urban areas. In addition, overall carbon emissions are lowered because local food does not need to be transported and distributed.
Besides many environmental benefits, urban farms can create fulfilling jobs for city dwellers and economic growth within an urban environment. Agricultural endeavors tend to appeal to people looking for a slower, more relaxing way to spend time within the typical fast-paced city life. As a result, urban farms can help build community and enhance relationships. It can also create an opportunity to search for innovative and unique solutions to overall food production and distribution challenges that will grow into the future.
Food security and education about how and where food comes from is yet another benefit of urban farms. In lesser developed countries, urban farms can alleviate poverty by providing employment opportunities that produce food for the local community, as well.
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