Urban Farming in the Public Interest

Posted: October 25th, 2009 | Author:

Source: RUAF – Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture & Food Security

THINK GLOBALLY!  Mega cities need mega tons of food to survive.  Urban farming responds to a growing need as mega cities — like New York City — continue to expand around the world.  Urban farming can help increase the availability, access and quality of food for city dwellers.  

ACT LOCALLY?   Why promote the growth of urban agriculture in New York City?

A recent NYC report, Food in the Public Interest, issued by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, suggests that “urban food production” in NYC is one crucial strategy to address a broad spectrum of related local food issues.  The report outlines three major reasons why urban agriculture may be seen as increasingly important in improving the quality and quantity of good, fresh food to urbanites:

(1) “The Environment: Common commercial farm practices such as using chemicals and aggregating livestock in small spaces can contribute to air pollution.  Further, food that travels extraordinarily long distances from farm to plate requires more food, [packaging], storage and refrigeration all of which consume energy [and other resources].”     [Text in brackets added by The Greenest].

(2) “Public Health: Locally grown and distributed food is likely to be fresher, more nutritious, less subject to intensive pesticide use and less processed.”  

Note: The report emphasizes that NYC has a looming and serious health threat of epidemic proportions represented by the steady rise in the incidence of both diabetes and obesity in populations that generally lack access to affordable fresh food close to home. 

(3) The Economy: Enhancing the local food system would create more opportunities for local employment at all levels.  Urban agriculture could also contribute to food security for the City’s neediest.

In addition to these excellent points, The Greenest would add some of its own in support of promoting urban agriculture:

(4) Heat Island Effect – Cities are sometimes called “heat islands” because they are hotter than surrounding areas.    Greenery –like urban agriculture– helps reduce the “heat island effect” by cooling cities down, thereby reducing electricity used by air conditioning and refrigeration equipment.  

(5) Waste Water –   Green spaces absorb more rainfall reducing the amount of stormwater in the city sewage system.  Green spaces can also be irrigated by so-called “grey water” filtered from water produced by stormwater runoff, showers, sinks, diswashers and clothes washers, reducing loads on city sewage systems and doubling the benefits received from fresh water.

(6) Solid Waste  –  Gardens can create and use compost derived from solid waste to fertilize — diminishing the costs, energy and environmental impacts of a portion of the city’s solid waste production.

(7) Psychological benefits – Plants make people happy.  It’s a fact.  It’s a well established human response called “biophilia.”  More plants will make more people happy.  

(8)  “Foodie” Culture – NYC is one of the cultural food capitals of the world, home to many a sundry “foodie.”  Food is the second most talked-about topic in NYC — after real estate.  However, NYC produces less and less of its own food outside of restaurant kitchens.  The growth of urban agriculture will form part of a growing and intensifying local food culture that emphasizes better taste and better health together.  

Through my exploration of Urban Agriculture, I aim to understand what motivates the urban farmer to till the soil — the challenges and opportunities.  In the upcoming posts, I will look at other industries that are part of the “food system” that could be a source of increased productivity and market penetration for urban agriculture.

Filed under: Composting, Food Security, Green Roofs, Uncategorized, Urban Agriculture, Urban Farming, Urban Planning, Water Conservation | Tags: Air Pollution, , Biophilia, , Energy, , , , , Gardens, , , , Heat island Effect, , , , , , , , Public Health, , , , , | No Comments »
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