In this day and age where almost huge tracts of land are made into profit-earning property development, little land remains for agriculture – an important sector of the economy. What are the benefits of urban farming? When rural areas become developed into housing projects, what will happen to our economy?
For years, urban farming has been a hot topic amongst community groups, environmentalists, food justice advocates, city planners, and gardeners. These groups believe that proper use of land is possible. Although widely discussed, few people understand what is urban farming and its benefits for our environment.
What is Urban Farming?
Urban farming, in essence, is the process of growing food in a heavily populated area or city. It is oftentimes confused with homesteading or community gardening but urban farming is different in terms of the commerce involved in it. Community gardening is the process of growing food mainly for personal consumption. Urban farming, on the other hand, is growing food for selling or to profit from it.
One of the misconceptions about urban farming is that it requires a substantial amount of land for it to prosper and that only corporations have the capacity to do it. In reality, an individual or a group of friends can easily start urban farming. Take for example the story of The Farmers, a couple who live in Singapore who ventured into urban farming and are now successfully conducting workshops and seminars about the topic.
Another good example of urban farming is the Hong Kong startup who started selling microgreens, herbs, and edible flowers to home cooks, restaurants, and hotels. Hong Kong is a dense city with little space but the promising startup was able to make it happen. The company uses hydroponic technology grown in-store so buyers know where the food is from and how it is grown.
Urban farms aim to become the front line in the current food system – something it has lost in time. Additionally, urban farming aims to reintroduce the general public on the many aspects of growing food. How does food grow, where can they grow, and what seasons they grow so they can have an idea of what they feed their body with.
Benefits of Urban Farming
Urban farming has lots of benefits, not only for those people involved but for the whole community as well.
Urban Farming Provides Food Security
Organic produce in groceries is not cheap. A large number of families cannot even afford to buy organic food items. Food security means giving people access to nutritious food that is safe and sufficient for their families all over the world. Urban farming gives families access to greater food security. It also gives people a way to supplement their income without spending too much on capitalisation. Urban farming makes food affordable and available to more people.
Urban Farming Creates a Sense of Belongingness
City living is fast-paced. Almost everyone is always on the go and people hardly have time to mingle and communicate with neighbours. Urban farming is one effective way of bringing city dwellers together- like community gardening, urban farming gives a sense of community for most isolated people in the community. It is a good way of bringing like-minded people together for a great cause.
Urban Farming Promotes Public Health
Cities have a growing population and it is common to find people suffering from malnutrition and other diet-related health problems. Urban farming beings nutritious and healthy food to local communities. This helps the people in the community combat life-threatening conditions like obesity, heart diseases, and diabetes. Urban farming is also a good form of exercise that also promotes health and wellness.
Urban Farming Reduces Carbon Emissions
Localising the source of produces helps cut down the consumption of fossil fuel needed to package, transport, and sell food items. A typical meal must travel 4,200 miles from the farm to the table. Urban farming, aside from being accessible, reduces the carbon footprint.
Urban Farming Introduces Innovative Techniques
In a city space that lacks wide open, fertile grounds conducive for farming, urban farmers face the challenge of creating innovative solutions to answer urban farming challenges such as space, resources, energy, and waste. The introduction of innovative farming techniques helps farmers to produce goods without sacrificing quantity and quality.
Urban Farming Creates Jobs
Urban farming is a growing industry. As it grows, it provides city dwellers additional job opportunities, particularly in areas where poverty and hunger are rampant. Small businesses engaged in urban farming also stimulate the local economy.
Urban Farming Fuels Economic Growth
As a community creates more job opportunities, the local economy improves as well. With the income of the community circulating within, it helps maximising profit among organisations of the community.
Urban Farming Educates
As mentioned earlier, urban farming reconnects people with the environment. Most people today eat food because they have to. They have little appreciation of the process of how the food was grown and made into what it is as it is delivered to the supermarkets or groceries. Involving children and adults in urban farming makes them aware of how food is made. This education then helps the local agriculture economy as more people become aware of the food systems in their place.
Urban Farming Creates Green Spaces
When talking about urban areas, the first thing that comes to mind is tall buildings and huge infrastructures. Obviously, urban areas lack green spaces, which greatly affects the climate and weather of an area. Urban farming allows for the creation of green spaces that add great aesthetic appeal, provide calming and restful spaces, and reduce precipitation. Green spaces also counter the effects of heat island by fixing carbon via photosynthesis.
Urban farming is ideal but it also has challenges on its own. Whilst anyone with the resources can engage in it, one of the challenges they have to face is the issue of zoning. Zoning is a critical factor in urban farming as it dictates what crops are ideal to grow and whether animals and retail of produce from urban farming are marketable. Some cities have several restrictions on raising animals. Farming, no matter its size, is a regulated activity since it is often for consumption so there will always be safety concerns. Producing food for consumption is a big responsibility so it must be well-thought of.