Urban farming isn’t just a Brooklyn rooftop trend—it’s a full-fledged integral facet of the planet’s food production, now accounting for about 20 percent of all food produced on Earth.
If you think all of our food comes from quiet, rural settings, you’d only be about four-fifths right, as the remaining one-fifth is being grown in cities, quite possibly just down the road from your home. That’s the latest statistic from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which released the data on food being produced in the world’s cities.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t yet track the numbers of city farmers, the department does acknowledge that the urban farming movement is on the rise, with a growing demand for funding for programs that support urban agriculture.
Urban farming makes sense, especially now that for the first time in history, most of the people on the planet are living in cities. Locally produced food is obviously fresher than food trucked in from rural environments, and it can also often be cheaper to produce. And with climate change expected to bring more natural disasters and extreme weather, cities will benefit from being more self-sufficient instead of relying on food to be trucked in. New York City–based Gotham Greens (which produces more than 300 tons [272 metric tons] of herbs and microgreens per year in two rooftop hydroponic operations and has another farm planned for Chicago) told Ensia.com that “our produce was the only produce on the shelf at many supermarkets across the city,” during the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Urban farming has another big advantage over rural farms too: fewer pests. Indoor or rooftop gardens aren’t as susceptible to insect infestations, and there are certainly fewer animals munching on crops. Urban farms can grow a lot in small spaces, making them easier to manage and even automate with hydro- and aquaponic systems that can make urban farming more efficient.
Of course, you don’t need a giant warehouse or even a rooftop to get in on the urban farming trend. Anyone can (and probably should) start growing their own food. Not only does growing food help provide you and your family with fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables, but it helps clean the air and makes better use of water than lawns, especially in drought-stricken regions like California. The city of Los Angeles just made it legal to plant food on city parkways, and in San Francisco, there’s a contest out to have the ‘ugliest’ lawn, free from grass. Many people are choosing to turn them into vegetable gardens.
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Urban garden image via Shutterstock