Urban Agriculture

Urban food production is already a growing phenomenon throughout the world. In 1996, urban farms produced 80 percent of the poultry and 25 percent of the vegetables consumed in Singapore.10 As a result of the failure of the Soviet Union, between 1970 and 1990, the number of Moscow families engaged in food production rose from 20 to 65 percent." Currently, 44 percent of Vancouver, British Columbia's population already grow some vegetables in their gardens. There are over 80,000 garden allotments along railroad tracks and elsewhere in Berlin, and the list of those waiting for further allotments to become available is nearly endless.12 In the US, counties defined as urban or urban-influenced grow 52 percent of the dairy products, 68 percent of the vegetables, and 79 percent of the fruit consumed there.13

The potential for urban gardening is enormous. Community gardens would be an excellent use of abandoned inner city areas. Limited leases to abandoned lots could allow gardeners to produce immediate benefits from land that ordinarily lies vacant for an average of 20 to 30 years. Instead of being magnets for litter, rats, and crime, such lots could become showplaces and centers for community socialization.

Other unused city lands that could be converted to agriculture include portions of parks, utility right of ways, roadway medians and center dividers, and unused school and hospital grounds. Hospitals could keep their food bills down while adding healthy fresh produce to their patients'diets. Likewise, schools could grow produce for their lunch programs, while giving their students a firsthand opportunity to learn about plant growth and farming.

There is one major unused surface area in cities that is well suited to container gardening: rooftops. On the average, rooftops comprise 30 percent of a city's total land area,14 and rooftops enjoy the full benefit of sunshine and rainfall. Rooftop gardening could provide a substantial portion of urban dwellers' food.

Taking this theme a step farther, some city streets could be closed and converted to gardens and orchards. Likewise, some of the streams that have been channeled into sewers could be brought back to the surface, remediated, and even used for irrigation. If agriculture were fully integrated into urban life, it could conceivably produce a revitalized and verdant environment, where communities are interlaced with gardens, orchards, parklands, and open waterways.

Community gardens have proven that they can not only feed their members; they can also provide a source of fresh produce for food kitchens, food banks and other food assistance programs. Meanwhile, home gardens make use of private yards,


Typically, members or "share-holders" of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer's salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm's bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production. Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.

From "Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): An Annotated Bibliography and Resource Guide," Suzanne DeMuth.


Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs directly link local residents and nearby farmers, eliminating "the middleman" and increasing the benefits to both the farmer and the consumer. In a CSA program, a farmer grows food for a group of local residents (called "shareholders" or "subscribers") who commit at the beginning of each year to purchase part of that farm's crop. The shareholders thus directly support a local farm and receive a low-cost weekly or monthly supply of fresh, high-quality produce. The farmers receive an initial cash investment to finance their operation and a higher percentage of each crop dollar because of direct delivery. Both parties jointly share the benefits and risks.

From "Community Supported Agriculture," James Wilkinson.


decks, balconies, rooftops, and even windowsills and indoor aquariums to produce everything from tomatoes to honey to small livestock and fish.

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