With climate change, industrial farming techniques, and the population boom putting heavy stresses on modern food production, urban agriculture – transforming city spaces into private and communal plots for growing produce – is gaining buzz in major metropolitan centers around the world.
In the United States, urban agriculture stands to tackle a number of growing issues. The UN recently reported that a quarter of all agricultural land is seriously degraded, meaning America cannot solely rely upon its massive farming operations in California and the Midwest for much longer. In addition, 49 million Americans currently experience food insecurity, while simultaneously the obesity epidemic continues to spread – spurred on by the lack of low-cost, readily available food.
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These issues encouraged more than 40 million Americans last year to participate in growing a vegetable garden last year, and that number is rising. To gain more social traction, though, communal agriculture will have to move out of the spacious suburban environment and into the urban jungle, where growing areas come at a premium.
Cooperatives are fast becoming popular ways of purchasing and managing arable land within city limits, bringing a sense of community and aggregated farming experience. Dilapidated properties or unused open spaces can be easily sequestered by these groups, though soil safety and other issues (lead contaminants, etc.) must be addressed.
Another rising solution is rooftop gardening. Many restaurants have led the way in creating productive plots on once-barren rooftops, providing premium, locally produced ingredients as well as an attractive outdoor dining atmosphere. Big box stores are experimenting with renting out their giant rooftops to local farmers, who in turn sell their produce in the aisles below.
With the boom of farmers markets over the last few years, local distribution networks are already in place to move produce around communities once these plots become more plentiful. The video below, created by the American Society of Landscape Architects, highlights many of these issues and shows how urban agriculture can be easily integrated into existing city spaces.