When asked to picture what a farm looks like, almost everyone will imagine a huge field, a barn, and perhaps even some cows. This traditional farm scene is very much alive, but a new farming type has been slowly gaining popularity in the background – urban agriculture.
Urban agriculture is defined as raising animals or growing plants in and around cities. Urban agriculture can be located in a variety of places: on rooftops, in someone’s yard, schools, a vacant lot, or, if allowed, public land. Operation size can vary depending on location and resources available. A rooftop garden and a field of grain in a park could both be considered Urban Agriculture. However, the difference between urban agriculture and a community/personal garden is that urban agriculture tends to be economically driven, meaning the producers intend to sell their grown products to make a profit.
Grains, vegetables, and fruits can be grown in an urban location as long as soil, water, and sunshine are available. Depending on city laws, animals such as goats, sheep, and poultry can be raised as well. The rise in popularity of urban agriculture is tangible, 20% of the world’s food in grown in urban areas worldwide (though the percentage in the US is significantly lower than this).
Recycling is a big part of urban agriculture. Food wastes can be used as compost to create new fertilize for the garden. Rain and gray water (fairly clean water left over from baths, sinks, etc.) can be used to water the garden provided they are free from contaminants (research will need to be done to determine which soaps and bath products are OK for this process). If water is not readily available, hydroponic gardens can be set up that cycle the water continuously, which saves on cost and amount used.
However, there are some drawbacks, airborne pollution, lack of resources, and knowledge of soil nutrition and plant care are concerns that need to be addressed. Some areas set up classes or groups where everyone can be educated in bigger cities where urban agriculture is popular. This is a great way to ensure that people who may be new to the idea of farming are well educated in safety and proper growing techniques, as well as leaving a small footprint for their operation.
“Urban Agriculture: What and Why?” RUAF Foundation
Helmer, Jodi. “Urban Farms Bring Us Together, But Can They Feed Enough of Us?” Civil Eats
“What is Urban Farming?” Greens Grow