7 Benefits of Growing Food in Cities – REGENERATIVE.com

7 Benefits of Growing Food in Cities

The World Health Organization reported that in 2014, more than half of the total population of the planet lived in urban areas. While there are differences in the proportion of the populations that live in towns and cities between developing and developed countries, the WHO also predicts that in just three years time, by 2017, even in less developed countries where traditionally rural populations have been bigger, more than half of citizens will reside in urban locations. Feeding all those people is going to become increasingly difficult if we rely solely on traditional methods of food production – namely cultivating and harvesting food from rural areas and transporting in to urban locales.

One way of reducing the pressure on rural arable land is to actually grow food in the cities themselves. There are, of course, unique challenges to doing so – often a lack of space and securing enough sunlight amid the high rise buildings of city environments – but with innovative solutions and community dedication, as well as political will, it is eminently possible to grow fruit and vegetables, raise animals and even keep bees in urban areas. Indeed, it is already happening. In 2011 San Francisco passed city zoning legislation to allow agricultural activity in all areas of the city and redefined the parameters by which producers could sell their goods, making the local economy for small-scale producers boom. It is already reaping the benefits that growing food in cities brings, and these are all benefits that dovetail with the aims and principles of permaculture.

Community Development
Urban agriculture can help bring communities together. Many schemes are community driven, and the produce is shared among local families. It gives communities a common shared goal and activity, one in which their efforts are rewarded at the same time as doing good for others. Community gardens and farms can become the centerpiece of neighborhoods. Urban gardening can also stimulate local economies, with consumers buying produce from small-scale producers, and the money remaining within the local area, rather than being siphoned off by multinational companies.

Education Opportunities
The location of urban agriculture sites can also provide education opportunities for children. It can prove prohibitively expensive to organize a school trip to a rural farm, but with urban farms often in their neighborhoods, schools can introduce children to food production and help them get a sense of where food comes from. Schools themselves can even start cultivation! Urban agriculture can also provide beneficial activities to other groups in society that are sometimes marginalized, such as giving ex-offenders opportunities to learn skills, and provide disabled people with means to get involved.

Reduce Food Miles
Growing food in the city means that the produce is being cultivated close to those who are going to consume it. This drastically reduces the food miles that go into the production of the edible produce. Food miles refers to the energy costs of food production, and includes the fossil fuels used to transport the produce to market – which can in some cases of modern industrial food production involve intercontinental travel – and the energy and water costs involved in harvesting, processing and packaging the food.

Fresh and Seasonal
Eating locally produced food also means that people are eating food at its freshest. The time between harvest and consumption is kept to a minimum, meaning that the food retains the maximum amount of flavor and the most nutrients. Urban farming also encourages people to eat seasonally. Too often consumers have got used to supermarkets providing all varieties of fruit and vegetables all year round. This means, however, that for much of the year, those varieties are imported, often from halfway round the world, adding to the environmental cost of transportation. Eating seasonally allows people to get in touch with the natural rhythms of the Earth and appreciate the variety of produce that changes throughout the year.

Add Greenery
Having more plants in an urban area provides many benefits to the location. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and other noxious gases, while emitting oxygen as part of the photosynthesis process; so having more plants helps to increase air quality. This is also achieved by plant foliage filtering dust and debris from the air, which can be particularly useful in areas with high traffic density and thus greater emissions. Plants, particularly trees, can also mediate microclimates to improve living conditions. They can provide shade not only for people but also for buildings. Proximity to buildings can help cool them in summer and protect them from cooling winter winds, reducing the need for air conditioning and heating. Greenery in cities also helps to reduce the heat island effect, which is the increased temperature of the city in relation to the surrounding countryside caused by the absorption, retention and reflection of heat by the hard synthetic materials used in urban construction. The heat island effect results in more electricity use for cooling in summer and heating in winter. For the reasons outline above, greenery helps reduce this consumption. Having more plants also helps to reduce water runoff. This can be a particular problem in cities, where concrete pavements and roads cause storm water to runoff an, in the cases of heavy or frequent storms, can cause flooding as municipal drainage systems become overloaded. Plants take up water and the soil they need also helps absorb excess moisture.

Health
Urban agriculture also promotes health – both physical and mental. Much urban farming is done in community gardens and initiatives, benefits of growing foodwhich encourages people to get actively involved in the cultivation of the food, increasing physical activity and – as any permaculture gardener knows – benefiting mental states by providing a means to get in touch with nature and to take time out from the hectic whirl that modern city living often comprises.

Regeneration
Urban farming can help to reinvigorate locations that have previously been abandoned or damaged. Often, urban gardening starts out by using derelict wasteland, and the growing of food can help not only to rehabilitate the soil, it can also make an area more attractive and provide a means of community bonding. Particularly in areas that have been hit by poor economic performance, urban gardens can offer a regenerative effect.

65 comments

I think that the use of the word “traditional” here should be changed to “large scale rural agriculture” here – because it is precisely a return to traditional methods of creating intensive #indigenous #foodforest #gardens in urban settings that will provide us with models for building resilience and rapid adaptation to social and climate changes!!

The solution is to tear down/burn cities, and transition into a saner way of living.

Wal-Mart alone has the capacity to put greenhouses atop thier roofs to harvest Fresh Produce.

It can be difficult and/or downright pointless to take the time and effort of beginning a garden when you are renting in the city. Permaculture should encourage and promote the very first step to self sustaining food production: home ownership. We can fantasize over what citizens can do to feed themselves all day long, but home ownership is going to be the bedrock of permaculture, in the real world.

giant community gardens. Problem is getting everyone involved, and ensuring that everyone is chipping in. People are lazy by default 🙁

After living with my mother briefly while moving to another rental property, I learned from her that you can grow your own food! The benefits are feeling better (easier to be motivated to eat your greens) and spending less money at the supermarket. Less waste also as we throw away so much packaging – disgusting

I grow my food at Ocean View Farms, a community garden in Los Angeles. You are required to put in 12 volunteer hours per year, per plot. That should be doable even for lazy people or else you must surrender your plot.

There are many examples of viable urban garden/farm design on pages like this one: Rooftops, vertical arrangement of pots, creativity is a basic human adaptive ability. I think the availability of clean water will be a significant issue.

I seriously can not figure out why we are not doing this on a mass scale across our country. Edible forests would be a small step in feeding hungry people, but easy to maintain as a community.
Call me crazy.

Everyone should be growing at least some of their own food, even if just herbs to season with.

At this point everyone in cities whether you own your place or not should be growing food! When i was renting in the city i grew a tons stuff in pots on my shared patio plus volunteered a few hours a week at community garden where i could glean lots of food. For water supply simple rain tanks can store surplus for dry periods. With a little observation and evaluation of resources within a city anyone can grow food. The internet also has loads of info on seeds, and the needs of edible crops, by understanding basic soil ph and nutrient cycling even the most degraded city lot can be turned into a garden using mulch and compost

Jennifer Sereno

NYC has enough problems supplying water to the city as is. The problem with all these solutions is people latch onto them with out considering all the other things. Sure its a wonderful idea but its not the solution its just one more step but fixing our problems also means investing in technology and using resources even those that aren’t “green” responsibly

I’m in. Even if its just a bowl of lettuce.

Going back to the concept of “Victory Gardens” from the war years and save & use the water normally wasted waiting for the water to get hot.

Pretty soon we won’t have a choice our farmland is disappearing- so it’s a good idea

Permaculture candidates and political planks are an urgent must have.
Oklahoma is taxing the sun. Cities are banning rain collection. Someone somewhere will want an agriculture offset tax on gardens next.
Watch em. Don’t let it stop you, just be ready. Don’t golf courses get tax exemptions and eminent domain zoning?

Aquaponics is very thrifty with water and provides fish as well as produce.

This is going to have to start as a grassroots movement. We do need representation in local government.

I see we have trolls in here as well,they know who they are.

^^^Ditto, homeownership for some is much more challenging than an indoor garden! Smh!

why are folks afraid of dependency ? Dont make excuses just show effort to the cause . Smh ,some people are just conditionedd.

Grow carrots from carrots! 🙂

Independence is very much needed

If stores get looted in the near future how will we feed our children, the gov dont love us ! 🙂

This allows for greywater use at point of origin, meaning that all the lawn, pool and bath waters can be used on site, that is quite a water savings, even before aquaponics are added

There is always water reconstitution. Permaculture is about growing without exhausting your resources, including water.

You can also so this with celery. Just replant the bottom. My problem is keeping the dog out of the garden.

Anywhere there is a vacant lot that is not being maintained by the owners, there should be production. If the owners come back to develop it fine, but in places like Detroit it beats stuff just growing up in weeds and being an eyesore. I also firmly believe that growing things cools tempers and improves attitudes bringing about greater civility.

I did in Geneva on my balcony!

I built what I called in honor of buckminster fuller. A garden machine. Just a simple raised bed with hoops made out of electrical conduit an A automatic waterer. Using a timer for watering lawns . Very simple anybody can do it and grip begin to grow their or someone could start a small business building and installing the simple things and it becomes a permanent permanent fixture of the building and it’s surprising what can be grown in a four by eight bed. With a few earthworms thrown in and some mycorhyzie established quite a bit can be grown

I live on a boat and grow my food in containers. You don’t have to own a home to grow your own food. They have miniature Apple trees that grow in pots and produce lots of fruit. There is vertices growing as well. So many options out there. It just takes work and determination.

Absolutely. I should be tought in schools.

Steve Rice tell me more about your raised garden. I wanna do something like that!

Urban gardens are already starting to pop-up all over my city. Awesome seeing to outcome.

I’m in Los Angeles. Anyone willing to grow and share production?

Yes. Victory Gardens were grown en mass across this country. Now with all these homeowner associations prohibiting gardens, or restricting what color your house is painted, how many cars can park on your drive – etc. etc. They have created this short sited situation. Anyone can grow some food. Maybe not backyard chickens, but plenty of food. Who doesn’t love their own fruit trees and blueberry bushes?

Anyone with a moderate sized backyard (1/8 acre) can grow 100 percent of their fruits and vegetables, 75 percent of the grains and 50 percent of their protein needs for a family of four using non-traditional permaculture, inter-planting, succession planting, small greenhouse nursing, square-foot arrangement and trellising techniques.

It ain’t that hard. In 1970 I watched a bunch of Horticulture Majors grow a bountiful crop of vegetables on an unused asphalt parking lot.

And in Michigan they are passing laws to PREVENT people from growing gardens within the city limits !! how stupid is that ? Other countries are doing roof-top gardens in big cities…and vacant lots turned into gardens…..some places grow veggies anywhere they will grow , for those who need the food , is free for the taking………this CAN be done

Isn’t it funny that the companies that spend the most in PR campaigns to convince you that they are green/ sustainable are the same companies lobbying against sustainability… because it shrinks the economy, more specifically it shrinks the economic transactions between them and consumers.

Kinda like our own FDA and USDA ….supposedly being paid to protect our better interest in foods …..while on the other side they are in bed with monsanto ( I don’t capitalize their name cause I don’t feel them important to deserve it ) putting good farmers out of business …passing laws prohibiting gardens….yet how ‘stupid’ do they think we are?? WALNUTS ARE A DRUG ? AS IT COCONUT OIL ?? duhhhhh TIME FOR NEW BLOOD IN BOTH ORGANIZATIONS .

excellent idea

One very simple way to promote urban farming is to eliminate all HOA rules forbidding veggie gardens in landscaping. It is hard to believe how common this is…

Little Rock Ar , Dunbar Gardens has been existence for 20 years ! Thank you Pratt Remmel!

As a demo farm to the public outside the Seattle area, we are doing our part to bring the people to the farm and nature here at Paca Pride Guest Ranch

Take the food away from the big corporation and grow your own. You’ll know it’s safe!

RAW PLANT FOOD which we don’t eat enough of is where the nutrients come from, once veggies are cooked all nutrients are killed, thereby we no longer eating FOOD……the cycle of working hard growing veggies then killing them through cooking is madness. ….

I feel all of the grass along the curbs in front of people’s homes should be used for growing free food that anyone is welcome to. Grow and trade all over the city! For those that don’t want to do the work, they can lend the land to someone who will and benefit from the harvest as well.

WA state does not allow us to store rain water to use on our vegetable gardens during the summer.

This absolutely needs to be done.

Because its alot of work?

I have two permaculture food forests and gardens. One is 18 years old and the new one we got last year. The one we got this year is a forest that we are transitioning into a food forest as the understory. Lots of chop and drop to make logs for mushrooms and give sun to new additions.

Coppicing. I drop trees for wildlife food during winter in northern Mi. They will clean up the branches and fertilize.

1) Generally, lawns are a costly waste of space, opportunity, and resources. 2)Berries and grapes are a low maintenance way to produce food and shade. I set a row of poles along one side of my house (6-inch diameter dead tree branches) with a line of them running across the top. The vines growing on them cooled the house so much even the basement cooled another 5 degrees. Also, the sun stopped baking the paint off that side of the house.

Food should be grown in urban areas. But the carrying capacity of those areas, and even the suburbs, has been far surpassed. Without modern transportation, mass famine is inevitable at some point. Even if the urban dwellers manage to get food from the nearby countryside somehow, there won’t be enough variety, and probably not enough, period. The industrial agriculture model has stripped most parts of the country of the ability to provide balanced diets for everyone.

Princess Street Urban Garden on FB

Especially backyard chickens for eggs. My damn county bans doing so unless one has an acre or more of land.

I might argue cooperation but on the local small group level.

Free the seeds. Seed Liberaries. no more poison! Signed the elements’ air water earth and fire. (That we all depend on and are made of !!!!)

A great idea 💡 turn abondoned malls strip
Malls into greenhouses 👌🏻

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