“Urban Agriculture” seems like an oxymoron at first glance. When most people think of growing food, “city” is not the next word that comes to mind. We have bucolic images of rolling pasture, pretty brown cows, and red barns. But in reality, most of our food comes from far away and from farms much less picturesque than the packaging implies. However, it is within our power to change that paradigm.
Within cities themselves (and I speak of densely populated urban cores) there is a great deal of space to be had, if we just look UP. Roofs are a hugely underutilized space. Instead of blank, black rooftops we could be using that space for both renewable energy generation and for growing food. Putting plants on roofs allows for new green spaces, naturally cooler buildings, as well as helping mitigate the problem of urban heat islands. Additionally, well-designed cities necessarily incorporate green spaces; there is no reason that edible plants cannot be a significant component in park landscape design – it just requires a shift in mentality and people willing to advocate.
Suburbia offers a different opportunity. To be really frank, suburbs are not a particularly sustainable design for human habitation. That said, we can take what we have and work to make it more sustainable. Part of making suburbs more sustainable includes using our significant collective property – scuttle the lawn and instead, grow food and create native habitats. You can find edible options for most all of your landscape plants, including trees and shrubs. I think you might be surprised at the amount of food you can harvest out of a couple of 4’x 8’ beds in your yard.
We can also make a point to support our local farmers. The meaning of “local” can vary a bit depending on the product, but most all of us can source a significant portion of our diet from farmers within our state with only a little bit of extra effort (and that goes double for those of us in California!). Visit the farm stand down the street. Shop your local farmers’ market. Join a farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program for a weekly or biweekly box of produce (or meat).
There are a multitude of ways in which we can grow our way into a better, more sustainable future, so let’s dig in.