Have you ever wondered if urban farming can reduce food waste?
Here’s an interesting farming fact for you: the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that throughout the world, 800 million people grow vegetables, fruits, or raise livestock in urban areas, resulting in close to 20 percent of the food generated on planet earth.
History of Urban Farming
In the United States, urban agriculture can trace its “roots” back to the 1890s in Detroit, Michigan when potato patches were planted throughout the city to help provide food for the city’s growing population.
The practice of urban farming became widespread during World War II due to the encouragement of “Victory Gardens” which helped alleviate shortages brought about from food rationing, and again in the 1970s with the launching of the USDA-supported Urban Gardening Program. In recent years, most Mayors of urban areas have established political agendas that involve urban farming as a means to assist community development.
Urban Farming Today
When it comes to supporting urban agriculture, local government leaders, community organizations and nonprofit groups are enacting new ways to alleviate poverty and hunger in cities. In the US, nearly forty percent of food is wasted and ends up in landfills. The Feeding America Network, which “rescues” unwanted and uneaten food for re-distribution, estimates that close to 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children live in food-insecure households, meaning that they are unable to get sufficient levels of nourishing food needed for good health and survival.
While every city has different approaches and needs, urban farming is helping to provide education about how food is grown, teaching children, teens and adults about nutrition, and establishing community farmers markets and gardens. Also, produce generated by urban farms are frequently sold at neighborhood farmers markets or distributed to those in need through local food pantries and soup kitchens, reducing the amount of food destined for the landfill.
Urban Farming Innovation
Around the country, sustainable urban farmers are using ground-breaking techniques to produce and distribute food. From rooftop farms to community gardens in empty lots, agricultural entrepreneurs are working to provide high-quality, nutritious food to alleviate hunger and reduce waste. Here are a few innovations widely used in many cities:
Compared to the giant farms associated with “agribusiness,” urban farms might appear tiny, but despite their small footprint, they can produce a surprising quantity of food. There are a few important reasons why this happens.
- Urban farms don’t experience the same degree of insect or animal infestation, which allows farmers to practice environmentally friendly and organic pest management practice.
- Urban farmers can quickly survey their growable areas so they can address problems when they appear and harvest the produce at its peak.
- Urban farms can plant crops densely because in a small space it is easier to manage water and fertilizer application, weeding and harvesting.
Rooftop farms make a positive environmental impact; not only do they provide insulation for buildings, ultimately reducing heating and cooling costs, but the farms also capture rainfall. This feature helps cities to manage and reduce stormwater runoff, which can pollute waterways during rainstorms.
Innovation in Home Gardening and Community Gardens
Innovations in urban agriculture are also happening in neighborhoods. Whether it’s a container garden on a patio or a “front yard farm” that replaces turf grass with vegetable beds, home gardening has once again become increasingly popular, and every year more individuals are becoming interested in growing their food. Also, neighborhood community gardens are appearing more frequently in urban areas with empty lots or space owned by the municipality. While some community gardens are a collective of neighbors committed to cultivating a shared space, others are more formal organizations that may also offer health and nutrition education, youth employment, and skills training in sustainable agriculture.
Here at Tommy’s Superfoods, we believe reducing food waste is essential for a healthy planet and healthy communities. Urban farming can not only help spread awareness about the need to waste less, but it can also be a useful tool in the fight against hunger and poverty. The next time you’re shopping at your local farmer’s market or walking past a community garden, be sure to offer a smile and a “thank you” to these dedicated individuals making our world a healthier place – one bite at a time.