What do you think of when you hear the term “urban
agriculture?” Sometimes it’s about practices involving
cultivating, processing, and distributing food in densely
populated areas. At other times, it involves particular skills
like animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban
beekeeping, or horticulture.
Urban agriculture can also reflect the ways that people across
socioeconomic strata react to fresh food access — or lack of
it. City spaces can become sustainable communities where food
security, nutrition, and income generation are intertwined.
Urban food security requires a reliable year-round supply of
nutritious and safe food. But it’s much more complex than
saying, “Grow your own vegetables,” isn’t it? Many elements
must come together for successful urban agriculture, according
to the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:
- access to quality irrigation;
- efficient urban food supply and distribution systems;
- production of resource materials (e.g. guidelines,
manuals, resource books);
- expert consultations and workshops on urban food supply and
- protection and improvement of the urban and peri-urban
- improve urban resilience and adaptation to natural
disasters, including climate
- increased collaboration, networking ,and joint activities
with partner organizations.
There are many different approaches to urban agriculture and
urban garden spaces. Let’s survey some of them and figure out
what successful urban farmers have done.
Starting Small with Urban Gardening
A simple starting place to learn about growing food in city
spaces is available from the Urban Agriculture
Company. It designs grow kits that provide exactly
what you need for “a fun and easy growing experience.” Each
grow kits comes with one pack of organic seeds, one balanced
bag of organic soil, and one container to grow the plant in.
(The container is made from 100% recycled tea bags.)
The World’s Smallest Garden kickstarter is just adorable!
Just find an empty bottle, fill it with water, and insert
the World’s Smallest Garden. Voila! You have the fresh herbs
you want year-round. The inventors provide a kit that
contains a special smart soil. It uses a capillary action to
lift water up to the seed. As the seedling sprouts, it sends
roots down into the bottle which allows the plant to water
itself. Young plants can survive for up to a month using the
initial water in the bottle. As the plants mature, their water
usage will increase, and so you’ll need to top off the water
Farms provides physical and digital tools to create
local produce ecosystems on a global scale. They claim that,
with the right tools, infrastructure, and support, anyone can
become a freight farmer, regardless of their background or
geographic location. Here’s how it works. You start with their
Leafy Green Machine™ — a vertical, hydroponic farming system
built inside a shipping container. It’s capable of growing a
variety of lettuces, herbs, and hearty greens. Using climate
controlled technology, a closed-loop hydroponic system
delivers nutrient rich water directly to crop roots. That means
just about anybody can grow fresh produce year-round, as these
local hydroponic farms that grow organic vegetables can be
located anywhere. The 320 square foot units can grow as much
produce as two acres of farmland while using less water per
day than the average American needs for a single shower.
A collaborative working and learning space for sustainable food
and urban agriculture ventures is open in Brooklyn, NY.
With the goal to deepen and expand the resources,
connections, skills, and capacity in New York City’s growing
sustainable food and urban agriculture ecosystem, the AgTech X Co-Lab offers hands-on
experience, the use of hydroponic equipment, educational
events, and access to resources. It is a dedicated space for
those looking to develop business concepts
and pilot new projects. Newcomers and
entrepreneurs alike can even use the site’s resources to
transition into careers in agritech and urban agriculture.
Popular Sports Settings for Urban Gardens
Levi Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, is one of
several major sports team homes to feature an urban garden.
Arugula, lettuces, and herbs are just a few of the garden
varieties featured in a space set nine stories off the ground
with industrial metals, bright billboard display, and giant
corporate logo in the background.
Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox major league baseball
team, has reinvented a former black rubber membrane roof into a
4000 pound annual harvest space. Called Fenway Farms, the
garden changes seasonally and, in addition to lots of yummy
seasonal northern vegetables, includes beehives. The
environmental benefits include improved air quality, energy
reduction through improved thermal performance, moderation of
urban heat, and storm water amelioration. So, too, does Fenway
Park Farms also serves as a teaching tool for area youth on the
importance of healthy eating and the local environment.
The Garden at AT&T Park serves as a unique gathering
place and a living, learning classroom that encourages children
to live healthier, more active lives. With aeroponic towers,
garden beds, and herb tables, The Garden is open to community
partners for children’s educational programs focused on healthy
eating and nutrition.
Due to open in late 2017, the new Atlanta
Falcons football stadium will hold multiple edible gardens.
Raised beds will be planted in the southwest corner of the
facility with additional edible plants located throughout.
Crops will include blueberries, two varieties of figs, and two
varieties of apples. Garden areas are designed so as to be
irrigated by a storm water detention vault, which is part of
LEED certification. The gardens, set within the city, will
provide produce to food programs as well as work with local
schools on healthy eating initiatives.
Joining Urban Agriculture as a Global Movement
One urban agriculture initiative has a goal to create an
abundance of food for people in need through repurposing unused
land and space into economically sustainable garden systems.
Farming™ mission is to increase diversity, raise awareness
for health and wellness, and uplift communities around the
globe. As a hub and a network to connect people with
non-profit, private, and public entities, the
organization educates communities in need about growing
their own food and about the global economy and emerging
industries and how these issues affect their daily lives.
Their inspirational “Urban Farming 100
Million Families and Friends Global Campaign™” is hoping
that 100 million people plant and register their gardens as a
part of the “Urban Farming Global Food Chain®”. This campaign
empowers people who are unemployed, underemployed, laid off,
malnourished, have unhealthy diets, and suffer from hunger or
food insecurity. This proactive, global campaign is a
holistic global vision that sees a future in which good health,
innovation and productivity are an inherent part of our
lifestyle. Register your urban
Starting a Large Scale Urban Farm Initiative
Whether you’re interested in a small community garden, being
part of an urban farm venture that span several city blocks, or
joining an indoor hydroponic or aquaculture facility, are
all examples of urban agriculture. Sure, urban farms have
challenges, but the opportunities out there through urban
farmer mentoring, resources available from federal and city
government agencies, and local organization assistance can
really help you to overcome obstacles to starting a large-scale
Urban Agriculture Toolkit is a really fine
resource for learning the in’s and out’s of urban agriculture
operations. Here’s what you’ll find in the comprehensive
- Marketing and development
And, if you need more, check out the some best practices and
possibilities from the
University of Missouri Extension Service.
Want to Learn about More Urban Agriculture Initiatives?
If you’re interested in surveying more really cool spaces for
urban agriculture initiatives, check these out:
Detroit Urban Agrihood, launched by the Michigan Urban
Farming Initiative, works to promote all forms of
sustainable, urban agriculture, focusing on agriculture as
the centerpiece of a mixed-use urban development;
Grow Dat Youth is an urban agriculture project in New
Orleans and demonstrates how how kids and teens benefit
beyond nutrition when they start growing their own food;
Aurora Urban Farm, set in an old 5,000-square-foot
building, was a gift to TTriple Threat
Mentoring for its urban farm mission to attack
poverty by teaching kids about healthy eating. This
year-round indoor hydroponic operation was made possible
through a $550,000 grant from the Dunham
Fund, which encourages innovation and
collaboration in educational and community development
If you live in an urban environment, it’s time to get farming!
Photo credits: Gabriel
Kamener, Sown Together via Foter.com / CC BY
Barrie via Foter.com / CC BY
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