Agriculture in the city context

This post is by John Pham, a senior Biology major at the University of St. Thomas

As the populations grow and become more developed, people will tend to move close to urban environments bringing with it a myriad of issues such as microclimate changes, increase pollutions, and food deserts (Grimm et al. 2008). These problems, if left uncheck, only grow as the temperature rises, smog concentrations increase, and the population become more reliant on the limited selections of produce that are available to them. To combat these issues, urban agriculture has become a popular approach as a solution for many problems. Many locations have used urban agriculture before, such as Cuba, where they have had the majority of their caloric needs provided for by urban agriculture to feed its people. But for most cities, factors that throw communities off from urban agricultures are the stigma that comes with it, such as farms being dirty or a feeling of regressing to a less developed time. Therefore providing just food is not enough for cities to embrace the idea of putting farms into the cities, urban agriculture must also provide an economically sound plan, reduce the impacts on the environment, all while striving to better the community that surrounds it.

In successful urban agriculture plans, like the ones in Vietnam where they have greenhouses deep within the city or London where they produce and sell honey, with these there was a common theme within them. The successful plans were the ones that could provide profits and economical growth, without any economical value urban agriculture would not be sustainable. Urban agricultures are able to provide a bounty of profitability in methods giving values to vacant lots and by creating jobs. Vacant lots can be found in almost every city and some at high numbers, McPhearson found 7300 acres alone in New York City, these are all opportunities in which gardens or farms could be place while the land is not being used. To tend to these urban agriculture oppertuninties and for the farms to running at the maximum capacity they will need to create jobs to be filled by the people, the job creation will depend on how much one is willing to invest in the project but some have projected that the job creation from these urban agricultures could be, a study found that 4700 jobs could be created with the use of urban farms, this would then in turn generate $20 million in business taxes alone. The possibilities and opportunity for a profitable urban agriculture plan within a city is endless, but they will need a great plan to follow.

While being profitable, urban agriculture must also face the issue of reducing the enormous footprint they leave on the environment. In these major cities, it is estimated that 3%-8% of electricity demands are used to offset a city’s urban heat island effect, and this is energy and cost that could be used more efficiently. Urban agriculture is a method in which can be used to reduce these urban heat island effects and help make buildings more efficient. Rooftop farming is an example of one possible solution in which gardens are planted on top of rooftops to absorb the sunlight and heat. EPA has estimated that rooftop gardens would save about $200,000 in its lifetime, this while showing to reduced the urban heat island effect. People have been aware of raising temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions, urban farms allow for people to reduce those numbers and cause an impact on the city that they all live in.

Urban Agricultures within the cities can be used to reduce greenhouse gasses in our cities, but they will also need the support of the communities. Without community support an urban farm risk the destruction and vandalism of its own people. But this would not be the case for all urban agricultures, as some have been shown to reduce crime rates (McPhearson 2014). It also gives the community a sense of value within the city as Amanda Lovelee, coordinator of the Urban Flower Field in MN, stated that the people would tell her they would watch over the field when she’s not around. This sense of value is what helps keep a community together and prevents them from mistreating the environment that it is in.

In conclusion, urban agriculture within a city will always be a challenge to implement due to various circumstances. Though the benefits that come from implementing such agricultures surely outweigh the cons, from the creation of jobs and more profitable methods in which we use vacant lots, to creating a more environmentally friendly and efficient city, to helping the community as a whole. Urban agriculture is a viable method that could be used within the city.

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About Adam Kay

I study urban ecology and urban agriculture
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