Growing Urban Agriculture

Growing Urban Agriculture

To feed the world’s growing population, we must do more to promote the success of urban farms through better tracking, financial incentives, land use, and support systems.

In Paris, post office workers have successfully raised chickens and grown vegetables on the rooftop of a mail-sorting center. In Chattanooga, the city council just loosened zoning rules to allow urban dwellers to keep livestock. And in Ekurhuleni, South Africa, an urban resident is successfully growing vegetables including chilies, spinach, and onions to supply restaurants.

These urban farmers are part of a global revival. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 800 million people around the globe grow their own fruits or vegetables, or raise animals in cities, accounting for 15-20 percent of world’s food production. And while people have grown food in cities for a long time, urban farming has recently gained renewed attention for its social, health, environmental, and economic benefits. It can help farmers and consumers save money, increase year-round fresh food access, and promote healthy lifestyles in urban settings. It also gives people more control over the production of the food they eat, which has benefits like reducing the use of harmful pesticides.

Some urban farms and farmers are pushing the limits of innovation, using technology and controlled environments that allow them grow food all year-round while avoiding challenges like erratic weather patterns, pests, and disease. Some of these enterprises are sustainably meeting year-round food needs for people living in cities. In Detroit, for instance, urban farms have the potential to supply 31 percent of the fresh vegetables that Detroiters eat each year. Urban farming can be productive, sustainable, lucrative, and profitable.