It’s August, which means gardens and farms are in full bloom, and are producing some of the tastiest crops you’ll eat all year. And if you’re lucky enough to live in a city booming with urban agriculture, you’re reaping the benefits of hyper-local produce. Fortunately, odds are in your favor - all across the globe, more cities are realizing the value that urban agriculture adds to the surrounding communities.
Superior taste isn't the only perk of locally grown produce, urban agriculture offers an abundance of social, environmental and economic benefits as well. In this increasingly urbanizing world, more attention is being placed on finding sustainable and reliable food sources and urban ag has found its spot at the table thanks to local advocates, farmers and agri-preneurs promoting it's value. The path to a more integrated and sustainable food system requires a multi-directional approach, and fortunately the atmosphere is ripe for change.
This trend in hyper-local production isn’t just the latest fad, and here are our top 5 reasons why urban agriculture is here to stay:
1. Demand for local produce is rising:
The sheer increase in number of farmers markets speaks to the demand of local produce. The USDA reports the total number has grown almost 4 times since 1994 (1,755) to 2013 (8,144). Not only that, but consumers have been putting the pressure on more conventional supermarkets to carry local produce. It’s clear that individuals are beginning to value knowing how and where their food is produced, which is driving positive change in the food system.
2. Boost in the local economy:
Local food systems provide a number of positive impacts on the local economy. As more restaurants, schools and institutions seek out local food sources, there is an opportunity for small businesses and new food entrepreneurs to explore new markets and grow their operations. In turn, this creates more employment opportunities for local residents. As the local economic activity rises, money circulates within the city and strengthens communities.
3. Creating edible landscapes:
Urban agriculture is a perfect solution for vacant and underutilized lots scattered throughout cities, and many projects make efficient use of rooftop space. Community gardens and raised beds instantly transform spaces into more vibrant and edible landscapes, and give individuals an opportunity to take stewardship of common land and become more involved in their communities. On top of that, more urbanites are revamping their backyards and rooftops into garden oases, which has proven to enhance property values.
4. Promoting healthy communities:
Urban agriculture increases access to affordable, healthy, fresh produce and provides a unique opportunity for communities to learn about nutrition and how to grow food. Numerous urban ag programs engage local youth by giving them opportunities to gain hands-on experience growing food and learn the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet. This along with other approaches allow community members to know where their food comes from, how it’s grown, and connect with the people who grow it!
5. Environmental benefits:
Localized food production can be one effective way to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. While there is a need for better transportation infrastructure, food grown locally travels significantly less from the farm to your fork, eliminating unnecessary food miles. Also due to land constraints, urban farmers often adopt more environmentally-friendly growing practices.