Urban farms and gardens were once commonplace across American cities. After WWII, these urban gardens began to disappear. Over the last decade, however, cities have seen a resurgence of gardening and farming interest. This renewed enthusiasm for urban agriculture stems from widespread public concern regarding environmental health, food security, nutrition, community development and experiential education. Urban farms allow city dwellers to experience the natural and agricultural systems from which they are often far removed. The presence of farms and gardens often revitalizes urban areas by creating green community spaces and improving property values.
Bringing agriculture back into urban areas can also have a profound effect on public health and nutrition. Food deserts have become a widespread problem in cities across America. Urban areas that lack grocery stores selling fresh produce are considered food deserts. Without access to fresh produce, people are forced to purchase the majority of their food from fast food restaurants and convenience stores. The introduction of urban agriculture into these food deserts provides community members with the much-needed nutrients present in fresh fruits and vegetables. Along with the health benefits associated with increased vegetable and fruit consumption, city dwellers who participate in community gardens or farms also experience improved physical fitness and mental health.
Numerous environmental benefits are associated with urban agriculture. Growing and marketing food within a city greatly reduces transportation costs and fossil fuel use. Trees and crops help to remove carbon dioxide from the air and improve air quality. Small, diversified urban farms also provide a habitat for native pollinators, birds and small mammals. Farmers can reuse waste materials present in their city to reduce environmental impact. For example, restaurant food scraps are often used for compost or feeding animals. These practices improve the environmental quality of the city itself, as well as the surrounding ecosystems.
Along with the environmental, social and health benefits associated with urban farming, cities often realize significant improvements in their local economies. Because urban farms are typically small-scale and locally owned, the majority of their money stays within the community. Many farms also provide volunteer, internship and employment opportunities for city residents.
Get involved and help your city realize the widespread benefits of urban agriculture! Purchasing produce at your local farmers’ market, becoming a member of a CSA, volunteering on a farm, starting a community garden or growing your own food are all great ways to support the urban farming movement.
Alaimo, K. P. (2008). Fruit and Vegetable Intake Among Community Gardeners. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior , 40 (2), 94-101.
Bellows, A. C., Brown, K., & Smit, J. Health Benefits of Urban Agriculture. North American Initiative on Urban Agriculture. Community Food Security Coalition.
EPA. (n.d.). Urban Agriculture: Basic Information. Retrieved September 30, 2013, from Environmental Protection Agency: Brownfields: http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/urbanag/basic.htm
Partnership for Sustainable Communities. (2011 йил 9). Urban Farm Business Plan Handbook. Retrieved 2013 йил 3-3 from EPA.gov: http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/urbanag/pdf/urban_farm_business_plan.pdf
Zeeuw, H. d., & Dubbeling, M. (2010). Cities Food and Agriculture: Challenges and the Way Forward. The Netherlands: RUAF Foundation.