Why Urban Farming Is Key in the Fight Against Hunger and Climate Change

Yves here. With the human population continuing to rise and members of so-called developing economies aspiring to first world lifestyles, including first-world diets, I don’t see happy outcomes to the problem of how to feed more people. Nevertheless, the idea of urban farming is a bright spot in this grim picture, since it would take some pressure off natural habitats, plus more plants in urban areas both eat up carbon and buffer summer heat. This is also a front where individuals and small groups can take action.

By Lorraine Chow, a freelance writer and reporter based in South Carolina. Originally published at EcoWatch

The urban farms sprouting up and across cities around the world aren’t just feeding mouths—they are “critical to survival” and a “necessary adaptation” for developing regions and a changing climate, according to a new study.

Urban farms—which include plain old allotments, indoor vertical farms and rooftop gardens nestled amongst busy streets and skyscrapers—have become increasingly popular and important as the world’s population grows and more and more people move to cities.

The United Nations predicts that by 2030, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities, with the urban population in developing countries doubling. That’s a lot of mouths to feed.

The new paper, published in the journal Earth’s Future and led by the Arizona State University and Google, finds that this expected urban population boom will benefit from urban farming in multiple ways.

As the Thomson Reuters Foundation explained from the study, “Urban farms could supply almost the entire recommended consumption of vegetables for city dwellers, while cutting food waste and reducing emissions from the transportation of agricultural products.”

According to the study, urban agriculture can help solve a host of urban environmental problems, from increasing vegetation cover (thus contributing to a decrease in the urban heat island intensity), improving the livability of cities, and providing enhanced food security to more than half of Earth’s population.

After analyzing multiple datasets in Google Earth Engine, the researchers calculated that the existing vegetation on urban farms around the world already provides some $33 billion annually in services from biocontrol, pollination, climate regulation and soil formation.

The future of urban agriculture has even more potential, the researchers found.

“We project potential annual food production of 100–180 million tonnes, energy savings ranging from 14 to 15 billion kilowatt-hours, nitrogen sequestration between 100,000 and 170,000 tonnes, and avoided stormwater runoff between 45 and 57 billion cubic meters annually,” the authors wrote.

“In addition, we estimate that food production, nitrogen fixation, energy savings, pollination, climate regulation, soil formation and biological control of pests could be worth as much as $80–160 billion annually in a scenario of intense [urban agriculture] implementation.”

Others have praised urban farming for its many benefits.

“Urban agriculture won’t resolve all food production and distribution problems, but it could help take pressure off rural land while providing other advantages,” wrote environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki.

He cited an example of how one patch of Detroit land, where 12 vacant houses were removed to grow food, “has supplied almost 200,000 kilograms of produce for 2,000 local families, provided volunteer experience to 8,000 residents and brought the area new investment and increased safety.”

“Local and urban agriculture can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and recycle nutrient-rich food scraps, plant debris and other ‘wastes,'” Suzuki continued. “Because maintaining lawns for little more than aesthetic value requires lots of water, energy for upkeep and often pesticides and fertilizers, converting them to food gardens makes sense.”

Writer and former Vancouver city councillor Peter Ladner also wrote in The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities, “When urban agriculture flourishes, our children are healthier and smarter about what they eat, fewer people are hungry, more local jobs are created, local economies are stronger, our neighborhoods are greener and safer, and our communities are more inclusive.”

Watch a video posted by The Good Stuff about Ken Dunn’s crusade to turn food waste into productive farmland in Chicago:


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  1. Henry Moon Pie

    We live across the street from an urban farm that replaced a long-abandoned elementary school building. The farm is multi-missioned, combining an effort to grow organic and sometimes exotic vegetables for local restaurants with a training program for workers classified as hard-to-employ. There’s also an on-site food processing plant underway.

    They make very nice neighbors: no pesticides or herbicides; pretty blooms and plants throughout the spring, summer and fall; free plants for local community gardens from their greenhouses; and the occasional waft of manure odor that warms this old farmboy’s heart.

    Not far down the street, there’s a hydroponics enterprise located in an old warehouse. There’s also a growing number of community and yard gardens. One good thing about gardening in the midst of the city is that Monsanto, Roundup and the rest of factory farming’s destructive fellow travelers are absent. We don’t have to worry about herbicide drift or Monsanto suing us.

  2. Wukchumni

    Growing food is a fine endeavor and not only is good for our bodies and the climate, but it also teaches patience, in a world that generally wants everything to happen immediately, if not sooner.

    Growing fruit trees is similar in some regards to rearing children, in that there is scant reward for your efforts early on, and they have to be coddled constantly, similar to an infant. By the time they’re ready to go to first grade is when you finally see the fruits of your labor.

  3. christine

    There is only one key to climate change and toxification of the globe: dropping the population back to the sustainable number of 1.6 billion. None of these cute Band Aids are going anywhere. In The Collapse of Western Civilization, on the web (pdf) and also Weisman’s The World Without Us, both authors point out the obvious and Oreskes points out that humans refused to recognize it til it was too late. This, or far worse, is going to happen. Weisman points out that if every woman on the planet had been limited to one child in 2000 the figure would have been achieved by 2100. Of course, this is an intolerable to capitalists since capitalism is a pyramid scheme. Nonetheless…pretending the Emperor has clothes will only last so long.

    1. tony

      That is going to happen soon enough, and we can’t really change that. However, every urban and permaculture farm can potentially mean hundreds of people not needing to die. And to be utopian for a moment, the world could sustain the current population in most places should we have a sustainable food production system, though with a lot less material prosperity and a lot more physical labour. I’m sure you have seen the Greening the Desert video by Geoff Lawton.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I don’t know the exact math, or whether its’ entirely voluntary, but the suggestion above is to limit to one child per woman (of course, the billionaires are thinking, each of us gets a quote of 5 women).

    2. nonsense factory

      This solution is often promoted, but let me ask you, if every one of those 1.6 billion people consumed as much fossil fuels as the average United States citizen does today, what would global fossil-sourced CO2 emissions look like?

      Key statistics: Americans emit 5 metric tons of fossil carbon per person per year; and the current rate of fossil emissions for the planet is about 10 billion tons of carbon, equating to an increase in CO2 of about 2.75 ppm per year.

      Thus, if the world only had one billion people, if they all burned fossil fuels at the same rate the average American citizen does, about 5 metric tons per person, that still translates to 5 billion tons of fossil carbon emitted to the atmosphere per year. This is certainly lower than the current 10 billion tons per year – a 50% decrease – but would nevertheless cause atmospheric CO2 to increase steadily, only slightly delaying the long-term catastrophic scenario.

      So, why stabilizing human population (ideally heading towards a steady reduction to more reasonable levels) is necessary, without eliminating fossil fuels and replacing them with wind/solar/storage, the climate picture remains essentially unchanged.

      1. JohnnyGL

        Thanks for this. I’ve seen way too many comments for ‘population control’. If we take them as gospel, we end up with hopelessness and a ‘solution’ of forced sterilizations and genocide.

        Also, birth rates are falling in most places, some quite rapidly. Perhaps not rapidly enough, but it takes awhile to turn the titanic of human civilization.

  4. cojo

    One point this article doesn’t address is soil contamination in urban settings. Specifically, heavy metal contamination due to leaded gasoline exhaust, coal fired power plants, as well as previous industrial sites. The amount of lead and other heavy metals can vary from block to block, and any serious effort at urban gardening needs to test for this and mitigate the soil if possible. Worse, if the contamination is heavy, the soil is considered toxic waste and can be a nightmare to remove. One interesting solution is hydroponic farming on building facades and terraced farming which allows for better control of soil/nutrient conditions. This of course is more expensive and technically challenging but still may be worth it.

    1. cocomaan

      Many of these are indoor hydroponic vertical gardens under LED grow lights. So there’s no soil medium. It’s basically using clandestine marijuana grow op technology to do indoor gardening.

      Even with LEDs, though, you have all the problems of indoor gardens – power consumption, heat/ventilation, needing constant and uninterrupted power in order to keep root mass alive in the solution, filtration to keep out pathogens, and human labor on the plants themselves. It’s a process that requires lots of amperage.

      Plus it’s mostly lettuce. Some do tomatoes and strawberries. It’s nice, but it’s not going to fight hunger until they start producing proteins, like legumes, and oils.

      1. nonsense factory

        “Plus, it’s mostly lettuce. . .”

        Exactly what I was thinking. It is nice to have fresh produce (I’d invest in bringing in some truckloads of composted soil from an organic farm, myself, if I had the space, and grow in planters), but there’s no way you can even come close to feeding a city with urban farming.

        The actual numbers, in terms of land area needed per person to grow enough food to feed that person for a year, is about a hectare, two football fields. It’s less if all-vegetarian, and varies with productivity of the soil, access to fertilizer and water for irrigation, but that’s a decent benchmark number, one agricultural hectare per person.

        With truly intensive agriculture and a starvation diet, one hectare can produce enough rice to feed about 20 people, but a rice-only diet is pretty bleak, leading to various nutritional diseases, and that’s the absolute upper limit, assuming optimal sunlight, fertilizer and water.

        1. cocomaan

          Unfortunately, I was watching this stupid video on youtube where the vegan producer claims that vegans need 1/6th of an acre a year in order to fulfill their dietary needs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvV_vGFJa6s&feature=youtu.be

          Which just sounded crazy to me, but apparently comes from the Diet for a Small Planet. Having planted food on 1 and a half arable acres, I know from experience that my wife and I would starve to death if we tried to live off that land alone. I imagine Lappe means for that figure to account for eocnomies of scale, but even then, it must also be accounting for a mediterranean climate.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      In addition to the soil contamination the post doesn’t have much to say about the zoning and planning problems or the ownership problems with urban farming. Try planting a tree somewhere without permission and I then I’m not sure how many authorities might require their permission. Even the suburbs are less than farming friendly — unless you want to farm regularly cut and trimmed grass with an occasional tree planted far enough from power lines and your neighbor’s fence. And what about some of the air pollution in our cities? Plants do help clean up the air — but I’m not sure I want to eat plants growing in the air wafting around parts of New Jersey or blowing from New Jersey into the streets of NYC.

      Instead of waxing poetic about the beauties and advantages of urban farming I think it might be time to change a few ordinances and create a few new rights and laws to support urban farming. It is also past time to initiate programs to compost organic wastes to create new soil in support of urban farming as it starts off. This would require strict management of what wastes are composted. And maybe in addition to promoting urban farming why not create the legal and structural scaffolding for fast-growing deciduous vines to modify the climate inside city buildings. Of course — it might be nice if we had some form of working government working for the Common Good.

  5. Michael

    With reported Arctic methane levels at 2764 ppb on January 1, 2018 (normal background 500 ppb), and average global methane levels around 1800 ppb it appears to me that we are about to enter into a very dynamic period of human history.

    The choice of people will be to migrate to locations perceived to be more survivable, based upon water, soil, sun, and possibly power, or attempt to adapt to their current surroundings. Due to migration, many desired locations will in turn become more crowded and more susceptible to food supply disruptions. One fundamental problem with migration is that families give up their local connections and corresponding advantages and become more vulnerable to local exploitation.

    If the basic above mentioned requirements are present, sheltering in place becomes more realistic, given the sufficient infrastructure. Such technological advancements as cheap LED technology, vertical gardens are looking more attractive, as shown by a NASA study with yields up to three times that of ordinary sunlight.

    In my opinion our willingness to invest in infrastructure such as urban gardens will be key to our survival in the upcoming period. It should be pointed out that other societies, such as China are already making such investments.

    1. Wukchumni

      One of the reasons we’re in this location is access to water, all you could ever want, thanks to the 1st National Snowbank of the Sierra.

      As an added bonus, one of the 1st hydroelectric systems in the state is here also, and has been supplying power for about 120 years now.

    2. cocomaan

      I looked at the NASA paper. There’s a little more to it than that. For instance:

      “In the glasshouse we currently use high pressure sodium vapor lamps and these are quite expensive in terms of the electricity demand,” says Hickey. “In our paper we demonstrate that wheat and barley populations can be grown at a density of about 900 plants per square meter, thus in combination with LED light systems, this presents an exciting opportunity to scale up the operation for industry use.”

      Sheltering in place with high sodium vapor lamps made in… where? Note that they were using these high intensity lamps and simply using LED as a supplement. Plus, where are the LED factories? And who is building the materials for this custom greenhouse? If we’ve got a refugee crisis like the king you’re talking about, I don’t see how people think that kind of amperage combined with electronics typically made overseas is somehow sustainable. It seems anything but and is a little too Consumer Electronics Show/techno-saviorism for my taste.

      Arable soil is out there. It just requires people get on their hands and knees to start to till it. But at the moment, we don’t value that labor.

  6. The Rev Kev

    There may be one other factor to bring up and that is to build a resiliency into today’s society. Back in the 1990s Russia was facing collapse as the whole place had been turned over to the tender mercies of the neoliberals and Harvard elites. Life expectancy actually dropped like a rock but there was one thing that saved a lot of people and that was gardens – yeah, food gardens.
    It seems that they were a common thing for Russians to have and even the big blocks of flats had their own food gardens around them. They were everywhere and it kept people going in those desperate times. Does that mean that I think that there is going to be an economic collapse and that may make having gardens be a wise idea? Maybe. See the page at http://longnow.org/seminars/02009/feb/13/social-collapse-best-practices/
    Then again I don’t expect accidents to my home or car but I still keep up the insurance policies.

  7. Dan Lynch

    The article is BS unless you want to live on a diet of lettuce.
    But …. if we passed a law requiring suburban lawns to be converted to vegetable gardens and chicken coops, that really would make a difference.

    1. David, by the lake

      Or simply allowing those who wanted to have gardens to have them. I’ve been trying to get front-yard gardening permitted in my city for over a year now — it is like pulling teeth. “But my neighbor might grow corn!”

      1. Oregoncharles

        We grew corn in our front yard, in Albuquerque. Also potatoes, etc. It was a fairly rough neighborhood; nobody cared. We planted tall flowers and the corn at the very front, by the sidewalk; the only vandalism was white dots spray-painted on the most exposed sunflower leaves. Rather decorative. Apparently we were widely known as the “psychedelic garden.”

        Nothing except cactus grows without water in Albuquerque; we figured we couldn’t eat grass, unless it was corn.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Ha. That’s an example of stacking functions; the tall flowers and corn provide a privacy screen/API to the town, in addition to their other functions as food, beauty, home/food for birds and pollinators, etc.

  8. paul lebow

    Yes – urban and vertical farming are important tools – but we always seem to be fascinated with the latest techno-fixes when the solution lies within us. Reports by the UN FAO – Food and Agriculture Organization, which is a heavy promotor of livestock and animal agriculture, estimates that animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas (GHG) emission than the entire transportation sector (cars, trucks, planes, trains, shipping..). The less biased World Bank report performed by true environmental assessment experts pushes that number up beyond 51% of all GHG emissions when using livestock respiration as an analysis proxy. This is due in part to the tremendous amount of land used specifically for growing animal feed.
    These technological solutions involve efforts that you, as an individual, can do absolutely nothing about. On the other hand, changing what you eat will have profound effects on sustainability and reversing climate change. There is an accelerating trend toward veganism from the standpoint of adhering to progressive ethics (lifting cognitive dissonance) as well as reversing the health crisis we face. Going vegan is the one thing we as individuals can do that will have the most profound and immediate impact on the future of society.

    1. nonsense factory

      I like the vegan diet but these sorts of claims are simply not justified. The major factor in climate change is fossil fuels; and 8 billion vegans relying on fossil fuels for energy and consuming those fossil fuels at the same per capita rate that Americans do, that would mean, ah, let’s see – 2 billion people consuming fossil fuels at 5 metric tons (American rate) per year, that equals current total global emissions. If 8 billion people tried to burn fossil fuels at the American rate, that would mean a four-fold increase in fossil fuel emissions, vegan or not.

      The bottom line is, the fossil fuels have to stay in the ground. This means, most likely, steep increases in costs of international shipping, so a trend towards more local food production, and much less meat/dairy consumption.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Meat consumption in the US doubled after WWII. Pesticide use increased a lot more than that. Eating so much meat isn’t good for us; excess protein is a factor in osteoporosis, for example.

        Properly, animals in agriculture serve to convert stuff we can’t or would rather not eat into stuff we can use; grass for meat or milk, and so on. to the degree we’re feeding animals grain, we’re doing it wrong. If animal agriculture is done that way, there’s a net gain. Most of the energy use is in growing grains that are then fed, inefficiently, to animals.

        1. Lambert Strether

          I think it’s best to think of meat as a condiment. I learned to eat in Montréal, and there, at least at the better establishments (i.e., not La Belle Province) meat and vegetables are given equal status in terms of both portion size and plate arrangement. That’s preferable to the American style of a giant slab of protein surrounded by tiny heaps of plant matter.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Yes. IF . . . the meat is from animals fed on pasture and range. Pasture and range under animals sucks down more net carbon than what the animals emit. The more pasture and range fed meat we eat, the more we subsidize pasture-and-range growers and managers to suck down more carbon into more land in pasture and range under all those livestock.

            The carbon emissions “from livestock” are strictly due to growing industrial grain to feed to industrial livestock in megamass confinement. The UN for some reason blurs that distinction. Perhaps the UN has a hidden corporate agenda of cultural genocide against all the remaining pastoral nomads of the earth . . . shut down their pastoralism and seize and enclosure all their lands to give to big corporations. Perhaps that is why the UN very carefully and deliberately elides the difference between cattle on range as against cattle in feedlots.

            1. Paul Lebow

              Well y’all are using seat-of-the-pants reasoning and dismissing the work of well respected environmental analysts who do this for a living. For instance, excess fossil fuel usage due to animal agriculture IS one of the hundreds of factors included in the studies. This includes the refrigeration required to transport and store animal flesh to slow the rotting process. It is a myth that animals convert what we can’t eat to what we can. In fact pastureland displaces cropland. Grass-fed livestock represents completely unsustainable boutique food for white neo-progressives. The amount of food calories per acre from plants is on average 10x that of livestock – cattle are extremely inefficient converters of energy from food. The oceans are depleted due to overfishing.

              Visualize this: “A 212-page online report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says 26 percent of the earth’s terrestrial surface is used for livestock grazing. One-third of the planet’s arable land is occupied by livestock feed crop cultivation. ” Smithsonian Magazine – not your typical vegan propaganda rag.

              And you think livestock is not the major player in climate change and scarcity of food to feed the world?

  9. Eclair

    The problem I see with everyone becoming vegan is one of location. Farms and gardens in warm climates with year-round growing seasons can produce enough calories to keep a human going. However, I am skeptical that populations in cold climates (like Minneapolis, Buffalo, Rapid City, SD) can get enough calories from veggies and grains and legumes to ward off the cold. Assuming that turning the thermometer up to 80 degrees will no longer be an option.

    Fat is a calorie dense food. And it really makes food taste better. Most veggies, grains and legumes don’t contain a lot of fat .. if any. Cold weather cultures evolved using animals and animal products as an efficient source of calorie-dense food: meat, eggs, milk and cheese products.

    Many of our environmental degradation problems today evolve from our wretched factory farming systems, bolstered by misguided government supports for growing thousands of acres of feed corn and soy, that rely on increasingly large inputs of fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. And don’t even talk to me about the insanity of growing corn to turn into fuel!

    1. cocomaan

      I was a vegetarian for 25 years. I was also overweight and generally unhealthy during that time, having to consume a lot of food, especially carbs, in order to feel full. I also suffered from depression, which may or may not have been related.

      Since I’ve switched over to a diet with meat and eggs, I’ve lost weight and feel better most of the time.

      The factory farming system, it seems to me, is an artifact of a wartime economy. The time in which it really reached its heyday, the 50s and 60s, was the time in which people who had survived the [Depression/bread lines/dust bowl/WW2] knew what it was like to have a country without enough food in it.

    2. cojo

      Couple of points to help one over the winter months. Nuts are a great source of calories, essential fat, and micro-nutrients and store well in the winter. Another option that has been used for generations is dried fruit, pickling of vegetables, and canning of fruit vegetables as well as making of jam’s and marmalade’s. Finally, you can salt and dry meats as well (jerk) for extra protein. Of course, one has to have some experience with this to avoid spoilage and poisoning, and I would recommend having a fallback plan (local grocery store) if you were to seriously try something like this for a long winter, but it can be done.

    3. citizendave

      Many of us have succeeded in maintaining a vegan regimen through long northern latitude winters. According to Happy Cow, Edmonton has three vegan restaurants. Milwaukee has a few exclusively vegan restaurants. Chicago has many.

      An interesting question pertaining to the article is how to go about sustaining a plant-based diet through the winter via local urban farming. Here in SE Wisconsin we have a company who has begun to use part of their winter-time idle greenhouse space to grow “microgreens”, mostly sprouts. Currently they use all available space for nursery and garden plants during the warm season. But they see an economic potential to grow other types of vegetables, perhaps devoting new greenhouse space to full-time vegetable production.

      We’re working to build an urban co-operative grocery store, and part of our purpose is to provide a market for local food producers in our traditionally agricultural region. Competition with factory-grown food-like substances requires education in the marketplace to show why “cheap” and “good” are mutually exclusive.

      We don’t see a way to grow all of our own food on our city lot, especially through the winter. But we have guarded hope for our local nursery’s microgreen operation, and we admire Will Allen’s “Growing Power” in Milwaukee.

    4. Paul Lebow

      I find this completely baffling. Its not like Minneapolis is a remote city in Northern Canada. The trucks that bring in dead animals to eat can also carry fruit, nuts and vegetables from around the world. Vegans who eat healthy diets have no problem getting enough fat and protein to live 10 to 14 years longer than average American meat-eaters (See the Seventh Day Adventist Health Study-2)

      Those who fail on what they claim to be “vegan” diets are usually uninformed when it comes to nutrition and feed themselves junk food.

      There is so much scientific literature out there that show causality not merely correlation – interventional studies where people are actually fed controlled diets. The results are unequivocal. A vegan diet consisting of nuts, legumes, greens, fruits is the most healthy. Eating meat, dairy, fish and eggs will lead to premature death and disease.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Correlation is not causation. When you adjust for other lifestyle factors, vegans do not live much longer if at all longer. For instance, Seventh Day Adventists are also teetoatlers and don’t smoke.

        It’s absolutely true that vegetarians live longer (at least among Seventh Day Adventists, the target group of the study). In fact, in this study, vegetarians live six to nine years longer, which is a huge effect. But vegetarians are also more likely to exercise, be married, smoke less and drink less alcohol—all factors that also contribute to a longer life. The actual causal relationship between becoming vegetarian and living longer is unclear, and is certainly smaller than the correlation might seem to suggest….. By far the most likely culprit for the health costs of eating meat is red meat: rich in saturated fat and carnatine.


        1. Paul Lebow

          Instead of shooting from the hip – do you really believe the researchers are dumb enough not to control for confounding parameters? The comparison is among Adventists who do and do not eat animal products. You are perfectly fine with the population studies that demonstrate smokers have much shorter life expectancies than non-smokers, no?

          BTW the pop article you reference was written by an “ethicist” ,Will MacAskill, not a scientist. His ethics are great since he realizes that eating eggs is more cruel than eating meat:
          (I’m sure you agree given the frequent displays of animals on this site :-)
          I am fine with his ethics – but, as a scientist, I question his understanding of these types of studies.

          1. Kengferno

            I followed the link in the qz article to a Huffpost article about the study (Adventist Health Study 2) which said,

            Vegetarian Adventist men live to an average of 83.3 years and vegetarian women 85.7 years — 9.5 and 6.1 years, respectively, longer than other Californians, Fraser explained.

            So, no, it actually doesn’t look like the researchers controlled for confounding parameters as that wasn’t the point of the study.

            1. Paul Lebow

              I remember when writing high school term papers that relying on secondary sources was frowned upon. Read the study not the Huff Post. Confounding factors were heavily considered.

  10. EoH

    That individuals and small groups can accomplish great things with urban farming and small animal raising is tremendously important.

    It’s affected by few government regulations – although soil contaminants with things like heavy metals can be a significant issue. It can be done on a single plot or scaled up, not on larger areas but with many people controlling and repeating the same model, often with variations that generate repeatable improvements. It supplements the dearth of local grocery stores. It can be done with sweat equity and little money, and when foods are consumed where raised, avoids transport costs.

    It also goes against the American tendency towards single, expensive, massively scaled projects, the big home run. Using many, small-scaled projects could more reliably achieve the same end, with far greater resilience. And it doesn’t lend itself easily to being hoovered up by private equity – a major plus. We need to experiment with a similar approach to local power generation using renewables.

  11. Jean

    Suburbs can be the best of both worlds. Cohousing in what were once extravagant single family homes of approximately 1,500 square feet coupled with large back and front yards can produce lots of fruit and vegetables to say nothing of chickens, ducks and vines.

    David Holmgren’s books on suburban permaculture are the definitive manual on this.

    What’s sad is the destruction of suburbs built in the 1950s to 1970s and their replacement with underground parking garage provided medium rise “transit oriented developments.” Problem is people living in such hives may not work or more likely will drive to jobs far away, plus the homes the formerly lived in will have new commuters living in them

    The developer controlled California state legislature has passed recent laws forcing towns to accept such architectural fiats within one mile of any transit station. And the rest of suburbia is targeted as well to address the “housing crisis”. They look to the many perceived obstacles that have inhibited housing development there. With a slew of legislation just passed in September 2017, they have bulldozed and dispensed with many of these obstacles, such as:

    Architectural design review
    Consideration of traffic impacts
    Consideration of school impacts
    Consideration of impacts on infrastructure
    Community input
    Local Council approval
    Environmental review


  12. Rhea

    I was just talking with someone who studies soil at the University of Minnesota. She was telling me a major obstacle for urban farming in Minneapolis is property taxes. If we can get different tax rates for urban farms that would be very helpful. I just purchased a home with a double lot so I can have chickens, fruit trees, and a huge garden. But it’s an extra $1000 a year in property taxes. I can’t imagine saving $1000 a year on the food I grow but the value of growing my own food is not about money. It’s about eating clean, nutritious, local food, and being partially self sufficient.

    Urban pollution is a real thing (Minneapolis had to replace the topsoil on 100s of lots due to historical arsenic pollution). However, I don’t think it’s nearly as much of a concern as glyphosate (Roundup) which is a poison that’s all over everyone’s food.

    A vision I have for the future: When we can no longer maintain all the roads and no one has personal cars, how about we remove the side streets and turn this into farmland with paths for bicycles and carts? :)

  13. James Trigg

    I do not eat much processed food but still produce lots of garbage. I could do better but it does take a lot of time and effort. In the 70’s I knew a hippy who brought my mom a box of produce which my mom bought no matter what was in the box. It was good for us and also felt good but he sure did work hard, took a lot of trouble and made very little money. Urban gardens sound good where regulations let them set up. Now to be negative. City planners will not let them thrive and Do Gooders always loose steam. Will city farmers be in it for the long haul. How do you finance a city wage. How will you control theft? Go for it any way I am just a mean old man. PS I wonder if a lowlife low cost hippy farm on the outskirts of town would work. Non organic cheap food shipped into the city by retired Do Gooders.

  14. drumlin woodchuckles

    I printed a comment which failed to appear. Perhaps it was too big. I will write something way smaller.

    Farmer Gabe Brown of North Dakota has a lecture on you tube, findable under . . .
    Gabe Brown: Keys To Building A Healthy Soil. Worth finding. Worth watching.

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