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Urban farming Gaining Accelerated Popularity

by Chris Ezeh

Urban agriculture is promoted and practised by different groups for different reasons. Consequently, city farming groups do not necessarily offer the same benefits or face the same challenges. We need to differentiate between two broad types of urban agricultural activity. Urban farming seeks to motivate people to use all available space on their city-building like balcony, railings etc t grow food and increace greenry in the city architecture.

First, social service urban agriculture projects are groups growing food in cities primarily to address social concerns, such as community food security, agriculture and food education, and community development. These groups may participate in food sales, but do not aim to run a self-sufficient business. Second, entrepreneurial city farms, although not unconcerned about community food security, education, and community development, primarily aim to demonstrate the viability of a sustainable urban food growing business.

Less ambitious is to make a long list of functions that urban farming performs for the city. Agricultural and urban planners could assess for each function how it is performed and what the constraints and opportunities are in their specific case for improvement.

Just as the planning maps tend to ignore urban agriculture, most literature on urban agriculture treats it as a somewhat special or distorted form because it happens to be located in an urban area. From an agricultural policy point of view urban farming is considered ‘marginal’: something that either can’t last because urban functions will brush it aside or can merely last because it is more of a form of recreation for urban residents.

Simply growing food in cities will not rid them of food insecurity because the power structures that created the food insecurity in the first place will still exist and may even be reinforced. Rather, urban agriculture should be developed as one part of a larger effort to restructure the agrifood system for community food security (Allen, 1999; Power, 1999; Bourque, 2001; Ellis & Sumberg, 1998; Jolly, 1999; Riches, 1999; Hamm & Baron, 1999). In other words, all other methods of combating food insecurity must be accompanied by, not replaced by, urban agriculture in a complex agrifood system (Allen, 1999; Bourque, 2001; Jolly, 1999

Urban agriculture also offers a number of health benefits and poses a few health risks.

Similar to the environmental concerns, the health hazards of city farming are real, but manageable, possibilities. A number of studies indicate that growing food in cities positively impacts both the psychological and physical health of residents. In particular, increasing access to fresh produce offers city residents a more nutritious diet and food security.

However,  all urban agriculture models ensure that such health benefits are equitably distributed throughout the city. While entrepreneurial city farms do increase access to fresh produce for the city in general, the social service urban agriculture groups tend to make an explicit effort to make that food available and affordable to those city residents who lack food security the most.

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