Growing food in small spaces and urban gardening go hand in hand, no surprise there. But the fact that there are 200 million urban farmers worldwide, supplying food to 700 million people may be a startling revelation to those who equate food production with large rural farms.
According to a fact sheet report from the Food of Agriculture Organization of the United Nations entitled “Feeding Cities, The Role of Urban Agriculture,” the 700 million people urban farmers supply with produce accounts for 12 percent of the world population.
Aside from the obvious benefit of helping to feed a burgeoning world population, urban farms, the newest trend in a greener future, are a source of revenue for under- or unemployed residents. They also provide on-the-job youth training and community education and shorten the journey from farm to plate. And the benefits don’t end there. Urban farms may be small, but they have the potential to impact their local communities in a big way.
Take Detroit, for example. In an article titled “Urban Farms Now Produce One-Fifth Of The World’s Food,” author Elizabeth Royte quotes Michigan State Sustainable Agriculture Professor Michael Hamm, who says the city has more than 10,000 vacant lots that, thanks to the city’s current financial problems, can be purchased for less than the price of a refrigerator. Hamm says he estimates the city could “grow three quarters of its current vegetable consumption and nearly half its fruit consumption on the available parcels of land using biointensive growing methods.”
Urban farms are gaining traction, whether its community gardens, non-profit farms or local food suppliers working out of their backyards. They provide many of the economic, social and environmental advantages communities are looking for. It will be exciting to see what role they play in the future development of local, sustainable food systems.