Did you know that over 20% of the food in the world is produced by urban farms?
If this number sounds INSANELY high. That's because well ... it is.
How did urban farming pick up so much steam, so fast?
How is it possible the commercial vertical farming market is expected to grow over 380% by 2022?
If these stats convince you urban farming is a good idea, great.
If you're not convinced...If you're still asking yourself: Why should I learn more about urban farming??
The answer is simple.
There are an incredible amount of advantages urban farmers have over conventional agriculture.
Curious to know about the many benefits of urban farming?
According to the United States Farm Bureau, only 1 in 50 American citizens have any farming experience (2%).
That means the average person on the street is far more likely to have other interesting skills like speaking a foreign language (over 15% of Americans are bilingual, and over 50% of Europeans are).
By learning urban farming you are developing a very unique skill.
Urban farming utilizes space incredibly efficiently. This is especially true in the case of vertical farming.
For example, Vertical Harvest, one of the largest commercial vertical farms in the US, grows the same amount of produce on 1/10 of an acre that traditional agriculture would need 5 acres to produce.
The output of most urban farms are vegetables, typically loose leaf lettuces, herbs, or brassicas.
According to Choosemyplate.gov, health benefits of produce are almost unbeatable, including:
1) vegetables do not have cholesterol
2) vegetables are high in fiber
3) vegetables are sources of many nutrients including: potassium, folate, Vitamin A & Vitamin C
Food Insecurity: an economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. (Source)
According to the USDA, 1 in 7 Americans suffers from food insecurity, and this figure includes over 6 million children.
Urban farming can help alleviate some of the pressures of food insecurity. For example, urban farms set up in food deserts can be a source of nutritious food for nearby urban residents.
According to helpguide.org, organic produce:
- contains less pesticides than conventional
- contain less fertilizer than conventional
- are more fresh than conventional
Growing in your own home in some ways is the most organic way to grow - in some urban farming set ups you may need almost no pesticides or fertilizer, and the produce could not be more fresh.
If you are growing indoors in a controlled environment, your growing season is not restricted by unpredictable weather conditions.
Weather conditions like unexpected cold temperature or drought cost traditional agriculture billions of dollars per year in lost yield.
According to ACS.org, "Some analyses have suggested that bringing agriculture into cities has lowered food-related greenhouse gas emissions".
That being said, the same study linked above *does* emphasize that the greenhouse gas emission savings provided by urban farming are often overestimated, especially in high density urban farming areas in the Northeastern United States (New York, Boston, etc).
On a common sense level, putting in the time to grow your own fresh fruits and vegetables is going to have a cheaper unit cost than going to buy at the grocery store.
The reason for this is simple:
Grocery store produce is heavily marked up. According to this article from Chron, grocery stores mark up the cost of their produce by up to 75%, that's almost a 2x increase that you pay.
Beyond that, a lot of the original cost of the produce comes from transportation. The result? Growing yourself is way cheaper on average.
In a UC-Davis report on the benefits of urban agriculture, it was stated,
"studies correlate urban farms and community gardens to increasing home values and household income...The presence of gardens raised property values as much as 9.4% within five years of establishment"
Because of the overlapping social, economic, and ecological aspects that urban farming relates to (see figure), there is a correlation between areas with urban farming projects and socioeconomic diversity, according to this study from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
Food miles are defined as the distance from where your food is grown or produced to where you eat it.
Food miles for local produce that is produced from an urban garden or farm can be less than .001% the distance that grocery store (and even restaurant) produce travels from "farm to fork".
Think about it this way, if you're growing in your own home, we're not even talking about food "miles" anymore, we're talking about food "feet"!
Urban and vertical farming are experiencing triple digit year over year growth, and it isn't slowing down soon.
According to AgHires, the vertical urban farming market is expected to grow by over 384% in the next 5 years. That's over 30.8% year over year growth!
While some vertical farming operations require tons of investment into infrastructure, the majority of urban farming production comes from small CSA-size or smaller growers, according to this article from Ensia.com, the amount of infrastructure cost needed for a basic urban garden set up with a greenhouse or indoor growing is less than conventional agriculture.
Commercial urban farms received more funding in 2016 than any previous year in history in the United States.
If you are searching for grant funding as an urban farmer, your odds of success will only increase in the future, at this rate.
More info on USDA grant funding for urban agriculture
According to a Psychology Today article titled "Plants Make You Feel Better", presence of plants indoors or in your garden:
- Lowers systolic blood pressure
- Lowers levels of anxiety
- Increases job satisfaction
So...if you hate your job...you need to start urban farming!
If you are harvesting your food from an urban farm, you may be able to completely do away with packaging.
Why is this a HUGE benefit?
Packaging is one of the most harmful environmental pollutants that exist in the planet. According to this article on Livestrong, titled "The Advantages and Disadvantages of Food Packaging", while packaging has benefits like increasing shelf-life, there are also huge disadvantages:
"According to Duke University researchers Patrick Reaves and Michael Nolan, consumer packaging accounts for the largest amount of plastic and paper waste, which forms 20 % of all landfills"
Urban Farming = packaging not necessary = benefit.
Large scale outbreaks of salmonella or other contaminants is largely a bi-product of the overwhelming distance and processing food undergoes.
According to the (WHO) world health organization, "Foodborne illnesses are usually infectious or toxic in nature and caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water"
With increasing supply chain length comes higher risk of contamination.
When urban farming, you have ultimate control over things like:
- growing conditions
- harvesting time
- light exposure
When you go to the grocery store, it's a "take it or leave it" situation that you have very little control over. If you really want a carrot but all the carrots are heavily bruised, you either buy a bruised carrot or don't get any carrot.
Because you can "harvest and eat" with urban farming, there is no disconnect between your produce supply and the amount you eat.
The majority of food waste at the consumer level occurs because produce that is already purchased goes bad. If you only harvest what you are about to eat, you will waste far less.
According to a 2013 study from UC Davis (also cited above), "Community gardens and urban farms create safe spaces to recreate and improve the ... general concern for others in the neighborhood".
Essentially, urban farms are basically the opposite of the Broken Window Theory, defined as,
"a criminological theoryof the norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior".
For all the broken windows in cities, we need more urban farms!
The majority of humans, across all cultures and backgrounds, find the sight of plants to be aesthetically pleasing.
This data from Format magazine suggests that plants are one of the most popular subjects of artwork of all time.
No wonder so many urban faming companies take such amazing high resolution photos of their systems!
There are entire websites, like Inhabitat, which are devoted to urban farming themed agriculture.
If you are an architect, you have endless opportunities and examples for integrating urban farming into your designs.
One of the defining features of any city is it's architecture, so all of the integration possibilities are a huge plus for city planners and designers.
As you can see by this Pinterest Board on urban farming projects across the world, urban farming is gaining steam in areas all across the world.
Just to name a few!
What does this mean?
No matter where you are, you can likely find other people in your city who are into urban farming!
Many styles of growing that are popular in urban agriculture are far more efficient with water than general agriculture.
For example, according to Lucky Roots, hydroponic systems can use 2/3 less water than what would normally be needed for the same amount of output.
Based off data from this article on Bayeradvanced.com, titled "The 5 Benefits of House Plants", having any type of plant in your house will aid in air purification.
In fact, this phenomenon has been studied so deeply that we know certain types of plants purify air better than others. For more information on specific plant types check this link.
According to an article from Scientific American titled "Houseplants Make You Smarter", large sets of data show that plants increase focus and attention span.
Humans evolved in settings with far more plants than the computer screens most people are glued to in today's day and age.
While too much screen exposure is typically harmful for attention span and focus capacity over, presence of plants results in the opposite effects.
Listen up kids, if you didn't do so well on that last test, you may need to do a little urban farming!
According to a recent article from Treehugger, the presence of plants in your house or garden does play a role in preventing onset of illness.
This does not take into account the fact that simply eating more produce is proven to prevent illness in multiple studies.
Not convinced? Check this study from Harvard.
Have you ever heard of brassica?
According to Wikipedia, it is one of the most common types of vegetables by humans, including things like:
- and brussel sprouts
hell, even mustard seeds come from brassica, so without brassica there's no mustard.
What's the point?
The fact that a plant is a brassica has implications for how it is grown. You learn this type of information if you try urban farming, and as a result, you have a better knowledge of what you eat.
After all this data....
You're probably wondering: what other benefits could there be?
The biggest benefit is this: with urban farming, you can grow:
- what you want to grow
- how you want to grow it
- where you want to grow
Ultimately, this is a very powerful freedom of expression.
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