We often read about the environmental damage and unsustainable practices of modern agriculture. Some people have proposed urban gardens and small farms as a pathway to food resiliency; repairing environmental damage, reducing fossil fuel use, and improving our health and well-being. Others conclude that it takes too much effort; people aren’t going to change; no one wants to slave away in the garden, kitchen, or on the farm; it can’t be done in every country; small farms and gardens can’t feed the world’s population. All these arguments have some merit, but I have found the reality of growing local food becomes quite different once the transformation begins.
I have always believed that wherever climate and conditions favor it, local food production on small farms, in backyards, community gardens, and empty urban lots will become an increasingly important source of fresh food. And if one uses season extension or poly covered tunnels and drip irrigation we can expand the growing area to much wider climate conditions. It’s nice to read scientific research that confirms my thinking, that there are positive benefits and potential from urban agriculture. A news brief recently published by the Earth and Space Science News describes how expanding agriculture into cities could improve food security, ecosystem health, and more. “With more than half of the world’s population currently living in cities, and that percentage expected to increase significantly by 2050, production of food in urban areas may become a necessity and certainly should be considered essential for local resilience.”
Researchers from several universities in the US and China collaborated on the project to measure potential benefits of urban agriculture (UA). They used data collected from satellite imagery (Landsat 5 Collection 1 archive) and compiled results of several variables using Normalized Diﬀerence Vegetation Index (NDVI) computed from a cloud-free median composite of 3 years (2009–2011). They assessed global aggregate ecosystem services from existing vegetation in cities and calculated the potential of UA based on estimates of urban morphology and vacant land. They concluded that “there is the potential of 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 storm water runoff between 45 and 57 billion cubic meters annually. The value of these ecosystem services could be as much as $80 to 160 billion, but there will be significant differences in country-to-country variability.”
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