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3 New Ways To Grow Food In Urban Environments

It’s a long road from farm to fork. The year now is 2014…. looking back 30-40 years the distance between our food sources and where we live was much shorter. It makes sense that with more and more people living in cities, and urban sprawl taking affect that the distance between our homes and the farms which our food comes from gets further and further away. This added distance is just one reason why the costs of our foods are increasing.

The transportation of  food hundreds or thousands of miles isn’t just expensive — it has a real impact on the environment. Our future population centers should look to grow much of their own food locally, creating new urban jobs while reducing the environmental impact. Think about all the urban spaces which can be utilized for growing food.

Individually in our own homes we might be able to do some raised bed gardening or container gardening, but those that live in apartments or buildings without any direct sunlight available will need to be a little more creative. We need to go past the individual and instead look at building things together in communities. 

Here are three ways which we can grow our food a little closer to the fork and not only decrease our costs of food, but probably increase the health and cleanliness as well.

Rooftop Gardens

Rooftop gardens are popping up everywhere these days. They have been established all over the world to enable growing food in dense urban areas. It’s great way to use space which is generally underutilized. Imagine a tall tree in the forest getting the best light from the sun. Tall buildings do the same thing by gathering the best sunlight, why not add a garden on top of these buildings? A great example is Brooklyn Grange, where they have the largest and second largest rooftop gardens in the world, in Brooklyn and Queens, New York.

brooklyn grange rooftop

Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Garden

In Japan, they are doing things a little differently by opening  a whole new kind of an urban rooftop farm. Soradofarm is an urban agriculture project that utilizes the rooftops of train stations to allow for urban gardens so that waiting train passengers can use their transfer time to relax and practice their gardening skills. Commuters can jump out of their busy lifestyles for a few moments to grow some fresh food. 

Vertical Farms

Vertical farms are a great way to utilize unused space to provide a great growing environment. “Growing upward will require less land, an important consideration as urban populations continue to increase”, says Dickson Despommier, who is a professor of public health in environmental health sciences at Columbia University and an advocate for vertical farms.

vertical farm functioning

Vertical farming is very young, and a new concept, but we’re sure it will continue to develop and improve in time as more and more people focus their attention on it and almost out of necessity figure out different ways of growing vertically since it’s such an underutilized aspect of growing.

You can find many futuristic vertical farm plans and designs which look very promising. It’s a sign of things to come as we head into the future.

Guerilla Gardening

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA, in abandoned lots, traffic medians, and along the curbs. But why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.” Check out his TED talk on the subject and find out another interesting way to utilize space in an urban environment which you probably never thought of before. 

Have you seen any other ideas for utilizing spaces in urban environments which food could and should be grown? Feel free to leave anything in the comments below.
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