“Urban agriculture is about food reliance: it involves creating work and is a reaction to food insecurity, particularly for the poor… Many who move to urban areas do not find the jobs and opportunities they seek. Therefore, adopting UA is a common survival strategy used by the poor not only to deal with food security and poverty, but also to organise with fellow citizens and improve the quality of life of their communities.” Mark Redwood
I had the good fortune to intern with FareShare in late 2014 and saw first hand the amazing work they do to rescue food that would otherwise end up in landfill, and cook 1 million+ meals to feed those in need in and around Melbourne.
If that wasn’t challenging enough, FareShare has recently announced a new project, to grow its own significant quantities of fresh vegetables and produce on vacant land found within the city boundaries.
This need exists because urban expansion and the evolution of globalised, industrial-scale agriculture and food supply chains have led to the virtual disappearance of agriculture from many cities. Consequently, many cities face huge logistical challenges in importing food from distant locations and are left vulnerable to changes in food production in these locations, to rises in food transport costs or disruptions to the supply chain. The resulting reliance on imported food has a large social cost, as poor urban residents are the most vulnerable and have the greatest difficulty in accessing affordable food, along with significant environmental impacts.
The potential benefits of supporting urban agriculture are huge:
- Creation of greater food security, and employment, especially for the poor
- Saving of transportation and infrastructure costs
- Mental health and wellbeing
- Social capital and community pride
Worldwide examples of urban agriculture include:
The urban environment doesn’t need to be a barren, soulless place. Far from it, as cities become increasingly more dense and complex, food as a force for restoration, nourishment and replenishment will only become more important to the people and communities that inhabit our cities. When combined with other key elements such as nature and water, we can create a holistic and synergistic approach promoting health and wellbeing, vibrancy, biodiversity, and an urban metabolism that mimics nature.
Newsflash: If this wasn’t enough, FareShare have announced a new initiative, ‘The Garden Collective’, with three pilot schools (Fitzroy High, Northcote High and Glenroy Neighbourhood Learning Centre) all contributing food from their harvests to the FareShare kitchen. Another great example of combining community resources to achieve a more sustainable city.