Many environmental experts feel that urban farming and agriculture can transform our urban landscapes and can improve the quality of urban environments. Though urban farming is looked upon chiefly as a recreational activity, it can have several benefits at the community level and can help to improve quality of life and stem degradation of urban environments.
We look at what urban farming and agriculture is and how it is practiced. We also explore its benefits and whether it can make a real difference.
What is urban farming?
There is of course your herb garden in the kitchen and the kitchen garden in the rear yard that can be termed as urban farming. But this is a term that has grown to encompass several other types of farming as well. The use of grow-bags (leading to creation of the term “bagiculture”) to grow crops in densely populated cities is one such.
More particularly urban farming refers to the use of vacant lots to actually create agricultural produce and by locating farming endeavors in and around cities. Not only idle land within cities, this type of farming also utilizes community gardens, rooftops, window sills and any available space. Concepts such as organic farming, rain water conservation and storm-water capture can be encapsulated within urban farming.
Benefits of urban farming
Firstly there is an optimum utilization of vacant land; particular areas where commercial utilization is either impossible or not allowed.
Then there is the fact that farms create green islands in a sea of concrete masses. This helps to improve air quality of the area.
Another positive impact is that urban farming also helps to mitigate what is often referred to as the “urban heat island effect”. This refers to the fact that cities are typically warmer than surrounding areas rural and even suburban areas. Studies have demonstrated that green rooftops can help lower temperatures.
Farms can help with water conservation, helping retain water and rerouting it to underground water tables rather than causing it to run off as it would on concrete and other man made surfaces.
Urban farms allow city people to consume local produce. It can reduce costs that become added to food due to the need to transport produce over long distances. The energy consumed in transporting produce from rural farms to city shops is also saved.
Another benefit is that more green patches in our cities are quite simply more attractive. Also urban farming makes for a wonderfully relaxing method of recreation.