Since the turn of the 20th century, Americans have steadily moved from farms to cities. The country was 95 percent rural in 1900. Today, 81 percent of Americans live in metropolitan areas. It is predicted that 70% of the entire world will be urban by 2050.
How will we feed, clothe, shelter, and educate these steadily swelling urban populations?
For most of human history, food was produced within walking distance of where it was consumed—a way of life in which people maintained a direct connection with the land and their food. Urbanization and the industrialization of food production have rendered this a distant memory for most of us.
Too many households abound in areas that have little or no access to healthy fruits and vegetables. Most of our food is grown from genetically modified and hybrid seeds, sprayed with chemicals and shipped to us from around the world. Quality food is the most important part of being healthy and we are not getting it.
Consumption of fast foods is killing us. We’re eating 31 percent more packaged and processed food than fresh fruits and vegetables. We are consuming more packaged food per person than people in nearly any other country. And food insecurity is growing.
We live in the richest country in the history of the world. Americans spend considerably more on healthcare than any other country. Yet, too many of our children are unhealthy. Our elderly are sicker for longer periods of time. We are paying too much money for the nutrition-depleted food we are consuming
Urbanization of the world makes bringing agriculture to our cities, not just a good idea, but essential. Agriculture is the foundation of life, as we know it. It is what led to our contemporary human societies. “There is no culture without agriculture.” Civilization began when humans settled in one place and started growing crops. We cannot live without a system that grows our food. We cannot flourish without healthy food.
Think about it. We’ve become so accustomed to easily accessible food we don’t even consider how it’s grown, who grows it, and what that means for our future.
Many of us, however, are changing this paradigm, and it has to do with this: Urban Agriculture!
A local food system is an integrated process that brings healthy food to everyone in our community and spurs economic growth. Urban agriculture is a social design centered on natural food production in the city.
In the city of the future we will no longer jump in our cars, burn fossil fuels to go and buy “food” grown with mechanical arms on farms far away. In this social design, we will walk to a farm or garden in our neighborhoods to get fresh, nutritious food harvested by urban growers that we know personally. We will no longer pass empty lots and blighted properties that are havens for crime. We will eat, work and play close to home, in safe beautiful spaces. Urban agriculture empowers people with food self-sufficiency, maintains stewardship over the environment and builds a sense of community
Just as farming was the catalyst for the growth of human society, urban farms are catalysts for vibrant, cohesive communities and also engines for our economy. Local food production:
* Provides jobs and business opportunities,
* Circulates dollars locally,
* Encourages education
* Improves property values,
* And most importantly is that it creates neighborhoods, which are attractive to people of all incomes and ethnicities.
This work of urban agriculture educates, employs, empowers and inspires new generations of Americans. And all of it can be done with just a hoe, a rake and a shovel.
Urban agriculture and the development of local food systems is a way to bring city dwellers closer to their farmers and provide an abundance of natural, nutritious food. In the city of the future, wholesome food will be a right for all, not just a privilege for the few.
Urban agriculture transforms both people and places. It is a powerful catalyst for urban renewal and the revitalization of our communities. Urban farms are creating jobs, educating entrepreneurs and consumers, while elevating agriculture as a viable career choice.
Growing food in urban areas will grow remarkable cities. Urban farmers will lead the way.
Rashid Nuri is an organic urban farmer and agricultural educator in Atlanta, Georgia. He brings forty years of experience to this work. Rashid has lived and worked in over 30 countries around the world. He has managed public, private and community-based food and agriculture businesses. Rashid served four years as a Senior USDA Executive in the Clinton administration. He is a graduate of Harvard College, where he studied Political Science, and has a M.S. in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is http://www.trulylivingwell.com/