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Although food production in cities has a long tradition in most parts of the world, the 20th century has seen agriculture in industrialized nations become, almost exclusively, a rural activity.

As urban spaces have become more crowded, land prices have escalated and transportation and storage technology have improved. Therefore a discussion of the subject of urban agriculture may seem an odd topic for a planning department.  However, our current unsustainable patterns of consumption and waste, and persistent hunger and inadequate nutrition in one of the richest countries in the world, are forcing us to examine some new approaches. Urban agriculture could be one of these approaches that forms part of a new direction in food and nutrition policy - one that focuses on health, ecological integrity, job creation and the creation of complete communities . 

Urban agriculture
has the potential to make a significant contribution to the solution of many current urban problems that fall within the rubric of healthy communities and sustainable development.

These include:

  • environmental degradation and ecological restoration
  • resource consumption
  • health and nutrition issues
  • food security and access for lower income citizens
  • ecological education
  • local economic development and diversification
  • community building

All these can be influenced in a profound way by the activity of food production in urban spaces.  Add to that the increased freshness of locally produced food, lower transportation costs, dietary diversification, and responsiveness to local needs and the advantages of producing at least some of our food in cities becomes obvious. This is what makes the prospect of a city full of food gardens and overflowing with the bounty from urban greenhouses so exciting for Vancouver.  Urban agriculture offers an immense opportunity to increase the welfare of all citizens and repair ecological damage and as we shall see a number of initiatives are already underway in this direction .

Food is a complex subject so no single approach is recommended here. A diversity of approaches at different scales is presented that fits the existing configuration of the city as a dense urban space.  Rather than assigning large areas of expensive urban land to food growing this report looks at the potential to grow food in the interstitial and under utilized spaces of the city - it is a greening of the city that emerges from the cracks left in the contemporary asphalt.

Written and researched by:
Rob Barrs

 

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