product designer

Eco

Thoughts on Urban Farming & possible directions

For a while now, I have been exploring the social, economic and environmental issues surrounding Urban Farming. Already, I’ve learnt so much about these issues, that a few months ago I didn’t even know existed.

Now that I am starting to recognise directions my product may take, I thought it would be beneficial to summarise my findings so far.

Social

  • Urban gardens not only improve neighbourhoods and home value, but also brings communities together to work on a project which can benefit all.
  • Studies suggest urban farms and community gardens benefit residents; raising neighbourhood value and pride that is associated with their area.
  • Education programs can be implemented to teach residents on how to maintain, improve and reuse their garden and produce the best products they can. Once residents have this skill set, they can share their knowledge with others so they too can create their own urban garden.
  • Urban gardens allow residents to work together, promoting healthy relationships with each other and overcome differences that may be present between them.
  • It provides opportunities for immigrants by enabling to produce food in a small area and sell it to their community.
  • Growing produce locally also educates the community on the health benefits of eating fresh crops.
  • Growing your own fruit and vegetables close to home, means that people have fresh produce readily available and will in fact increase the rate of fruit and veg consumption so they can gain the nutrients they need.
  • People are more likely to eat fresh produce if they have grown it themselves and gives them a sense of pride.

Economic

  •  Local food production keeps money circulating within communities. Purchasing food from corporate supermarket chains, takes money out of communities. Whereas buying local food, they money ends up with local farmers or businesses.
  • Money spent at locally-owned business stimulates more economic transactions, helping to keep cash flowing within communities.
  • The more economic transactions- the more income and work for local businesses.
  • The growing demand for safe, local food is leading to increased opportunity for local food start-ups; which again fuels job creation.
  • Urban farms create new economic value from previous waste streams. In industrial farming, the energy needed to grow food comes from expensive fuel-based fertilizers and large machinery. Smaller urban farms need to think more creatively. Large amounts of people living in urbanisation means large amount of food waste; which can be used as fodder for food production.
  • Creating food from waste helps to form linkages within local economies, helping to strengthen local interdependence and increase economic self-sufficiency.
  • It also promotes the development of marketable trades and crafts. Growing food requires multidisciplinary knowledge in skills like carpentry, irrigation, electric work, construction, plumbing, cooking, animal husbandry, beekeeping and so forth.

Environmental

  • When food is grown in rural areas, it needs to be transported from the farm, to the packaging facility and then to the supermarkets, which is then brought to homes for consumption. This has huge effects of the environment with the Co2 produced from all of the vehicles used in the movement of products. Not only is this a costly process, but it also contributes to about 5% of all carbon emissions while packaging the food itself contributes an additional 7%. Growing food on urban land means that food is closer to the bulk of population and there is less time between farm and plate.
  • Water is another aspect that is needed for urban farming. Rainwater tanks can be utilised to collect the rainwater from the city roods, which will then be stored and pumped into gardens as needed.
  • Urban farming helps improve biodiversity by increasing the animal count in cities. More flowers, trees, insects and animals helps will pollination and the overall environmental status of the area. This offers refuge for some wildlife while tree population continues to decreases in specific areas.
  • Having more greenery in urban areas helps to improve the look of the area and make it seem more inviting and pleasant for everyone in built up areas.

Thoughts & Possible Directions:

  • An educational kit designed to teach children the basics of growing and harvesting food.
  • A kit designed to enlighten communities on the benefits of urban farming.
  • A product that allows food waste to be recycled within the home.
  • A product that provides enabling conditions to grow, harvest and consume food within the urban home.

Rebecca Williamson