The rise of urban agriculture

Urban agriculture or urban farming is a trend that’s becoming ever popular as a result of the means by which corporate farms are meeting high volume demands, the trend of organically grown produce, the effects of transport on fresh produce, and concern for the farming cycle that fruits, vegetables and livestock go through.

So, what is it?

First, we need to establish that urban agriculture is farming for profit. It’s still a business of sorts, unlike commercial or community farming where harvests are for personal and sharing purposes. Where you end up selling your produce is up to you, but it’s purpose is to, eventually, go through the commerce channel.

Now, what classifies it as urban farming, is the location of these farms in cities and densely populated areas. Not your usual large plots of farmland out in the country. Urban agriculture involves the community and happens under the eyes of the community. One could also define urban agriculture as a farming endeavour for the people and by the people. Anyone can be involved in or start an urban farm.

Why is it important?

Urban agriculture promotes “local” and builds community through employment and an increase in the general value of the local society. By getting everyone involved and supplying jobs that are readily available and don’t have ridiculous qualification requirements, there’s already a difference being made in the community. And that’s even before all the fresh and good food that comes from it! But there are many more reasons why it’s important:

  • Economic importance: There’s no need to search high and low for a market, you’re in the city and, therefore, in the market already. What’s more, the price of produce is more affordable without transport and high-volume distribution costs.
  • Transport: One of the driving forces behind the urban agriculture movement comes from the carbon emissions and irradiation “treatments” that once-fresh produce is exposed to after being transported from farm to retail outlets.
  • Environmental health: Not only the carbon emissions from truck transport, but from packaging as well, are eradicated through urban farming and the community’s foodprint is reduced. There are also benefits of air purification in the city that is an added benefit to having urban farms all around and greenery producing clean air.
  • Physical health: Organically grown produce – without the “steroid” chemicals increasing their growth rate while affecting their quality – are healthier and more nutritious alternatives for the local community. It also provides food security for areas that were previously deprived of healthy and affordable produce.
  • Innovation: Finding creative solutions to waste and resource issues of an urban farm spark innovation and appreciation. Urban communities are challenged to make the most of the areas and resources available to them and to effectively supply their local society with this agricultural movement.

Everyone, except supermarket retail chains, benefits from urban agriculture. From affordability to health, it’s no surprise that the rise of agriculture in South Africa is an ongoing action.

How can we implement it?

Well, technically, urban farming is already a movement implemented in South Africa and many countries around the world. But your options are to start your own or support an already established urban farm.

As with everything, there are costs involved when starting an urban farm. And there’s no luxury of it being a corporation operating for huge profit and having that money to work with. But, with an agricultural finance consultation and agreement, getting the equipment and training you need will be easy. And it’s only up from there.

When your finances and training is in order, you need to get a business plan in order, a team or two on board to help, and an effective way to market your efforts to the target market that is made up of pretty much everyone in your community.

And if starting one isn’t responsibility you want to have on your plate, then find an urban farm or NGO to get involved with.

Harvest of Hope in Cape Town “is a farmer-focused membership organisation. All vegetables are grown locally by farmers in community gardens in Khayelitsha, Nyanga, and Philippi.” You can get involved by working on the farm or, even simpler, by signing up to receive a bag of urban-farm-produced products every week at extremely affordable prices.

Join the urban farming revolution and encourage friends and family to do the same. You’ll only be bettering your environment and community for it.