The rapidly growing local food movement asks us to be aware of where our food is sourced and to choose foods that are in season and with the least amount of ‘food miles’. Urban farming takes this principle to the next level – fresh produce can be sold within just a couple of kilometres from its source. Better still, food can be harvested on the same day it is sold.
The world’s population is continuing to grow – it’s estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050. However arable land continues to diminish due to urban sprawl or the decline of soil fertility as large-scale monoculture agribusiness models slowly poison the land and strip its nutrients. The looming question is how will we increase our food production by 2050 to meet global demands while protecting fragile and limited resources?
Even today, finding local, fresh food in Australian cities can be difficult. Researchers at the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (CERES) found that Australian fruit and vegetables travel an average of 745 km from farm gate to shop. This involves heavy use of fuel, refrigeration and packaging. Crops must be harvested well before they are ripe in order to survive the long journey to market. Furthermore crop varieties are typically selected for their transportability, rather than nutritional value. There is a complete disconnect between farm processes and the consumer.
Cities will always rely on agriculture that lies on the outskirts of our cities for much of our food, yet there are numerous opportunities around every city to take advantage of unused space. As the issue of food security becomes more pertinent, the ability to create new opportunities becomes more critical. The sustainability of our urban systems can be significantly bolstered by fostering urban agriculture.
Photos: Luisa Brimble