Urban agriculture is becoming a topic of discussion as more of the world’s population in urban areas increases. By 2050, The World Bank estimates that urban populations will double, meaning 7 out of 10 people will live in cities. As more people reside in urban areas, supplying these areas with enough food economically and sustainably becomes a challenge for farmers, ranchers, producers and agriculture experts. Urban Agriculture, or creatively growing food in urban areas through rooftop gardens, vertical farms, and hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic facilities will help lighten the load of supplying food to urban areas. The demand for organic agriculture has grown significantly over the last few decades with organic sales in the U.S. reaching $67.7 billion in 2022. Integrating organic agriculture into urban settings comes with many benefits but also some challenges to the task of feeding the world. Let’s discuss the possibilities of organic agriculture in urban settings as well as the challenges it brings.
Urban farming not only provides food within cities, but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also states that it encourages economic development, provides employment, expands community greenspaces, fosters community and builds climate resilient communities. This sense of community is a great advantage of organic urban farms. Nutrition education, farming education, job creation and mental health benefits of being in a green environment are all ways urban agriculture contributes positively to the community. Sustainability is a focus that agriculture experts are talking about, and organic urban farms are one area of agriculture focusing heavily on sustainable practices.
Some of the environmental benefits of organic urban farming include reducing food miles, lowering carbon emissions, promoting biodiversity, reducing soil erosion, and conserving water. Rooftop gardens can absorb heat through the green spaces, which in turn lowers overall temperatures in cities and releases oxygen. By growing food locally within cities, the need for food to be transported long distances is reduced, which lowers emissions from vehicles that transport food. Overall, the possibilities of organic urban farming have many positive contributions to the environment and the community.
While there are so many possibilities, challenges within organic urban farming exist. One of the greatest challenges specifically related to growing organically are the strict regulations given by the USDA for organic production. These regulations can make it challenging to grow organically, especially in urban environments. The Sustainable Review lists other challenges to urban farming including limited space, soil contamination, water availability, legal barriers, financial challenges and others. Starting an urban farm takes a significant investment, and finding space to do so in an urban environment is just the start of the process. To combat some of the financial challenges, the USDA provides grants, support and resources to promote urban agriculture.
As farmers, ranchers, producers, and agriculture experts innovate to increase production and feed a growing population, urban agriculture will continue to develop and rise in popularity. Organic agriculture is continuing to increase in demand and incorporating it into urban agriculture will continue. While the positive impacts of organic urban farming including sustainability, fostering community and economic development are excellent, the challenges cannot be ignored. Organic urban farming is not the only solution to providing food to urban areas, but it is a step in the right direction for the industry.