Urban Food Production is Growing.
According to most estimates, the majority of the world’s population became urban for the first time in human history somewhere in 2005-6. Which means that most of us are living in a dense cluster of technological infrastructure, very little of which is used for growing food (aside from gardens, which by no means reach 40 acres).
Ottawa has a lot of green space (for which I’m grateful, despite how much is being sold off to developers), and there’s a farm in the middle of the city (an experimental farm, it’s not like any of it is deemed edible just yet).
Before I get into urban agriculture, I thought that this TED talk about the math of cities was intriguing, particular the focus on trends regarding growth, development and in comparison to corporations.
I’ve come across some great urban agriculture sites in the past week, and thought I should share them around. Since most of us live in cities, and most of us eat food to live (don’t know about those Yogis), there seems to be a natural progression towards uniting the two. I know a few urban foragers who feed off of native plants that grow in the region where they live. It’s pretty important to know if the city uses pesticides/herbicides (fortunately, more and more of them don’t), and whether the food is growing on former toxic sites (ex-gas stations, coal slag, etc…), or if it’s in a dog park (mmmmm, yellow snowcones).
Architect Carolyn Steel sums it up the relationship between food, agriculture, and cities beautifully in the following TED talk. If I could even come close to her eloquence, I would try. Just watch it, and then I’ll say “word.”
I remember seeing the oranges growing on trees in Guatalajara. However, they were planted along a busy street, and the amount of exhaust they absorbed made them completely unappetizing to consider. In Vancouver, there are cherry trees everywhere, but they are ornamental. Fortunately, there are plenty of food-bearing trees, such as Apples, Pears, Figs, Plums, Persimmons, edible Cherries and others. It’s a great city for food (blackberries anyone?). The Fruit Tree Project there was a great idea. People who made arrangements with property owners to harvest trees from their property and share the bounty around. It has since spread to other cities, and recently a version of it started up in Ottawa, Hidden Harvest.
Why would anyone do this? I recall the first place I stayed in East Vancouver was on the property next to a huge pear tree. The property owner never harvested it, and we were allowed to take however much we wanted. Great deal until they decided to cut it down to make more room for parking (don’t even get me started…)
Along with harvesting fruit & nut trees, or berry bushes, there are plenty of native plants and “weeds” that are edible, or useful as medication. I’m no herbalist (except for garlic, which I ingest by the sprig), however, there are a few helpful types online who provide advice. Edible Wild Food is one, focusing on the food that grows all around us (I believe they’re based in Canada), which includes things like plantain (not the banana, see image below), lamb’s quarters, dandelions, and plenty more.
Aside from foraging and harvesting, there are also groups who are working on designing, planting and developing the city to contain more food sources. Huzzah!!! Three cheers for that. A few I’ve encountered recently include:
Seattle creating a massive edible forest filled with free food.
Manhattan’s 15,000 square foot mobile urban farm.
Beacon Food Forest
It certainly seems like a better idea than making feeding the homeless illegal.
And don’t forget to share with the local fauna – they don’t have the commercial option to shop at food boutiques.
214 Days to Dec 21st 2012