What is Urban Agriculture

what is urban agriculture

Urban agriculture can be defined as growing, processing, and distribution of food and animal products by locals and for locals within an urban setting.  Examples of Urban Agriculture include but are not limited to : 

  • community and backyard gardens
  • rooftop and balcony gardening
  •  growing in vacant lots
  • Aquaculture and hydroponics 
  • market farms 
  • raising livestock and beekeeping.
  • Vertical growing

Urban agriculture is not just the process of growing these products.  It also includes how you sell the products.  Urban agriculture includes things such as farmers markets, roadside fruit, and farm stands, how you market and sell the crops.  It includes where you make the value-added products even down to how you address food waste and food security issues. Since it is more profound than how you produce and sell the products, it is safe to say there is not just one definition of urban agriculture.  Being as how it addresses so many issues its form adapts to the environment- economical, social, cultural, and political.

urban agriculture

Why is urban agriculture important?

Urban agriculture has many benefits. Not all benefits are related to food. Urban agriculture helps rebuild fractured communities, addresses food security issues, develop local food systems, promoting economic development, and improve urban biodiversity and environmental health.

Environmental Health/Pollution 

Most of our current produce comes from a flawed agricultural model and food system.  If you remember back to before mega-farms existed, every neighborhood and city had farmers producing a wide array of products. See, urban agriculture is not a new topic or idea. Once the onset of mega-farms took place, this destroyed the concept of local. 

Mega-farms are one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels. Mega-farms are one of the most significant pollutants in the world.  I don’t mean on the actual farm while they are growing, I am referring to once the food is picked, processed, and packaged. After the three Ps, the produce must now be delivered. Delivery means either 18 wheelers on the road or shipping containers sent out to sea, take your pick either one is a significant contributor to adverse air quality issues.

Destructive farming practices

The farming practices applied on large scale farms destroy the soil microbiology. The use of Glycosophate, salt-based fertilizers and pesticides all take their toll on the land.  Most modern urban agriculture practices do the opposite. Urban agriculture is focused on organic and regenerative growing methods. By definition and location urban farms are smaller than the large scale agricultural farms; therefore, the urban farmers are more likely to have a connection to the land and care about the soil quality. They are more like to practice organic methods that help to rebuild and strengthen the quality of the soil, therefore, being able to produce more healthy products with a smaller footprint.

Address food security

Food insecurity is described as not knowing where your next meal will come from. More than 15% of Americans suffer from this problem.  Urban Agriculture can help address these issues. While it is not a guaranteed fix, it does offer options which can lead to a solution.  Having access to this food can help address the issue of consuming too much processed foods. Urban farmers should work with members of the community to ensure that what is being grown on the farms reflects the wants and needs of local residents.

Seasonal Produce

Over the past decade, there has been a massive push to eat seasonally. Well, that’s what urban agriculture is about. Since food is produced locally, there is no choice but to grow with the seasons. Seasonal produce is a healthier option than. The food can be picked at peak ripeness to ensure that it is as nutrient-dense and vitamin-rich as possible.

Transition to what grows when

FALL PLANTING GUIDE
Vegetable/Planting TypeSEPOCTNOVVegetable/Planting TypeSEPOCTNOV
Amaranth for grain/seedPLentil/seedP
Arugula, garden (rocket)/seedPLettuce, 30-70 day/seedPP
Arugula, Sylvetta/seedPPPMache (corn salad)/seedP
Basil/plantPMint/plantPPP
Bean, broad, Fava/seedPMitsuba/seedP
Bean, snap (string), pole & bush/seedPMizuna/seedPP
Bean (hyacinth)/seedPMustard/seedPP
Beet/seedPPOnions, multiplying/setsPP
Bok choy, Pak choi, Tatsoi/seedPOnions, short day bulb/setsP
Broccoli/plantPOregano, Greek, Italian/plantP
Buckwheat/seedPParsley/seedP
Cabbage/plantPParsnip/seedP
Cabbage (Napa, Chinese)/seed or plantPPPea, sugar snap, English shell,snow/seedP
Carrot/seedPPRadish, salad & daikon/ seedP
Cauliflower/plantPRomanesco Cauliflower, Hybrid/ plantP
Celery herb & stalk/ seedPRosemary/plantPP
Chard /seed or plantPPRutabaga/seedPP
Chervil/ seed or plantPSalsify, Scorzonera/seed or plantPP
Chives, Garlic & Onion/bulbPPShungiku (Tong Ho)/seedP
Cilantro/seedPSorrel/plant & seedPP
Claytonia/seedPSquash, summer/seed or plantP
Collards/seedPPStrawberry/plantP
Collards/plantPPSugar cane/cuttingPP
Cress, garden/seedPTendergreens (mustard spinach)/seedP
Cucumber/seed or plantPTomato, Cherry/plantP
Dill/seedPTurnip/seedPP
Endive, Chicory, Radicchio/seedPSEED in pots, A/C under lights/greenhouse
Epazote/seed or plantPArtichoke (Globe)PP
Fennel, Florence/seedPBroccoliP
Garlic/clovesPBrussels sproutsP
Gailan (Chinese Broccoli)/seed or plantPCabbageP
Horseradish/rootPPCauliflowerP
Kale/seed or plantPChardP
Kale, Russian/seed or plantPLeekP
Kohlrabi/seed or plantPOnion, short dayP
Leek/setPPRomanesco cauliflowerP
Lemon balm/seed or plantPSpinachP

NOTE: Recommendations based on Central Houston (Hobby Airport/Pearland) 2007-2017 temperatures for areas whose winters stay above 25˚F and are not on the Coast.

Locations south of I-10 far from central Houston, or north of North I-610, plant earlier than shown. Revised August 2017.

Information from Year Round Vegetable, Fruits and Flowers for Metro Houston by Dr. Bob Randall (available pending publication). Used with permission. 8/17

Transition into what tools are necessary to get started 

  • This depends on setup of garden 
  • Tall raised beds then I recommend a hand cultivar tool- can be used as a shovel, a rake, a weed extractor
  • In ground or lows beds- depends on ability to bend over but a Hand cultivar

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