Urban Agriculture in the 21st Century

By artfuldodger
Source: http://hubpages.com/hub/urbanagriculture

Growing Food Closer To Home

The smart money says that global oil production is reaching a peak, if it has not already. While other sources of energy will step in to fill the inevitable void, we will probably have to re-examine how we power our daily lives and transport the goods necessary for modern societies to function. Even with new sources of petroleum and so called “fossil fuels” like algal biodiesel and the like, air travel will most likely be curtailed in favor of more sustainable rail transport.

One of the greatest misallocations of fuel occurs in the arena of massive, commercialized agriculture. Anyone who has passed through the midwest, or California’s Central Valley knows what this looks like. Large corporate farming collectives are responsible for growing much of the food we consume.

This model is wasteful, due to the fact that many areas of the country could grow their own food, closer to home, and cut down on transportation costs.

A Rooftop Garden In New York City

The future of local farming?
The future of local farming?

Viable Options For Local Agriculture

Factoid time: on average, produce travels anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 miles to feed the run of the mill American. I know what you’re thinking, these statistics are always pretty specious and only vaguely accurate, dependent on the variables involved. The main point is that due to the economics of the 20th Century, food tends to go on a long ride before anyone actually eats it.

In some cases, this makes sense. But a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago, most of the staples anybody consumed were grown pretty close to home. For example, a native of Northern Maine would subsist on potatoes and apples, with some local beef and cheese thrown in. Those in Cuba would probably eat a lot more rice and tropical fruits. All local, bulk foodstuffs.

The main point is that, today we have a lot of options when it comes to what we eat. But far flung sources of exotic foods affect the geopolitcal climate more than we’d think. Example, the term “banana republic” refers to late 19th and early 20th century latin American countries that were set up with a large United States influence to give US fruit companies sweet deals on food prices. Hence “banana republics”.

These “banana corporations” were great at setting up profitable fruit companies that made money for their stockholders and provided working class Americans with a liitle extra Vitamin C. The untold side of the story is that these companies supported brutal dictatorships and regimes that murdered untold thousands and kicked plenty of native inhabitants off their land.

Whatever you think about “Capitalism”, which by the way is not the same as the “free market”, but a far more odious brand of greed, it provided the wealthy, industrialized, Western “democracies” and Japan with cheap raw materials that it didn’t already have for far less than it should have payed. The argument here isn’t that the sweat shops of Southeast Asia were fair, just that it was how things worked in the late 20th century and early 21st. It won’t last all that long. You can only keep a good man down so long. Same thing goes for countries too. I firmly believe, based on the work of a lot of other, smarter people, that there will be a general wealth transfer from the West to the East. This whole mercantilist model can’t go on forever.

Amber Waves of Grain

Organic Farming

The hottest new trend nowadays is organic famring and with good reason. It’s a rapidly expanding source of healthy locally grown produce and, with urban agriculture and vertical farming, should figure largely in the future of our food production.

Organic Home Grown

Vertical Farming

This method of food production maximizes the produce yield per square foot by building up, not out. By having level after level of “fields in the sky’ set up in high rise buildings, the crops get the same exposure to sunlight through clever building design, without using up a ton of real estate.

Vertical Farming

The Bottom Line

The global food pipeline is somewhat unsustainable as is. Produce and other foodstuffs travel way to far, using up way to much non renewable fuel in the process and disrupting local ecosystems through exhausting commercial agricultural methods that are not viable in the long run. Vertical farming, urban agriculture, and organic agriculture are just some of the solutions to this issue but won’t be the only ones. In the next few years I think we’ll see other local, sustainable solutions to global food production issues.

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