In Denver, i’ve noticed, it’s quite the movement; urban farming. In fact, there’s a lot of talk about food in general – and i’m not talking about the plethora of astounding restaurants and cuisines offered by this lovely city (duly noted).
I’m talking about growing food on apartment rooftops, setting aside a 1/2 acre of urban land for food cultivation, starting a community garden, or growing edible plants indoors! That’s the movement. And it’s saving the planet.
Now, people have been doing this for years, so it’s not necessarily the novelty of urban farming that’s so attractive, by rather the shortcomings — and therefore pressures — of industrialized farming and globalization that have created the movement to localize food production, and grow it in cities. Which IS new.
What has happened, starting in the early 19th century, is that food production has become highly industrialized and globalized in an effort to increase efficiency, feed more mouths, and share tasty products from around the world. It’s been an amazing journey from when, just 200 years previous, 80 % of all laborers worked (in one way or another) in agriculture. Today, that number hovers between 2 and 3 %. A movement, indeed.
But the journey has created some significant, and disguised, problems: when I go to the super market to buy bananas, I can be nearly guaranteed the tiny sticker stuck to the bunch reads “Chiquita.”
Why is that an issue? Well, that means the banana most likely came from Central America (perhaps Guatemala, to be more precise).
And that’s an issue because it requires a HUGE amount of resources: fuel, labor, time, and infrastructure, to transport said banana from Villa Nueva, Guatemala to Denver, Colorado. Which also means the burning of thousands and millions of gallons of oil for shipping. Globalization, for all its benefits, has a huge pitfall – It is grossly environmentally detrimental to ship an almond from California to Asia. Regardless of whether it makes fiscal sense for The Almond Company to ship them.
“April 23, 2009 The Guardian has reported on new research showing that in one year, a single large container ship can emit cancer and asthma-causing pollutants equivalent to that of 50 million cars. The low grade bunker fuel used by the worlds 90,000 cargo ships contains up to 2,000 times the amount of sulfur compared to diesel fuel used in automobiles. The recent boom in the global trade of manufactured goods has also resulted in a new breed of super sized container ship which consume fuel not by the gallons, but by tons per hour, and shipping now accounts for 90% of global trade by volume.”
(Here’s the link to the full article)
The other issue is that industrialized farming requires incredible amounts of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, which can (and has) upset natures balance between plant and animal species, often hurtling colloquial environments into chaos. Just take the honey bee, as example. Globally, bee enthusiasts are in panic due to the effect of some farming chemicals to a bees sense of direction, in which they lose their ability to find their hive and die!
Industrialized farming is a major problem for bee survival, and subsequently, our survival.
So, there are two fronts to this battle, and urban farming strives to negate both. Healthier forms of production and a reduction of resources to transport food! A win-win-win for plants, animals, and humans.
But there are some sacrifices needed down the road…
First, humans are going to need to abandon the idea that they can go to the grocery store any time of year and have a perfect tomato, blueberry and grapefruit on the shelf. Those growing seasons don’t all align, and those foods *might* require long distance shipping.
Second, the average American, say, is going to need to take more time understanding plants. I mean, christ, elementary school children can more easily identify company logos than types of fruits and vegetables. That’s just messed up.
Third, we are going to need to start eating more local based plants. It makes greater economic and environmental sense to grow a local variety of grain in Colorado more-so than wheat. Yet Colorado grows wheat because people like bread. And it’s costly and more energy intensive.
Because fresh water and soil are such valuable resources, we, as humans, cannot just go about planting plants where the environment doesn’t have a natural affinity. We can’t afford to waste water and soil simply because we like bread. There are other options.
But I have good news, too. These sacrifices can be easily diminished by growing your own food! And if you want that tomato during winter, build a greenhouse! Start by practicing with something easy like potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, or corn – or better yet, a local edible plant variety!
Instead of going to the store and buying a tomato from Texas or California, grow it yourself.
It can be as simple as a small balcony garden bed with some herbs in it. Or it can be as complicated as a large-scale hydroponic, permaculture rooftop garden! There are people out there with some amazing and technical operations to learn from – all you have to do is look.
And there are enormous benefits to urban gardening beyond saving resources!
Food creates community.
Start planting plants in your front yard and I guarantee neighbors and passerby will notice and question! And maybe even join… Plus, gardening is fun and rewarding. The kale you grow with your own hands tastes better than the kale shipped from California. Fact. 😉
So It’s time you start asking the question: Where does my food come from?
Because food matters.