Expanding on the theme of one of our recent blog posts, this week we will take a closer look at the wider positives of Urban Agriculture / farming at a local level, in terms of the health, social and economic benefits to individuals and communities; and therefore, whether Urban Agriculture could aid in addressing, many of the challenges faced by a large number of people, in inner-city areas.
To recap, Urban Agriculture / farming is the practice of growing and producing food in limited spaces in urban centres, such as towns and cities. However, differing from communal gardening or shared farming cooperatives, Urban Agriculture has a commercial element, whereby, produce is sold for profit.
The Modern City:
Modern cities can offer much; in many respects they represent all that is positive about human development and progression over the past few hundred years. The majority of cities are truly global; they are a melting-pot of vibrant cultures; a coming together of people from all corners of the world. The modern city can present people with many opportunities, not only in terms of employment and monetary wealth, but also, a round-the-clock lifestyle of exploration and gratification; they are places where individuals can construct and define their identities through their city job roles and the consumption of culture, goods and a diverse range of ideas. However, this superficial façade conceals a much darker reality for many inhabitants of the modern city, whose day-to-day life can be one of impoverishment (monetarily, physically and mentally), toil and struggle, greatly highlighted in cities during the Covid-19 pandemic (Eg. via the campaigning by footballer Marcus Rashford, for free school meals in the UK, for children living in poverty during school closures, which brought attention to the desperate situation of many children and [young] people, in inner-city areas).
City Life - Issues:
As is commonly known, there are a wide range of issues for many people that come with living in densely populated cities. These can include, poverty and subsequent issues surrounding health, well-being (Eg. mental health, physical health, nutrition) and education. The impact on health and well-being, resulting from demanding, stressful jobs and a lifestyle that is fast-paced. Whilst, loneliness is also an increasing mental health concern in inner-city areas, the result of more mobile populations, a growth in single occupancy households and a decline in community participation (London is ranked as one of the loneliest cities in the world: https://lonelinesslab.org/ ). Furthermore, densely populated, inner-city areas tend to experience higher rates of crime, which is often tied in with the above.
Addressing the Issues – Urban Agriculture:
Benefits to the Individual
At the level of the individual, the process of gardening has long been associated with being transformative, in that it promotes increased health and wellbeing, both mentally and physically. In terms of mental health, gardening can enhance psychological well-being and security; a person’s self-confidence and sense of self-worth, whilst physically, gardening can be a great form of exercise, which also feeds back into improvements in a person’s mental health. Furthermore, the very process of cultivating plants and crops is a great form of education for people, particularly in urban areas, where horticultural knowledge would perhaps be fairly limited, due in part, to spending much time cut-off from the natural environment. This in turn, also aids in educating people in terms of the nutritional benefits of freshly grown, plant produce. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, is that urban agriculture and farming could aid in addressing the growing problem of, in particular, [child] hunger in certain areas, through easier access to locally grown, cheaper food produce. Moreover, the commercial aspect of urban agriculture and farming, could potentially provide individuals with paid employment opportunities, thus helping to reduce poverty. Therefore, it is evident that there are myriad positives that urban agriculture and farming can provide to individuals in inner-city areas, enriching lives in a number of ways.
Beyond the benefits to the individual, urban agriculture and farming has the potential to connect people and places, regenerating the sense of community that is often paradoxically, so lacking in densely populated urban areas and cities, where a lack of social cohesion and feelings of loneliness are increasingly apparent. Furthermore, there are opportunities for community development in terms of increases in community wealth through job creation and therefore, enhanced living standards, given that urban agriculture and farming involves a commercial element. In addition, from an aesthetic perspective, urban agriculture and farming can aid in regenerating often run-down areas, creating favourable green-spaces for communities, increasing a sense of community pride. Moreover, all of the benefits detailed, to both individuals and communities, could potentially aid in reducing crime rates, in densely populated areas.
For more details on the benefits of urban agriculture and, see the following article on Science Daily website: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180110131525.htm
Historically, humans have tended to focus on advances in science and technology as the ultimate way to overcome the problems humanity faces, be they individual or social. However, urban agriculture and farming demonstrates that often, the challenges faced by both individuals and society, do not require great advances in science and technology, but can be addressed in-part, by humans returning to and reconnecting with, the most fundamental aspects of their being; namely, nature and community.
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