Urban Agriculture

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As the world population grows and urbanizes, urban hunger and malnutrition are also on the rise. As global food systems fail to sustainably and equitably meet the need, urban, micro-urban and edge-urban landscapes emerge as critical sites of agricultural production. With elegant symbiosis, urban environmental degradation and harm caused by conventional food systems can be ameliorated by the introduction of sustainably implemented urban agriculture. Taking various forms according to “the genius of [each] place,” urban agriculture makes our cites more healthy and beautiful, reduces erosion, heat islands, pollution, water and fuel consumption, promotes biodiversity and provides secure access to nutritious food for millions who lack it now. Urban agriculture transforms both our cities and food systems for the better. Wes Jackson, Amory Lovins and others have shown the environmental toll of industrialized farming, and proposed a reevaluation that would provide an honest accounting of agricultural resource use and destruction. This paper provides an overview of urban and food-system maladies that can be addressed through urban and edge-urban agriculture, and lays out an urban agrarian idea, following Wendell Berry and Michael Pollan, of how we might relate to nature in order for cities and productive landscapes to coexist harmoniously; it examines sustainable technologies that will allow urban agriculture to address our nutritional and environmental needs, explores the associated dynamics of water and waste recapture, and finally poses questions and offers suggestions about what the emergent spaces of urban agriculture might look like in the near future—and how they can transform our cities, formally and culturally. Ideas presented in this paper will be illustrated by student work from the upper division interdisciplinary design studio I teach at California College of the Arts, “Design for Tomorrow’s Urban Agriculture.”