New Publication: Integrating Urban Agriculture

Urban Food Strategies is thrilled to announce the publication of Integrated Urban Agriculture (2016). Edited by Robert L. France. Libri Publishing, Oxfordshire, This book includes chapters from seventeen of North America’s preeminent authors and scholars on urban agriculture and urban food systems.

Comment from an anonymous, expert reviewer of the MS draft: This is an exciting interdisciplinary approach by a well-coordinated, closely working team. The book is accessible, well written, free of jargon, and full of pictures, graphics and charts. In all fairness, this is one of the most exciting and innovative books on urban agriculture I have seen in recent years. It combines original papers and commentary/reflections to them which make it a perfect candidate for class discussions. This volume is as much about imagining urban and urbanism as urban agriculture. In this sense people in social sciences, urban studies, environmental studies, architecture and urban planning will find this book very useful. This is an exceptional international, interdisciplinary, expert dream team. Many of these authors have already been recognized as key contributors to this literature. However, the way the book is designed — as a conversation among a group of scholars, thinkers, authors — allows fresh new insights and adds vibrancy to this volume. It is not a simple how to do UA book. It is a thoughtful book about re-imagining urban living, urban livelihoods, urban culture through urban agriculture. This is a fun book. If I would keep a few books on urban agriculture in my personal library this is definitely one of them. It is the outcome of a workshop and went through many edits and commentaries. It is ready to go. I would consider this as a key contribution to urban agriculture, urban design, planning and agricultural urbanism.

TOP 10 Food System Strategies

Nothing Beets Healthy Communities.  Here is the Urban Food Strategies Top 10 list for healthy communities and prosperous regional food systems. 

  1. Bring healthy food closer to home: Many people in BC and Canada rely on emergency food sources on a regular basis, nearly one third of them being children.  By bringing food closer to home through a range of approaches from community kitchens and gardens to mobile fresh markets and walkable communities with affordable green grocers, healthy food becomes more accessible to a wider range of people.
  2. Design and build healthy environments:  Increasingly, evidence-based research is drawing linkages between food systems, the built environment and population health. Through integration of food system elements into the planning and design of our towns and cities, communities are able to achieve a wider range of physical, mental, and spiritual (or social) health benefits. Creating better access to fresh food sources begins with intentional design and programming of the built environment, enabling creation of space for food markets and celebrations, reserving lands for local food processing and distribution infrastructure, animating spaces and creating beauty in social housing, parks, and open spaces, and educating and training around food skills, all begin with the intentional design and programing of the built environment.
  3. Reskill communities in personal and professional food knowledge:  The knowledge and skill to prepare healthy food has eroded as the processed food industry has replaced the need to know how to work with raw ingredients.  As a result, children are growing up without knowing what raw vegetables look like or how they grow, not to mention being able to purchase and prepare healthy meals after they leave home. Through providing multiple opportunities to develop personal and professional food skills, people and businesses are better equipped to have a healthy diet.
  4. Safeguard food productive places: The areas and ecosystems that form foundation for all the food we eat is under increasing development pressure from cities and industrial uses, among others. The lands, forests, rivers, lakes, and oceans that sustain the global food system need to not only be protected but also restored to ensure a source of community health and economic prosperity into the future.
  5. Encourage urban agriculture and farming: The practice of growing food in and near towns and cities for community, personal, or commercial purposes has experienced a renaissance in 21st century North America and is a cornerstone of sustainable food system.  While urban agriculture and farming will never replace the need for rural agriculture, the aim is not simply to generate kilocalories per square foot, but to provide a learning ground for the next generation of gardeners and even farmers.  Urban agriculture not only brings fresh food closer to home but it also creates: social places where neighbours meet; education places where people can learn gardening and farming skills; and even small business opportunities for urban farmers. Because of these benefits, urban agriculture is widely recognized as a key strategy for healthy communities.
  6. Rebuild infrastructure for regional food systems: With the globalization of food systems, local infrastructure for processing, storage, and distribution has largely been centralized and in some cases outsourced internationally.  While these systems are critical for the large Canadian producers, they often are not regulated or tailored for medium to small-scale producers.  Similarly, marketing boards have done much for stabilizing prices for large producers but create challenges for medium to small-scale producers. Finding innovative strategies to rebuild regional capacity for agriculture joins up a region’s productive potential and capacities with regional markets.  Community food hubs and centres are a different kind of food infrastructure where people can go to learn, experience, and access healthy foods and food skills.
  7. Join-up regionally produced foods and with local purchasing: Many regions and provinces/states are importing the very products that they are growing and exporting.  By creating a joined-up regional food system, the prospect of reducing this redundancy and creating local opportunities for people and businesses is possible.  A thriving wholesale, retail, and consumer-direct local food purchasing industry puts dollars to work locally, increases livelihood potential for farmers and food producers, and ultimately generates more economic activity around regional food.
  8. Celebrate food culture & promote regional distinctiveness of food systems: Every productive region is unique in its biophysical attributes, specialty products, skillsets, and diversity of farm businesses. Many communities have annual gatherings to celebrate garlic, asparagus, and rutabaga, among others. These distinct food cultures draw visitors and help to create an overall identity for the region that contributes to community pride.  Food culture also creates experiences that are important to livability – as seen with destinations woven throughout neighbourhoods, such as patios, food trucks, farmers markets, green grocers and more.
  9. Capture the value of food waste:  The amount of food that is wasted pre- and post- consumer is shocking.  Consider the amount of embodied water, energy, and fuel that is also associated with this waste. A conservative estimate is that over 50% of produce is wasted pre and post consumer; some estimates are closer to 75%.  Wastage on grains, legumes, dairy, eggs, and protein are less, but still significant.  Much of the food that is wasted is perfectly edible and is composted or brought to the landfill instead of being returned to the food stream.  Innovative community initiatives and businesses turn this waste into a resource and are able to remove large volumes of produce from the waste stream to generate affordable food options or a competitive advantage for businesses, respectively.
  10. Foster implementation partners and build capacity for action: Establishing an organization’s visions, goals, policies, designs, and actions for food systems creates a platform that enables partnerships for the successful implementation and monitoring of food system activities.  Further, a vision is only as innovative as it is implementable: too often we treated a completed plan as the end of a process, when in fact it is the beginning. For example, to realize a vision to establish a community farm, the future lead farmers – or “implementers” – need to be involved in the planning at the outset. We need to leverage community-planning efforts to create implementation capacity through process, involving implementation partners early on.