The EPIC Sustainable Living Expo also featured several interesting talks. For instance, Chris Thoreau, an urban farmer from Vancouver who brings his food as a food pedaler by bike to his customers, talked about the exciting topic “Urban Farming in Vancouver”. In fact, as 80% of the Canadian population is lives in cities, growing food in the cities is an important step to decrease the amount of long and ecologically harmful food transports.
It is clear that urban farming, which is defined as income-generating urban agriculture, is supporting a more sustainable food system but we won’t feed the world with urban agriculture.
In fact, the increasing rate of urbanization and the current growth of suburbs drives the urban farming trend in many cities especially in North America, for instance also in Detroit, Milwaukee or Seattle. Currently, there are approximately 22-25 urban farms in Vancouver alone of which many urban farmers several manage multiple small sites in the city (as size is needed to be profitable).
Moreover, urban farming is usually also very intense (high density), very collaborative (several urban farmers have founded the Urban Farming Forum and Urban Farming Society, often exchange information or work together with regards to marketing), entrepreneurial in nature and often documented electronically (active use of the web and social media).
In particular, the strengthening of the community – both amongst urban farmers as well as between urban farmers and their customers whose local identity and community is strengthened by local food – is a major advantage of urban farming compared to conventional farming and its distribution model.
Moreover, it also has benefits in terms of social justice (many urban farmers support socially disadvantaged people in skills training and community building) and education (getting more educated on the reality of growing food and the benefits of healthy food as well as providing a chance to reconnect to food).
How important is urban farming? First of all, urban farming can contribute to the local food and green economy targets (local food, shorter transportation, sustainable jobs) of Vancouver’s Greenest City Initiative (Vancouver aims at becoming the greenest city worldwide by 2020). Moreover, urban farming increases the resilience of the urban food system and builds trust between consumers and farmers/food. In addition, urban farming has a positive impact on society in terms of community building.
This is true for Vancouver but also for other cities, especially for Vienna where growing food on your own balcony is often not possible and where own gardens or community gardens are not sufficiently available in the city. Its grassroots character further increases the potential of urban farming.
So, it is important not only to provide the necessary areas but also the organizational and legal frameworks and best practice guidelines. Several legal issues are currently tackled in Vancouver where it is clear that the urban farming movement won’t be stopped!