The globalized agribusiness and commodity exchanges are unsustainable because this system promotes competition, devalues personal relationships with food producers, discourages connections with the land and inflicts environmental, social and health costs (O’Kane, 2011). Industrialized agriculture interests are more concerned about short-term high yields rather than the health of the soil or the nutrient value of the food. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are efficient in the short-term, but will ultimately exhaust and destroy the soil. The fields are not rotated or allowed to lay fallow to renew the soil by nourishing the microorganisms that replenish the soil. Healthy soils will absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide, which will reduce greenhouse effect (Lal, 2009). During WWII, home and urban gardens provided over 40% of total vegetable production and diets contained a wide variety of healthy vegetables (Pothukuchi, 2009). Today, food has become a commodity produced by corporations which has resulted in an anonymous, homogenous food supply focused on corn, wheat, rice and barley (O’Kane, 2011). After force feeding the crops, most of the harvest, done by machines, is sent for processing. Much of the food found at local grocery stores are ghosts of the original product. The lack of authenticity in modern live is reinforced by consumption of inauthentic food. This system has resulted in a rise in diet related disease as well as food insecurities.
Urban agriculture has the potential to contribute to a transition for sustainable food production and sustainable cities (Bell & Cerulli, 2012). There has been a movement toward urban gardening over the last decade in cities in California, Washington, Oregon, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York and others (Pothukuchi, 2009). From an ecological standpoint, urban gardens can reduce carbon emissions by reducing transportation impacts, use of farm equipment and also manufacturing costs and usage of fertilizers and pesticides. Urban gardens have less impact on soil erosion and water quality while making better use of waste resources and vacant land (O’Kane, 2011). From a public health perspective, community gardens hold possibilities to improve health through physical activity, better diet and social interaction with like-minded people (Bell & Cerolli, 2012). Urban gardens can strengthen local economies, advance multicultural communities and enhance civic engagement (Bell & Cerolli, 2012). Localizing food production allows for a more humanized and democratic food policy (Morgan, 2009; O’Kane, 2011). Bell and Cerollo (2012) claim community gardens are the most participatory local civic activity. Morgan (2009) states the convening power of food lends itself to a wide range of community campaigns and builds alliances with diverse interest groups. Neighborhood gardens build relationships among community members and allow gardeners to have an intimate relationship with the soil, with the food and the people who feast on the bounty of the fruits of their labors.
References will follow on the next blog