Urban Farming is an Urban Myth – Commentary
The cost of such gardens (roof food gardens) runs at $270 a square foot or over $11 million per acre, which is about 3,000 times more expensive than some of the very best prime farmland.
By Maurice Hladik
July 27, 2012
Maurice Hladik is author of Demystifying Food from Farm to Fork. He grew up on a farm in western Canada and was an active farmer into his early adult years. He earned two degrees in agricultural economics, served as an agricultural diplomat in several countries and also worked for an international agricultural company.
Then there is the question, ‘where are all those urban dwellers with the skills and the inclination to seriously grow food?’ I maintain there has been plenty of hype and encouragement in recent years for city folk to get out and grow food. It would be surprising if there is a latent population of closet gardeners who might spontaneously become active and tear up their lawns and make a go with veggies or fruit trees. It is doubtful if even this one percent of potential urban land resource could ever be utilized, given the lack of enthusiastic and capable gardeners. However, it should be noted that in developing countries food security issues, land use patterns, the presence of recent migrants with farming skills and household labor ability are quite different than in North America and, in such an environment, significant quantities of food are produced in urban settings.
What about the sustainability of urban farming in North America? At any garden center there are mountains of topsoil available in convenient plastic bags and by the truckload. That soil does not just “happen;” it was once farmland that has forever been removed from productivity in its natural setting. For example, as my urban home is located on a stony ridge, the original owners of the house brought in black soil by the truckload so they could have a lawn and plant some foliage and flowers. This is a classic case of urban land that was unsuitable for agriculture being made somewhat arable at the expense of productive farmland. Does anyone worry about “soil miles?”