Conscious eating is no longer reserved for those living in secluded agricultural havens. A push toward a circular food economy makes you part of your food’s journey, not just it’s destination. Urban agriculture knows that you can be more than just a consumer, no matter where you live.
Imagine eating farm-to-table for every meal. Not the kind of meal you get at a farm-to-table concept restaurant or from buying local produce. I’m talking about foraging in a natural food jungle and eating meat raised and butchered within a mile from your home.
That kind of farm-to-table.
I had the privilege of experiencing this every day for an entire month in early 2020. I flew down under to Byron Bay, Australia to fulfill my lifelong dream of being a farmer. I thought that I went to Conscious Ground Organics, one of the cleanest and most innovative regenerative organic farms in the world, to simply learn the trade of farming. But what I found was so much more — a sweet, sunny, sustainable bliss. Rising and setting with the sun. Giving grace to the land by pruning it with care. Seeing our hard week’s work get obliterated by heavy rains. These experiences brought me both peace and a burning desire to infuse these learnings into my life once I returned to my home in Los Angeles.
Going from life on an Australian farm to one of the largest metropolises in the U.S. is not exactly a recipe to continue this sweet and sustainable lifestyle. Nonetheless, my determination to fuse my insights and experiences in Byron Bay with the fast-paced city life that would be my fate for the foreseeable future led me to dig even more deeply into urban agriculture and food systems.
How can we possibly operate as healthy humans without a connection to the very thing that allows us to go on living? With my own passion in real estate development and city planning, I knew we could begin to tackle this disconnect through the integration of agriculture and urbanism.
We all deserve to feel the bliss, connection, and strength I felt on the farm. In order to build a healthy and vibrant society, we must meet people where they're at — in the city.
By 2050, 80% of the world’s population is expected to be living in cities. Without the creation of an urban food system, however, we are at risk for occupying cities that are unable to meet our most primal needs. The approach to urban ecosystems in North America is highly linear. A product is produced at point A, moves along the chain until it is consumed, and then the leftover materials are thrown out at point B. End of story.
But this is just one way to approach urban ecosystems.
While the North American model has its advantages, my visit to Scandinavia in 2018 showed me just how much we have to learn from their urban food system. In particular, these countries see the urban fabric as one that can be continuously renewable in resources, design, and consumption. This results in a circular urban ecosystem, where production and consumption happen in the same place. And instead of throwing out leftovers, any remaining materials are repurposed to help grow the next set of products. By implementing urban farms in major cities in the United States, we can begin to form a cyclical food economy by focusing on growing, eating, and disposing of food all within the same 5-mile radius.
In my own community within Los Angeles, people like Lauri Kranz from Edible Gardens LA—a plant nursery offering fresh farm produce in the heart of the city—are playing their role on a small scale. By contributing to the accessibility, knowledge base, and assistance needed to integrate farming into the everyday life of a major metropolis, city dwellers can become active participants in the cyclical food economy.
Developers and urban planners play a crucial role in the large-scale feasibility of implementing food systems into cities. As city masterminds, they hold the power to decide the urban fabric that we engage with from day to day.
In Toronto, Curated Properties—a design-centric residential development company—is making a leap towards integrating urban farming with their housing properties. Adam Ochshorn, a partner at Curated Properties acknowledges the role that developers play in determining the quality of life available to their residents:
“The choices we make as developers dictate the lifestyle available to the people that live in our buildings. Urban living used to mean choosing between being a cool neighborhood full of amenities or having enough land to cultivate a robust garden. When you consider two-thirds of all humans will soon be city-dwellers, having to choose between an urban residence or the ability to comfortably grow your herbs and vegetables no longer makes sense.”
Ultimately, not only do projects like these create viable food options, but they also strengthen our connection to the food we consume. By amalgamating food-growing practices with the urban fabric surrounding us, we create both harmony with nature and resilience for natural disasters, population growth, or whatever challenges may come our way. Creating spaces for urban food production through vertical farming, rooftop gardens, or merely reutilizing grassy areas to create farmable patches enables a healthier future for ourselves and our environment.
If you're interested, check out this link for the Fullove Foods pick for the most innovative urban farms around the world: https://my.archdaily.com/us/@fullove-foods/folders/urban-farming.
The Farmhouse in Austria is a personal favorite project.
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