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Not Everyone Is Sold on Urban Farms as the Solution to Food Industry Problems

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Organic Transitions page.

Urban farming is all the rage, from "locavores" who want to know where their food is coming from and how it's raised, to those trying to reduce their carbon footprint (fewer miles for food to travel), to those trying to be more self-sufficient, to those who reject Big Ag and its factory farming methods.

There is a trend, to be sure, which for some gained momentum when First Lady Michelle Obama encouraged Americans to start their own backyard gardens, largely out of concerns of poor nutrition and obesity among the country's children.

In cities with lots of unused space and desparate residents, such as Camden, NJ and Detroit (a leading area in urban agriculture), people have revitalized vacant lots with community gardens, created hydroponic (soil-less) farms, rooftop gardens (which can help reduce air conditioning costs) and vertical farms, growing plants in buildings.     

With up to 30% of agricultural production in the U.S. now originating in metropolitan areas, and up to 15% on a global scale, according to the USDA, agriculture has only recently become a mostly rural activity. With its origins in densely populated areas, it is still a means of survival in less developed countries.

The return to urban farming seems here to stay, though not without its challenges. Critics are many, coming from the farm industry, science researchers and even some enviornmentalists.

According to the Food for the Cities report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as of 2007, half of the world's population was already living in cities with that population topping almost five billion in 2030, making urban food security and its related problems a high priority in coming years.    

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