Producing food in urban areas is a big topic. This website alone cannot teach you how to do it all, or even most of it. What it can teach you is how to think about growing and preserving food, so that you have a framework within which to learn the hand-on details of agroecology in your area. The foundation to this approach is to understand how ecosystems work and how you can make them work for you.

The key? Think of yourself as a manager. Good managers work hard, but they also know how and when to delegate to others. Their role is not to do everything themselves, but to recruit others to share the workload and to create an environment in which others can do their best work. Nature has provided us with capable and willing workers: plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms. Your job, as a good agroecology manager, is to create conditions for these organisms to do their best work. For example, when I build a compost pile, I create a good mix of food, moisture and air for billions of organisms to go to work, and they do so with vigor. I do a little work to manage conditions, then delegate the real work to my staff of workers. Where else, besides nature, could I get workers who already know exactly what to do, do so willingly and don’t cost me a cent?

Managers also have to deal with problems that come up. Typically, problems have to do with constraints, like time, money, skilled workers or old technologies. For urban agroecologists, constraints generally have to do with the factors necessary to produce food: sunlight, water, dirt. It’s your job as a manager to deal with these constraints, to find ways to remove constraints or to work around them. For example, water may be metered and costly in your area, so you will need to learn to use water efficiently. Or you may live in a place with cold winters and a short growing season. This might require you to learn season-extension techniques, such as using a greenhouse.

So, learn about ecosystems in general, then study a particular ecosystem that you are interested in to learn its key components that must be managed. This information is found in the following Ecology section. Below that is another section on dealing with specific constraints often faced by urban gardeners and farmers. Under individual topics I highlight important resources available to help you better understand those topics.

Ecology

Urban constraints

  • Land
  • Water
  • Sun
  • Seeds
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