What is urban agroecology?

First of all, what is urban? In short, anything not on a farm in the country. So, urban might be in a city, a suburb or a small town. Academics like the phrase “urban and peri-urban” to get across the idea that urban agriculture occurs not just in inner cities but also in surrounding areas. Most people who practice urban agriculture do so using methods consistent with agroecology.

What is agroecology? It is the science and art of growing plants and animals in ways that are consistent with natural ecosystem processes. It is a way of growing plants and animals using nature to your advantage, rather than fighting nature.

Urban agroecology vs. industrial agriculture

Another way to look at this is to compare urban agroecology with modern industrial agriculture. Industrial agriculture is large scale; relies on large inputs of imported fossil fuels and chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides; mines soil for nutrients and produces environmentally damaging chemical pollution; produces food far away from where it is consumed by total strangers; is heavily subsidized by Federal and State governments through direct subsidies, trade restrictions, taxpayer-funded water projects, pest control projects and food safety regulations that benefit large producers; and focuses on short term quantity of production. Urban agroecology is small scale; relies significantly on locally available human labor and organic inputs such as manure and compost; treats soil and the surrounding environment as living renewable resources; produces food where most people live; is generally not subsidized by government and often faces regulations that make it difficult to compete in the marketplace; and focuses on long-term quality of production.

Sustainable agriculture

It’s popular these days to talk about activities that are sustainable. It should be clear from the above definitions that industrial agriculture is not sustainable, whereas sustainability is a central focus of urban agroecology. More is said in individual blog postings about this, but sustainability centers around three concepts: sustainable energy sources, sustainable horticultural practices and sustainable social networks and communities.

This blog is mostly about food, although there are occasional postings about non-food topics. Because it is mostly about food, there are several main topics related to food that are covered:

  • Growing food: soil, water, seed saving.
  • Preserving food: fermenting, drying, salting.
  • Consuming food: preparing food and diet.

More articles about urban agroecology

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