It’s no secret that many parts of the world are suffering from a food crisis. But even in developed countries, food prices are consistently rising, making it harder for working families, especially in cities, to enjoy a healthy, nutritious diet. How can we, as individuals and communities produce our own food to improve our lives? What solutions exist for reducing our dependence on processed foods and large distribution chains? Can we adapt existing unused spaces and turn them into sustainable sources of food for ourselves and our neighbours? The following articles contains some information about alternative methods of food production already employed by people and communities all over the world. Maybe some of these will be suitable for you and your community?
Community gardens and allotments
Growing your own food in the city involves obvious challenges, the main one being the absence of ample space. Traditionally, allotments provided space for people to grow their food in designated areas in the city. This system is still in use today, with many cities giving denizens a chance to apply for a personal allotment and receive one for a small fee. A more recent trend is the introduction of community gardens, where people work together to grow various food crops for the benefit of the community. This system is popular in many big western cities, where residents encourage the city to give them a disused space they can convert into a thriving communal garden. In cities where buildings are arranged around a central courtyard, residents often band together to turn the courtyard into a garden, growing vegetables they can all enjoy. Where space is short, community gardens can be as small as a few boxes or even use spaces traditionally used for decorative plants only, such as traffic islands and similar street locations.
While many cities are short of ground space, most have ample roof space that’s often unused. A recent trend in densely populated cities such as Hong Kong is to convert these unused spaces into gardens, producing greens and vegetables to be consumed by the residents of each building. While this method takes some careful planning, it has enormous potential. The amount of food that can be grown on top of large skyscrapers is astounding and can easily provide sustenance for many local residents. Even smaller roofs can provide ample supplies for many families. Individuals can also benefit from advances in vertical and small-scale gardening that can make even the smallest of balconies a regular source of vegetables and greens for feeding an entire family.
Imagine how easy it would be to grow food if you didn’t need to rely on natural growing conditions being just right. Personal indoor gardening is already a hit and you can already buy various systems to ensure your plants get sufficient light, water and nutrients year round (Check out Lumigrowth for examples of providing plants with ample light indoors). Sprouting and growing microgreens are highly popular methods and provide fast-growing, highly nutritious food with minimum effort. On a larger scale, underground and indoor growing facilities are already being used to grow large amounts of food where protection from external elements is needed. With such growing systems, food can be grown underground where it could even feed communities should external conditions become problematic (such as with global warming). Growing systems that are stacked up high providing many tons of microgreens can be squeezed into relatively small places, making this method of growing food far more effective than traditional farming.
While the world’s growing population, depletion of resources and global warming provide new challenges to traditional food production, alternative methods, especially in urban areas, are providing solutions for regular people to take control of their own diet. These methods are varied and adaptable, so can be made to fit pretty much all circumstances. For those interested in learning to produce their own food, there are many online resources, as well as courses and classes is many cities throughout the world. Permaculture and urban gardening experts also provide consultancy services that can help communities turn disused areas into thriving communal gardens. While they do require an initial investment of time and money, plus some work maintaining and harvesting the crops, the results are well worth the effort.