Urban Agriculture- What is it and how can I get involved?
Urban Agriculture is a form of "intensive" agriculture - as opposed to conventional agriculture, which is "extensive". The focus of urban agriculture is to optimize urban spaces for food production. This could include growing food on rooftops, brown fields*, empty lots, community gardens or even working with The City to plant fruit producing trees in public spaces.
Urban agriculture can be used for business and non-business purposes. There are important rules and regulations with food business so it is important to get all the information to prevent complications. Luckily SPIN can help! Saskatoon is the home of SPIN (small plot intensive farming).SPIN-Farming offers a learning series which teaches you how to take a backyard, front lawn or neighbourhood lot to new levels of productivity and profitability that go beyond traditional home gardening practices. For more information visit: http://spinfarming.com.
Urban Agriculture is also useful at the individual and household level. Not only is it an affordable option in a world where food prices are continually increasing but they also taste better! Foods fresh from the garden have more time to mature on the stem, allowing them to develop rich and complex flavours. Also, research shows that those who garden are more forgiving of food imperfections, than they might be of grocery store foods. This means that gardening helps to reduce food waste which is a major issue, especially in North America!
Urban Agriculture is as much about social issues as it is about food issues. Many people living in urban centres do not have a connection to their food system. This result of this disconnect can manifest as a mistrust in large companies, and can impact our health and well-being. Food is a connecting agent; it helps to bring people together to reinforce culture and community through conversation and sharing of tips and bounty. Gardening has also been shown to have many therapeutic benefits including stress reduction, building a sense of pride and accomplishment and has been used to create a healing space for addiction and PTSD recovery.
Keep it simple.
Involve others (children, grandparents, newcomers...).
Don't cut down trees for the sake of gardening (for shady yards look for community garden options or front yard gardening).
Seek help (saskatoonfood.ca, usask.fruit.ca, or find an old pro and ask a few questions).
Shop local - support your farmers market and local cooperatives.
Compost (for more information visit: https://www.saskatoon.ca/services-residents/waste-recycling/composting/home-composting)
Have fun :)
Experts in the area of Urban Agriculture include Grant Wood at the University of Saskatchewan, Wally and Gail (Wally's Urban Garden Market) at the Saskatoon Farmers Market, and more!
*brownfields: vacant spaces for four years or more. May be contaminated, and therefore suitable for above-ground gardening. Brownfields may also not be contaminated (testing can be down) and therefore can be planted directly in the soil.