Towering buildings, concrete sidewalks and asphalt streets are not typically what you think of when you think of farming and agriculture, but this is the environment in which one of the newest types of farming is happening: urban agriculture.
What is urban agriculture?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), “Urban agriculture refers to the cultivation, processing and distribution of agricultural products in urban and suburban settings.”
Urban agriculture includes backyards, balconies and rooftop gardens used to raise herbs, vegetables or fruit. It can also be community gardens in parks, vacant lots, greenhouses or vertical farming which includes indoor hydroponic or aquaponic operations found in warehouses or old factories. Urban agriculture also includes any other type of farming or gardening used to produce food in urban or suburban areas.
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When did urban agriculture begin?
The root of urban agriculture can be traced back to 3500 B.C. and Mesopotamia. Archeologists have found evidence of plots in their growing cities designed for the growing of crops and vegetables. All throughout history, there are examples of cities having areas or gardens for the cultivation of crops and vegetables for its citizens.
One of the most popular historical references to urban agriculture was “Victory Gardens,” in which the U.S. Government encouraged people to plant gardens during World War I and World War II, to help increase overall food production during war years.
Benefits from urban agriculture
The communities that have and support urban agriculture can benefit in many ways economically, environmentally and socially. By growing fruits and vegetables in urban areas, it places the food closer to the consumer and helps reduce the transport costs and carbon footprint. In some instances, these urban agricultural enterprises have been placed in food deserts or areas where food insecurity is prevalent.
Urban agriculture is a means to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to people that may not otherwise have access to it. Indoor agricultural ventures can also provide year-round production of vegetables to cities and urban areas. Greater employment opportunities are possible for people wanting to work in these areas.
Environmentally, urban agricultural areas help control stormwater runoff, improve air quality and increase biodiversity. Urban agriculture also provides habitats for pollinators, such as bees, birds, useful insects and animals.
Socially, urban agriculture can help nurture a sense of community by providing a common area and goal for people in the neighborhood. By getting involved in urban agriculture, people strengthen their community while also experiencing a sense of accomplishment and sustainability. Working in urban agriculture projects from the start until crops are harvested is highly satisfying.
How does urbanization affect agriculture?
Urbanization has always had an impact on agriculture. According to the USDA, from 1992 to 2012 the U.S. lost 31 million acres of farmland to development; that works out to a rate of three acres per minute. Urban agriculture can be more productive per square foot measurement because several types of urban agriculture grow vertically and have small space requirements compared to traditional farming.
The difficulty is that there is not as much square footage for urban agriculture as there is available for traditional farming, so with a total amount of food produced, traditional agriculture wins. With the world population continuing to grow, and shrinking amount of farmland, both urban agriculture and traditional farming will have to work together to supply a safe, abundant and affordable food supply.
Is urban agriculture covered by farm insurance?
The Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance’s Rural Guardian Farmowner Policy provides coverage for all sizes, types and shapes, including most types of urban agriculture. Due to the specialty nature of the equipment and processes used in urban agriculture, a visit and consultation from one of Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance’s Farm Field Underwriters may be required.
Farm field underwriters are experts in the field of farming and agriculture and can work with you and your Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance agent to custom design coverage options for urban agriculture operations.
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