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Making a case for the urban garden
Around 15 percent of the world’s food is now grown in urban areas, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But the figures for the U.S. are much lower. The city of Cleveland, for instance, produces just 1.7 percent of its food in urban farms and community gardens—and Cleveland is actually more progressive than most American cities, says Parwinder Grewal, PhD, professor of entomology and director of the Center for Urban Environment and Economic Development at Ohio State University.
Compare those numbers to a place like Cuba, where nearly 100 percent of the country’s fresh fruit and produce are grown within the country’s borders, and the food is almost entirely organically grown. “Cuba has devoted a lot of space to urban agriculture and made an effort for many, many years to grow food locally,” says Grewal, because trade embargoes prevented the nation from importing food, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union left its citizens unable to import oil for fertilizers and pesticides. Despite the problems Cuba has with a dictatorial government, its citizens enjoy abundant access to fresh, organic, local food.
Even beyond access to fresh food, “urban agriculture can bring lots of jobs and money to local communities,” says Grewal. He’s has just published a study in the journal Cities showing how economically beneficial urban farms can really be.