Farm-to-Table Models Grow to New Levels: Urban and City Dwellers Get Sustainable

Vegetable plantation in urban garden.

Necessity is the mother of all invention, as the saying goes. Solving the challenge of feeding the masses has plagued humanity for eons. Food production, dependent on water, proper nutrients, and sunlight (or at least UV light) is evolving to support smart growth in cities, rural communities, and new urban neighbourhoods.

The World Bank’s projections for global population growth is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050; with the majority of the population concentrated in major urban cities.

The food industry is developing new technologies to grow in limited spaces, with less resources, such as water. Indoor farms, or warehouses utilizing LED lighting, and growth techniques that aeroponically (plant root suspension techniques using spray nutrients and oxygen) produce fast green plants, arugula, kale, spinach, lettuce, etc., are increasing food production.

Whole Foods Foundation, Whole Planet is developing concepts and practices to bring urban and city populations together, providing micro financing to farmers; helping to solve the food crisis worldwide.

A new Penn State Study, published in February 2017 states; “ In the coming decades, agriculture will be called upon to both feed people and ensure a healthy environment,” said Hunter. “Right now, the narrative in agriculture is really out of balance, with compelling goals for food production but no clear sense of the progress we need to make on the environment. To get the agriculture we want in 2050, we need quantitative targets for both food production and environmental impacts.”

Drought and flooding create many challenges and financial liabilities for farmers and food manufacturers; climate change, according to studies, has greatly impacted productivity in many agricultural regions. Although the Penn State study points to needing only 25 percent greater food production to feed the global population by 2050, verses previous statistics at 50 percent, factoring climate change conditions could have an impact on the study’s findings.

People are relocating to cities and moving out of rural areas (China especially) creating more challenges for providing food supplies to millions of people, who live hundreds of miles from the nearest local agricultural centers. This has become a major hindrance for city and urban dwellers. Local farmer’s markets have become even more popular in many regions; and provide an abundant variety of fresh and organic resource for many cities.

Vertical farming, integrating densely planted crops in factories, is fast becoming a more viable economic model due to inclement weather patterns, disease, insecticides, water shortages and the cost of electricity and seed. But what impact will we experience nutritionally; and are we sacrificing taste, texture, and the experience of dining all together?

Let’s face it – for the baby boomers at least – most food tasted better when we were kids, before heavily processed and chemically laden foods were adopted. Today, a strawberry bought from our local or regional grocery store doesn’t necessarily taste like a strawberry, often it has little taste at all. Processed food has become the norm, with over 90 percent of the grocery stores carrying products laden with chemicals and preservatives.

Most grocery store chains and food manufacturers first agenda is to keep their shareholders happy with higher profits.   Extending the shelf life and keeping food fresh, often harvesting before the harvest is fully ripe; and even gassing the produce and meats with chemicals to improve profit margins, has become common practice.

So, what is the possible solution to offset the challenges of feeding our families and communities? Green building should take in consideration more than the building’s energy performance. Design considerations should be incorporated for individual families and communities to produce and supplement their own food needs sustainably. Is it possible the high-performance building industry could incorporate food production in their design process?


Here’s some resources on sustainable individual and community gardens to do your own research:

Tips for Sustainable Gardening – Best Practices and Principles

Organically certifiable products

Vertical Gardens – Small Spaces, Apartments

Greenhouses & More – Residential, Commercial

How to Start a Local Co-Op Food Market

How to Start a Hobby Farm or Farmer’s Cooperative Group


May Food Policy Round-Up: Obama Talks Agriculture, Sonny Perdue Gets Busy, and More

Modern Farmer: By Brian Barth

In one of his first public appearances since vacating the White House, Barack Obama stood before a crowd in Milan today and spoke on a topic he rarely touched as president: farming. While some media outlets were quick to comment on his tieless, unbuttoned shirt—not just one, but two buttons were undone (GQ scolded him for a “skin-to-seriousness ratio” more suited to Fabio than a former president)—we thought you’d be more interested in what he had to say about food policy. Read more…