Sustainable Agriculture in Urban and Suburban Environments

There is a disconnect between the producer and the consumers in capitalized societies. This is especially true in the agricultural world. Once something that was central to the survival of humanity, agriculture has now been pushed out into rural communities, industrialized, or shipped overseas. However, there are many issues that can be related to this capitalization of the farming industry.

The most important issue that needs to be addressed is the desertification of inner city communities in regards to fresh produce. In fact, the Economic Research Service of the Department of Agriculture notes that 2.2% of Americans do not have a car and live a mile or more away from a supermarket. This lack of transportation and access to affordable healthy foods lead to childhood and adult obesity. The issue itself is being addressed at the governmental scale in Ohio.  The Cuyahoga Community Health Department chose one of their top initiatives as “Creating healthy food opportunities in areas of the county that are food insecure.”

While the actions being presented are amazing and should continue, this does not address the full problem in which I wish to understand. That problem is, how can one produce an environment, individually, that benefits their metal health, physical health, and reaps some sort of gain for the community.

To me, the answer has always been sustainable agriculture.

One of the root causes involving the lack of initiative in these food desert environments is lack of education on agriculture along with a lack of income. In many of these areas, the reason there are little to no shopping options is due entirely on the lack of income in the population. Furthermore, a lack of income stunts any willpower to go through with ideas such as urban farming to gardening in the backyard.

However, willpower and other mental health traits only increase when agriculture is introduced to a community. For example, the Community Food Centers noted an increase in social capital, improved use of leisure time, decrease in stress, increase in physical activity and consumption of fresh foods, and increased security in communities. Gardening has also become a largely therapeutic method in the mental health field and addiction recovery programs.

In regards to education, I hope to expand on the idea and promote growth in communities via the STEP program. During this time, I hope to bring agricultural education to inner city children and create a garden in which they are able to learn hands on.

Communal sustainable gardening follows the triple bottom line perfectly. Individuals in the community are brought together by a shared interest, the environment is made as healthy as possible to ensure plant growth, and finally the economic interests of individuals would be seen in the increase of fresh produce consumed in a once deserted community.

I have chosen this activity as I am deeply affected by food deserts and I am extremely passionate about food deserts.

Photos from UpCycle Farm- An Urban Farm I worked on


Works cited:

Food Deserts

Cuyahoga County Projects

Mental Health Benefits of Community Gardening