When I started researching what is happening in the world for the sustainability of agriculture and its spread to very large masses, I came across a new concept: “Urban Agriculture”.

While thinking about what is urban agriculture, where are its application areas, can there be an alternative solution for the understanding of “local produce, local consumption”, many parts of the world have been allocated to different uses in the city and its immediate surroundings due to the education and drainage problem. I have observed that they are being carried out in areas that are in idle status or are intended to be left empty for a while according to the plan.

More importantly, areas where traditional cultivation is carried out, such as home gardens, and residential surfaces such as roofs, balconies and terraces can also be considered as urban agricultural areas.

So what are the purposes and benefits of urban agriculture? Why should it be encouraged?

Urban agriculture is based on sustainable and natural practices. It has an important function that includes conditions such as time (temporary), place (buffer zones), social structure (women and low-income groups) and economy (economic crises, food shortages).

In urban agriculture practices, there are landowners, seed suppliers, credit institutions, consumers and waste managers as well as producers and workers.

There are 7.7 billion people in the world to be fed, it is said that this number will be over 9 billion in 2050. How will this world feed this rapidly growing population. As agricultural experts tackle a host of problems from the depletion of water resources to pollution, from energy use to habitat loss, I wonder if cities can become self-sufficient and manageable places in the near future?

The number of people engaged in urban agriculture, which ensures that food is as local as possible, is increasing day by day. With urban agriculture, the freshest products that can be bought with money can be grown and consumed in season.

Greener cities and increased per capita shadow areas are among the most important benefits of urban agriculture. In addition, urban agriculture helps people reconnect with nature. People feel happier here, as there are quite peaceful places to relax in the gardens on the roofs and verandas of the buildings, and they can even attract tourists to these areas.

Urban agriculture also creates great business opportunities for “environmental entrepreneurs”.

Integrated “green roofs” are gradually becoming popular around the world. Houses or buildings with green roofs are offered to tenants or buyers as an opportunity, and sellers gain prestige with green building certificates.

Empty lands, apartment gardens, balconies and terraces in cities can be used as planting areas. Growing fruit and vegetables helps low-income people lower their grocery shopping costs and eat fresh and healthy products. Growers can also earn additional income by selling their products at public events and local markets.

The roof garden at the Inter Continental New York Barclay Hotel, where beekeeping is also performed, is one of the first examples of urban agriculture. The honey produced by Midtown bees is used in the hotel’s kitchen, and bees fly up to five miles to spread pollen.

City Farm, a nonprofit in Chicago, sells fresh produce in summer and autumn, and offers community-supported farming shares to residents. 25,000 kg of tomatoes, carrots, beets, arugula and herbs are produced annually at City Farm. The farm provides economic opportunities and attracts a lot of volunteers and visitors. Most of the restaurants in the region prefer to buy their ingredients from City Farm.

2 American entrepreneurs blazed a trail by filling the back of a vehicle with soil and planting tomatoes in it. These two friends take the wheeled garden from one neighborhood to the next to give the city boys a chance to get their hands dirty and show how food looks with the earth. They made a movie called Truck Farm in 2011 and it made a lot of noise. We all know that many urban children do not know what vegetables, which fruits, where and how they grow. Even this little app is a small chance for city kids to love nature, agriculture.

An employee in Tokyo can harvest vegetables grown in the office. The employment and placement company Pasona Group has created a breeding ground to be in touch with nature, to encourage and improve the working environment. During lunch breaks, employees are dealing with vegetables and fruits.

I was very impressed when I heard about this practice. While I was lamenting that such practices should start in our country, a friend of mine said that many businesses in Istanbul are doing such practices on their roofs or in some agricultural areas allocated to them. This is really good and promising news. I hope the spread across the country can be achieved in the near future.

Although these case studies are undoubtedly remarkable, there is also the other side of the work, namely the project’s “business model”. Garden setup fee, market, deal size with restaurants, or agreement protocols with cooperatives and markets.

Just as we start to project by making the feasibility of starting any business, every new business idea to be developed for urban agriculture necessitates planning. I recommend that especially young people pay more attention to these and similar issues and pursue new business models. I believe that they will find a much more enjoyable, free and creative life in order to fill the gaps and to do the real work they need. One of these jobs is urban agriculture.

Say what? Isn’t it a gain for us living in the big city?

Professor Meltem Onay

Vice Rector

15 November Cyprus University

About İsmail Uğural

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