Feeding an urban population in ever-growing cities around the world is a big challenge. The growth of these concrete jungles can lead to food deserts: areas of urban land that have insufficient access to grocery stores. Supermarkets in some urban areas can’t meet the needs of a growing population, and many subsist on the insufficient fare and nutrients of convenience stores.
The good news is that we’re growing new means to compensate! It is called regenerative agriculture, a way to design new layers of food security into a city or suburb while also improving biodiversity and decreasing the area’s carbon footprints as well.
Cities can benefit from an aspect of regenerative agriculture called permaculture. This is the synergy of horticulture and agriculture. Horticulture involves collecting naturally replenishing resources from the land. For example, humans have been sustainably sourcing latex from rubber trees for centuries. Permaculture uses the regenerative capacity of horticulture with the organization and planning of agriculture.
Applied correctly, this could have a big effect on cities and food deserts.
Using synergistic effects cities can create a diverse garden that helps support the community and urban wildlife. By planting a diverse selection of flowering plants, you can ensure pollinators visit the forest and facilitate pollination between plants, and by planting a group of nitrogen fixers such as peanuts the soil quality can be improved.
This leads to the regenerative concept of the “food forest.” Simply put, a food forest is a community of edible plants that takes advantage of growing up as well as spreading out and helping each other to grow, thrive, and hopefully, reproduce. The forest is broken down into what practitioners call “guilds”, groups of plants that work closely together to create ideal growing conditions.
Once established, food forests can expand to take up all available space. While a food forest is not the “end all be all” for food deserts, it can help tremendously when implemented in the right places, such as on former golf courses or box store parking lots as cities design better public transportation options. This is one more invaluable tool in the box to make cities more sustainable and, if we may say so, beautiful!