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Edible Cities — the Future and the Past

During my lifetime, I have watched as food production has moved further and further away from food consumption. In the 1950s, I helped my grandfather remove caterpillars from his purple sprouting broccoli in his front garden in urban Bingley, Yorkshire, UK. My grandmother also had an allotment where she grew most of the vegetables they needed for dinner. In my 20’s, I grew vegetables in the back garden in semi-rural New South Wales, Australia. As a teacher in my 30’s and 40’s, I showed children how to grow beans and at home I had tomatoes and corn growing.

My wife has had a similar experience in the inner northern suburbs of Brisbane. Her parents grew their own fruit — mandarins, mulberries, strawberries — and a small stand of sugarcane for treats. Her mother also grew beetroot, carrots, and silver beet. That garden is now underneath 2 meters of concrete and a large factory. As a young mother, my wife grew her own corn, lemongrass, elderberries, and herbs. Now we just buy fruit and veggies and meat from the shop.

At least we haven’t succumbed to the fast food advertising that our next generation has.

Then … in 2014, in London, near St Pauls, we came across Pret and the packaging on our delicious sandwiches declared that fresh ingredients were sourced from rooftop farms within a 5 mile radius. Last year, ABC’s “Landline” did a piece on a company producing fresh greens in shipping containers in the heart of Melbourne, delivered direct to restaurants — that’s fresh!

There are many positives to urban agriculture. It reduces the carbon footprint of food production, creates a more secure supply chain, is better for physical and mental health, and may even save you some money.

Nicolas Brassier and Maxime Petit, owners of Peas&Love, an urban farm that has expanded to seven sites across France and Belgium in the past two years, want to help to make cities nicer places to live by reintroducing nature to the concrete jungles. “Residents pay a monthly subscription for access to an urban farm with a combination of individual allotments, shared growing spaces and a broad range of activities around food production and transformation. The farm is cultivated by employees and subscribers, who contribute and harvest in their free time,” the BBC writes. My Yorkshire grandparents would feel most at home with this.

The farms and allotments are located on hotel or shopping centre roofs. Peas&Love is part of a “growing French movement to address the aging population of farmers and the disconnect between young people, produce and producer. Half of the rural farmers in France will reach retirement age within the next decade. At the same time, citizens grow more interested in their diet and the Covid-19 crisis revealed an urgent need for greener urban environments.”

So, that’s the veg, what about the meat? Tony Seba’s revolutionary report suggests that in the future, protein requirements may be provided locally from local fermentation farms.

Although urban allotments, vertical veggie plots, and rooftop farms are unlikely to displace the broader agricultural industry, they provide a soul-nourishing adjustment from our current system. Create an edible city for your future!

Featured image courtesy of Pret

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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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