What can you eat from your landscape?
The question is not as crazy as you think. Growing food in and around metropolitan areas is critical now and into the future. Currently, almost 1 billion people are HUNGRY across the globe, and the population is increasing. While the population balloons to a staggering 10 billion by 2050, land suitable for growing food dwindles. About 40% of land is used for agricultural purposes as is, and fewer people are tending to that land. In the meantime, people keep moving to cities and the farmland closest to major distribution centers is being converted to housing developments.
Remember in Spring of 2020 when the world panicked about the stability of their food supply? Still secretly nervous about it (I am talking to YOU, TP hoarders. I see you all!)?
The domestic food supply is incredibly important, and traditional farmers on tractors are not the only ones supplying the food. Urban agriculture is an emerging way of growing food in and around metropolitan areas. Techniques range from sneaking fruit trees into manicured landscapes, to raised beds, to hydroponic towers, to organic small farms, to intensive high tech warehouse farming!
The future of farming is exciting and there is a ton of room for new research. We must ask the same question that we have asked about managing weeds and balancing soil nutrition and rooting depth, but in urban soils rather than traditional rural ones. We need to learn more about water use efficiency in hydroponic systems compared to conventional and organic systems. The symphony of light that plants eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is another truly fascinating arena of urban ag research.
We also have more diverse and vibrant communities than ever before! Perhaps there are plants well adapted to your environment that are not common to your American diet. Do not get me started on eating the weeds! Ask your favorite friend from the Caribbean islands about “bitter melon” a common edible weed that has a death sentence in most landscapes. Unfamiliar foods may take on a fancy appearance in the landscape!
The good news about the future of food is that our problems are totally solvable! As is, we waste 40% of our food between the farm and your trash can. If we just stop wasting food, everybody eats without cutting down more trees. A more controversial solution is to seek cellular solutions using genetic modification techniques aimed at enhancing food production efficiency. Organic agricultural production does seek environmentally sustainable solutions but yields less food per acre. Urban agriculture is another solution that keeps food close to the consumer, thus reducing nutritional loss during transportation and offering superior product on a local level.