Urban Agriculture:
Context for the Urban Agriculture Forum

There is little or no concern with the resilience of food supply chains to our growing urban populations
— National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility

Urban agriculture has an extensive and well-recognised role in many parts of the world where an estimated 800 million people are involved in urban agriculture globally, producing as much as 20% of the world’s total food requirements (read more here)

Urban agriculture provides multi-dimensional benefits, especially as regards food security for low income groups, employment and training opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalised groups, enhanced access to fresh fruit and vegetables, and reduced environmental impacts through less transport, packaging and storage (read more here).

The role of urban agriculture in supporting efforts to enhance urban resilience, urban food security and contribute to meeting the challenges of adapting to climate change were investigated by a multi-institutional research project supported by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (read more here).

The research, which was based in Melbourne as the leading centre of urban agriculture in Australia, found that ‘urban agriculture has the potential to play a greater role in strengthening the food security of Australian cities and building urban resilience in a changing climate.' (read more here).

At the same time, the research also found that at the levels of Federal and State government, ‘there is little or no concern with the resilience of food supply chains to our growing urban populations’; and that many stakeholders recognised ‘the need to join up local, small-scale initiatives to help build more sustainable, city-wide food systems’.

In other cities and countries, such city-wide urban agriculture policies and strategies exist. Vancouver, for example, adopted an Urban Agriculture Policy in 2015 to encourage edible food growing in public parks and spaces. Seattle City Council adopted its Local Food Action Initiative in 2008, and a Food Action Plan, which has as a cornerstone priority the support of measures and programs to expand the growing of food on public and private land (read more).

Local governments in Melbourne, notably the City of Yarra and the City of Darebin, have also adopted urban agriculture strategies in the past two years, and support for urban agriculture in its various dimensions is increasingly acknowledged as a key means for councils to achieve their health, well-being and community building objectives (read more here and here).
 

What is Urban Agriculture?

Urban agriculture and urban food production may include:
·   Vegetable and fruit growing,
·   Livestock raising, especially poultry
·   Beekeeping, aquaculture, hydroponics and aquaponics
·   Value-adding (e.g. making preserves)

Urban agriculture and urban food production can exist in many forms and on a variety of sites such as:

·   Private gardens
·   Land managed by private institutions / businesses, including rooftops and vertical gardens
·   Privately-owned land, including vacant lots awaiting development
·   Land owned by public / public-private utilities, such as Victrack
·   Publicly-owned land, including nature strips / verges, and street planter boxes,
·   Schools, childcare centres, aged care facilities, universities, hospitals and other similar institutions

Defining Urban, Peri-Urban and Regional

‘Urban’ here includes food growing in suburban areas, regional centres cities and towns. It does not include larger-scale irrigated and broad-acre farming. While commonly a distinction is made between ‘urban’ and ‘peri-urban’ agriculture, with the latter describing intensive market gardening and other forms of commercial-scale horticulture on the fringes of cities and larger metropolitan areas, for the purposes of this document, ‘urban’ is broadly conceived so as to include the peri- urban or hinterland.

While there is no clear boundary between urban and peri urban, the immediate threat to peri-urban agriculture and its significance indicates the need for a specific focus. The importance of regional food producers also needs to be recognised as part of this process. Food has huge potential as an agent for urban-regional-rural linkages.