Green Garden Cities

How to bring local food to US cities in a sustainable way

Cities are expanding and the population is growing and thus creating a greater need for food and land. We constantly hear about the need to reduce carbon emissions in our atmosphere, and one way to do so is to change the way we grow our food. In America, a large monoculture farm normally defines farming, but it we can reinvent it. Creating farming within the city would do a lot to make a more sustainable, smarter food system within the city. During our time in the Netherlands, we visited many gardens that aimed to bring local food to the city or provide arable space to the community. The farms and gardens’ purpose is to decrease the carbon footprint of the food the locals eat and to develop a community by providing a space for socialization.

Most food travels hundreds of miles before it reaches an inner city supermarket. The New Urban Farm has found an alternative to average farming by growing vegetables and farming fish in a high-rise building in Den Haag. They are then able to provide food with a low carbon footprint to the local community and supermarkets.

The New Urban Farm had converted a rooftop and the top floor of a building to greenhouse and fish farm, respectively. The project was incredible, using smart greenhouse and water technology to recycle 90% of the water between the fish farm and greenhouse. This farm aimed to reduce the carbon footprint of food that is sold to the city by producing in the inner city and selling it to local retailers and having it at markets.

In Rotterdam, we visited the Op Het Dak, a less intensive rooftop garden focused more on community and decreasing the heat island effect in the city, and less on providing food. This garden was focused on social capital. It introduced people to the idea of green roofs and built a desire for more. Our tour guide there said they had many visitors and people either wanting to assist Op Het Dak or create their own rooftop gardens. Focusing on community allowed this garden to raise awareness for what gardening can be, and is a great stepping stone to creating a city of green roofs.

One of many rooftop gardens in Rotterdam, Op Het Dak, is part of a city initiative to reduce the heat island effect by converting an unused rooftop to a space that filters carbon dioxide and cools the area.

We passed many city-owned properties that fostered farming too. There are gardens in empty lots throughout the city and farm animals in the parks. These gardens are not permanent and since the land is owned by the city when development is necessary the city mandate change. However, while the spaces are unused they are suitable for gardens, offering another way to bring produce to the local community. Also, the parks with cows and goats were more for kids’ entertainment but could be taken a step further and used for small dairy production in the inner city.

On market day, urban farmers and community gardeners can sell their produce. This localizes produce and creates a atmosphere for fresher food with a less of a carbon footprint.

There are many different ways to change farming in the cities. Of course, the city would not be self-sufficient but bring some production and fresh food to cities would be a great step to reducing carbon emissions – by decreasing food transportation and cleaning of the city air with more greenery. To see this change happen in the United States I think we would need to start with projects like Op Het Dak to get the community involved in seeing how they could recreate their homes or workplaces. Also, since many cities have adopted the Paris Accords they could create a funded initiative to start inner city farming. A city like New York, with many parks, could transform some or parts of their parks into local community gardens or small dairy producers. The larger scale operations, like New Urban Farm, would need to from entrepreneurs but cities could create grants and subsidies for these projects, as the EU does. Projects like these are a necessary step for United States’ cities to bring a healthy atmosphere to their citizens and reduce their carbon emissions.

-Emily Bulla