For my blog, I wanted to go in depth into one of urban agricultures biggest issue, which is the presence of soil contaminants and some alternatives of how we can still continue to grow food when we don’t have viable soil. In many situations, urban soils have been exposed to contamination and degradation due to previous land usage and activities that include industry uses, unauthorized dumping, construction, or heavy nearby traffic which has resulted in the contamination of that soil. Most commonly, elevated levels of soils have been known to be infiltrated in urban soils which pose serious health risks to not only children, but adults as well (ANR Publication). Arsenic, cadmium, copper, zinc, are also naturally according elements in soils that can be elevated to an unsafe levels due to previous land use. Although relatively little of these contaminants are actually absorbed by the plant, it makes it fairly difficult to even have a successful crop when you have contaminated soil. The most common way a person will get exposed to these unsafe levels of contaminants is through swallowing or inhaling soil dust. So this begs the questions of how we can continue to grow food in urban areas which soil contaminants that may be food deserts or suffer from food security?
My answer to this question and one of my favorite alternatives to growing food without soil is vertical farming. Vertical farming is something that I have recently gotten into after a lab project of mine was canceled last semester due to COVID-19 where a group of classmates and I were in charge of coming up with a working system that was vertical farming. While in the process, I couldn’t help but think about how easily one of these food systems could be able to be actually function and benefit areas that we consider food deserts or food swamps, which are areas with a high-density of fast food establishments and unhealthy food relative to healthier options. One significant benefit of Vertical farming is space saving relative to conventional horizontal farming. According to NewGeography, the Los Angeles median lot size is just slightly above .15 acres (“The High Residential Densities of California”), vertical farming therefore offers the possibility of providing fresh food by squeezing into urban locations near consumers. A good example of vertical farming is Freight Farms, which has claimed that its system can produce as much food in one year as two of farmland as well as using 90% less water use compared to conventional farming (Breewood 2019). Instilling such a system in food deserts or inner-city communities where fresh food may not be widely available, can only bring positive benefits to said communities. A lot of times, these food deserts or food swamps, are the way they are due to systemic oppression and the lack of real consideration of how limiting ones person access to healthy food will impact other aspects of their life. I think vertical farming can be a viable system in these areas that may not have a good soil or the space available to plant in the ground. These communities have a right to easy, accessible healthy options which I feel vertical farming can provide.
ANR Publication 8552 Soils in Urban Agriculture.pdf
Cooksey-Stowers, Kristen, et al. “Food Swamps Predict Obesity Rates Better Than Food Deserts in the United States.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, MDPI, 14 Nov. 2017, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5708005/.
Breewood, Hellen “Spotlight on Urban, Vertical and Indoor Agriculture.” Resilience, 22 Jan. 2019, http://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-01-22/spotlight-on-urban-vertical-and-indoor-agriculture/.
“The High Residential Densities of California (and ‘Wild Wild’ Texas).” The High Residential Densities of California (and “Wild Wild” Texas) | Newgeography.com, 2020, http://www.newgeography.com/content/006196-the-high-residential-densities-california-and-wild-wild-texas.