From Creative Ideas to Specific Plans for Urban Agriculture

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Urban agriculture may be trendy but does it have any impact? Municipalities are increasingly discovering that the answer is ’yes’, with benefits for health, the neighbourhood and the local economy. In the fast-growing Urban Agriculture City Network (Stedennetwerk Stadslandbouw), councils are working together to make urban agriculture a permanent success. The Day of Urban Agriculture takes place on 15 May. Wageningen UR is one of the partners and 'Wageningen' researchers Jan-Eelco Jansma and Jan-Willem van der Schans are in the expertpanel.

“The popularity of urban agriculture has grown considerably over recent years,” says Jan-Eelco Jansma, scientist at Wageningen UR. “There is a great deal of variety: from nursing trays on balconies to empty greenhouses transformed into sheltered allotments; from vegetable patches in parks to social care farms. Over the past hundred years our food supply has become increasingly distanced from our environment. Urban agriculture is a counter reaction to that development and, due to the financial crisis, more patches of land have become available in and around cities.” 

Positive effects of urban agriculture

While there is plenty of enthusiasm for urban agriculture, how does one gauge its impact on society? Scientists from Wageningen UR found many positive effects beside its contribution towards the food supply. Urban agriculture has been shown to benefit health, the quality of life and the sense of community within the neighbourhood. It also benefits the economy, adds Jansma: “A growing number of businesses are making a decent living from urban agriculture.” 

Urban Agriculture City Network

In 2010 Jansma brought a group of pioneering municipalities together within the Urban Agriculture City Network. “City officials, companies and civilians have plenty of creative ideas for urban agriculture. What is often lacking is cohesion and direction, which makes it hard to realise initiatives in practice. The Urban Agriculture City Network helps municipalities remove obstacles, inspire each other and seize opportunities for urban agriculture.” 

Alexandra van Huffelen is alderman in Rotterdam, one of the members of the city network. “Each city has its own specific conditions, but there are also many similarities. The network offers a great way to learn from each other and exchange experiences; for instance during the Day of Urban Agriculture, which takes place on 15 May this year.” 

Agenda for Urban Agriculture

Rotterdam is one of the twenty-plus municipalities to have signed the Agenda for Urban Agriculture in which it agreed to make efforts in the field of urban agriculture. For a city like Rotterdam urban agriculture is very important, confirms Van Huffelen. “It stimulates contact among the locals, who become more active and go outside more. In addition, urban agriculture make Rotterdam residents more aware of what they put on their plates. There are an increasing number of places where people can buy vegetables, fruit and sustainably produced meat from the city and region.”

Great potential

Urban agriculture will become an inseparable part of city life over the coming years, concludes Jan-Eelco Jansma.“ Although there is still a long way to go there is enormous potential. Take, for instance, multifunctional agriculture in the rural areas. People did not take this seriously a decade ago, associating it with second-rate farming. Now the sector is generating more turnover than outdoor vegetable farming.”

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