Urban Areas Need “Freedom Lawns” To Revive Their Soil

Few people put much thought into the soil beneath their feet, but Loren Byrne does. A professor at Roger Williams University, Byrne is an expert on urban soil ecology, and he worries that humans are changing the structural integrity of soils in urban environments and limiting the ability of plants and animals to live in and nourish the earth.

“Soil is easily overlooked and taken for granted because it’s everywhere,” he said. “We walk all over it and think of it as dirt that we can manipulate at our will. But the secret of soil is what’s happening with soil organisms and what’s happening with their interactions below ground that help regulate our earth’s ecosystems.”

Byrne contributed a chapter about urban soils to a report, State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity, issued last year by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. He discussed how the ecology of the soil changes as it is compacted during construction, paved over, chemically treated for lawns, and dug up and carried away.


Indianapolis’ Urban Farms Help Tackle Urban Problems

Author: Andrew Amelinckx 

When you think of urban agriculture many people tend to picture cities like New York or San Francisco. But in Indiana, a state more associated with large farms growing commodity crops like wheat and soybeans, there’s a quiet revolution taking place in Indianapolis. Mission-driven urban farm programs are trying to solve the big city problems of urban renewal, job opportunities for the disenfranchised, and feeding the hungry who live in so-called “food deserts” without access to fresh, wholesome food.

In this city of a little less than a million people, Indianapolis has an outsized problem with food insecurity. In 2014, it topped the real estate company Redfin’s list of worst cities for food access. Over the last few years a number of diverse organizations have banded together to deal with the issue, creating unique partnerships that have resulted in an urban farm that donates all its produce to food banks, a restaurant—complete with micro-farm—where the proceeds go to feeding food-insecure students, and a high-tech hydroponic farm that provides jobs for folks who need a second chance. Modern Farmer spoke with several of the people involved in these projects to see how they are dealing with food insecurity in their city.

Indy Urban Acres

In 2011, Indy Urban Acres was born out of a partnership between the Indianapolis Parks Department, the non-profit Indianapolis Parks Foundation, Indiana University Health, Gleaners Food Bank, and with the support of The Glick Fund, Indianapolis Power & Light and CLIF Bar Family Foundation. According to Tyler Gough, the farm manager for Indy Urban Acres, these groups pulled together “whatever resources they had” to provide organic produce for the 150,000 food-insecure residents of the city. The 35,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables they grow each year on five acres of an eight-acre organic farm (the other three acres are used as educational space) goes to local food pantries.


How Urban Farming Is Revolutionizing Our Cities and Food System

Author: Dr. David Suzuki | Published on: August 30, 2016

Urban agriculture won’t resolve all food production and distribution problems, but it could take pressure off rural land while providing other advantages.

Humans are fast becoming city dwellers. According to the United Nations, “The urban population of the world has grown rapidly from 746 million in 1950 to 3.9 billion in 2014.”

Sixty-six percent of us will likely live in urban environments by 2050. The number of mega-cities (more than 10 million inhabitants) is also skyrocketing, from 10 in 1990 to 28 in 2014—home to more than 453 million people—and is expected to grow to 41 by 2030.

Along with concerns about climate change and the distances much of our food travels from farm to plate, that’s spurred a renewed interest in producing food where people live. Urban agriculture won’t resolve all food production and distribution problems, but it could help take pressure off rural land while providing other advantages. From balcony, backyard, rooftop, indoor and community gardens to city beehives and chicken coops to larger urban farms and farmers markets, growing and distributing local food in or near cities is a healthy way to help the environment.