Suggested Title — Vertical Farming: AGreen Solution for Overpopulated CitiesAccess to fresh, healthy food is a national issue. While theUnited States has seen a rise in farmer’s markets and an increase in organic,local foods at grocery stores, the fact remains that the price to obtain freshand healthy foods is steep. Many problems encircle the issue of fresh foodsincluding the price of fresh fruits and vegetables for families with manychildren, the carbon footprint that comes from the transport of vegetablesacross the country to large cities, and the way in which non-organic foodsimpact the environment. It’s almost a catch-22– while the United States wantsand needs to include more healthy, farmed ingredients in their diet, access tofood that is both widely affordable and safely and sustainably harvested is almostimpossible. To combat hunger dominated by poverty, food-related healthissues, and the high demand for fresh food within cities the United Statesneeds to focus both on implementing vertical gardens within those overpopulatedcities and spend time educating children about gardening and farming from ayoung age. By dispelling stereotypes about what a farm or a garden needs tolook like and embracing urban, vertical gardens, overpopulated cities willnotice a change in the overall health of their citizens as well as improvedquality of life within those cities.
The Ethics of TheSupermarketFor most, the idea of farming and gardening conjures to minda home with a red barn in the countryside. The animals and people are happy,and each piece of produce in its small plot of tilled land is plump and green. Inreality, most of the food available to those who do not grow their own is not apart of this picture. In a recent report done by the Guardian, the UK estimatesthat 70% of the produce in groceryis imported from overseas.1If the United Kingdom were superimposed over the United States, it would reachfrom the Oregon border to Los Angeles, not even covering parts of the statesthat it touched – meaning that “overseas” for the UK is often much lessdistance than importing domestically in the United States. With produce beingtransported daily by oil-dependent vehicles, this does not bode well for thehealth of the United States environment.Indeed, the environment is at stake when “conventionalagriculture” is discussed.
This is the type of agriculture that the UnitedStates currently relies on to feed its ever-growing population. This refers toindustrial farming that is used to create the highest yield product. The USDAhas made it well-known that this type of farming has no regard for the delicateecosystems found all over the United States. It all but ends biodiversity,permanently alters the natural environment, and turns quality soil into deadsoil2.
In addition, the food produced at these large farms usually are less nutritiousthan small-farmed, organic vegetables because of soil depletion.3Thelarge populations that these vegetables and fruits feed are usually found inlarge, overpopulated cities, meaning that people in cities seeking to eatnutritiously are paying more for food that is not as good for them than foodthey could grow themselves.What is VerticalFarming? It would seem that growing your own food would be a fantasyin a large, overpopulated city. In reality, vertical farming could potentiallybe the solution to providing environmentally-sustainable, readily available,nutritious and affordable food for people. Vertical farming on a large scaleinvolves raising vegetables within a building to provide fresh, local food. Incombination with city-wide composting systems, vertical farming could all butsecure the future of fresh food within cities.
Not only would it address therapidly growing populations within cities (a population which is expected to increasethe need for food by 70% by 2050), but it would place plants in situations andenvironments that are virtually free from drought, disease, and soil issuesthat have caused food scarcity in the past4.This will also impact the amount of greenhouse gas emissionsemitted by the United States, as the amount of transportation needed to getproduce from place to place will decrease significantly with the implementationof large-scale vertical farms. A reduction in the cost required to pack andtransport vegetables over a long-haul will be seen, meaning that the cost toconsumers will be that much less. Even with all these benefits, there are thoseenvironmentalists who are calling for an end to factory farming overall. Theirconcerns are raised about the runoffs likely to be produced by vertical farmswithin city limits, the cost to build these structures, and what that means forthe future of farming. While these concerns are legitimate, it does not mean thatvertical farming practices should be abandoned. The truth of the matter is thatthere is no practical way to sustain the populations in overpopulated citiesthat does not include some form of mass-produced food. While it would be niceif every family in America had their own garden, this neglects the needs andrealities of those who cannot afford the startup cost of creating a garden –more than $200 in total5.
Re-Thinking GreenThe most drastic change that needs to happen before any sortof city-wide vegetable farm can be implemented is the change in mindset aboutwhat makes a garden. While opponents of vertical gardens argue that verticalgardening is not “what farming should be”, neither is the conventional farmingthat is currently feeding our population and ruining our soils. More questionsneed to be answered regarding sustainable use of soils and soil additiveswithin these buildings, but that is always the case with any new idea duringits implementation. Lastly, people need to be encouraged to connect with theirfood sources.
Finding ways to create individual and community gardens forunderprivileged communities in big cities is one way to do this, but a general educationabout how to plant and create gardens within the infrastructure of a city isalso needed. With so many options for sustainable agriculture available, thefuture of farming and food for overpopulated areas is looking bright.