Posted October 17th 2013 at 9:30 am by
in Greater Yield

Introducing Greater Yield, a Series On Urban Agriculture

Greater Yield Trailer from MIT CoLab on Vimeo.

I’m a believer in urban agriculture. But my belief isn’t rooted in an interest in gardening, biodiversity, or the environmental benefits of reduced food miles (though those are all great). I was drawn to urban agriculture because I felt there were too many young people being murdered in my hometown.

The causes of violence in American cities are of course numerous and complex. But in the debate over what causes violence and how to stop it, some common themes frequently appear: a lack of jobs, poor public education, disinvestment in inner city neighborhoods. Added up, these factors can be labeled more broadly as systemic racism and economic injustice. The point is that the problem of violence is so interwoven into our cities’ patterns that any solution to it must be similarly cross-cutting and holistic.

As a food systems journalist in New Orleans, I began to see urban agriculture as just such a solution. In my interviews with urban farmers there and around the country, I discovered that while providing fresh, healthy food to their communities was an important goal, urban farmers frequently had greater aspirations: to educate young people about nutrition; to beautify their neighborhoods; to provide jobs where jobs were scarce; to connect people to life cycles that are frequently invisible in urban settings. The produce grown was simply considered a perfect vehicle for the deeper change they wanted to create.

Policy makers and economists concerned with the global food system often puzzle over the question of yield; how are we going to make our farms yield enough crops to feed a swelling global population? While this is a real concern, these thinkers frequently bring the same rationale to criticisms of urban agriculture and regional food systems, claiming that there is nowhere near enough growing capacity in and around our cities to feed the world’s population.

These critics are missing the point by a long shot.

The aim of this series is to elaborate on the different kinds of impacts urban agriculture can have on communities, outside of the realm of food security. While certainly not a panacea for the problems facing our cities, the benefits of urban agriculture are far reaching, and we’ve only begun to assess them. Each installment will showcase different projects around the country and how work being done there impacts areas as diverse as education, economic development, neighborhood revitalization, land use strategies, and climate change adaptation. By examining the range of impacts urban agriculture is having on American cities, I hope to make a case for a yield that is deeply important, but incalculable in bushels and pounds.


Post by Andrew Cook.

5 responses to “Introducing Greater Yield, a Series On Urban Agriculture”

  1. Nick Behr says:

    This is crazy! I was just talking to my wife about this exact idea this morning. We live in Chicago where crime, unemployment and food deserts are big issues and were listening to an public radio report of how our mayor is doing after the first two year. I could not help but to wonder how much one guy can really do when jobs are probably the only real answer to our crime problems. Public work jobs are great and all but once the job is complete it is over. To really create jobs you need to produce something that everyone needs — in this case food, the other option being energy. Chicago has plenty of space and people to interested in this. Looking forward to hearing more about Greater Yield.

  2. gmoke says:

    Having been involved with urban agriculture since the 1970s, I can tell you that people have been talking this talk and walking this walk for the last 40 years here in Boston. Sit down with Mel King sometime and hear the story of the beginnings of the urban/rural coalition and the movement for community gardens, farmers’ markets, and urban land trusts. There is a long history here that is the foundation for the fruition that is happening today around the USA and the world.

    And it’s not just about cities.

    And don’t limit your imaginations by believing that cities will never produce enough food to feed themselves.

  3. Kathleen says:

    I’m having trouble finding when this series begins and how I can access it. Could someone please point me in the right direction? Thanks!

  4. valerie says:

    So I’m a newbie to this site- love it but how do you sign up to listen to this? Where will it be? when does it start? I’m confused… 🙂

  5. Andy Cook says:

    Hi Kathleen and Valerie-

    These posts will appear on this site every other Thursday for the next few months. The best way to get updates is to ‘like’ CoLab Radio on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Thanks for checking it out!


  6. […] how Andy is using his creative talents to educate and inform larger audiences about these issues. Greater Yield is a web series for CoLab Radio aimed at exploring the myriad benefits of urban agriculture in […]

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