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Urban farms: More than just great food

This contradiction in terms -- urban farming -- is becoming more commonplace, and it's a very good thing. Not only do these farms provide healthy foods closer to markets, which reduces greenhouse gasses that are created in transport, but there are additional environmental and social benefits as well.

I wrote about rooftop farming in Boston, as well as how the city of Philadelphia incorporates small neighborhood parks, as means to capture stormwater in these and other cities. Urban farms and other forms of vegetation play an important role in mitigating flooding that is due to excessive and impervious hardscape that characterizes cities. Further, in New Orleans a handful of urban farms have taken root in the city's rich Mississippi mud, providing important jobs and job training in the process.

My home city of Chicago has several urban farms, including the for-profit Urban Till, which specializes in microgreens sold to restaurants. These are specialty foods that simply cannot survive long-distance travel, therefore they provide a product that is not otherwise possible for discerning gourmets. In my own article research and from attending a lecture in Chicago on urban farms, one message was repeated in different urban settings: The people who work there, many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds, find the work to be exceptionally rewarding. In many cases, urban farm workers graduate from short-term training into long-term employment with their new skills (often in food warehousing and transport jobs).

Russ Klettke writes on sustainable building and infrastructure, as well as a broad variety of business and health topics. Contact him to discuss your communications needs.

Photo: Boston's Higher Ground Farm is on top of the Boston Design Center. A kickstarter campaign enabled the young farmers to install dirt over a protective membrane, which is expected to extend the roof life to 50+ years versus the typical 20-30 years. Food that is produced here is sold commercially and via a farm share program largely subscribed to by occupants of the building.


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Russ Klettke

Business Writer

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