ECONOMIC BENEFITS

The economic value of urban agriculture cannot be simply compared to the type of finance flow caused by the exchange of money for radishes or apples in supermarkets. Being of small or medium produc­tion, preferably organic and of seasonal assort­ment and aimed at a local market, urban agriculture is a different approach to life and food, competing with or supplementing the growing organic produce in supermarkets.

In the UK there are numerous examples where food growing projects are associated with National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) training courses (Howe and Wheeler, 1999). These range from basic numeracy and literacy courses through to training in subjects like commercial horticulture.

The skills and qualifications gained from this can then be used in seeking employment elsewhere in the horticultural and other sectors.

Urban food growing activities are also valuable educational resources within schools with potential for use in relation to traditional subjects such as science, geography and newer cross-curricular subjects like environmental studies. The ‘Growing Food in Cities’ report cites a number of case stud­ies where both primary and secondary schools are growing food within their school grounds for pre­cisely these purposes. Education is also a very important part of the activities of most urban farms.

This practical approach to training, if set within the context of a strategy for continuous landscapes within cities, would enhance education and the quality of life for students and citizens by providing a change of environment and heightened sensual experience which is not reliant upon the trap­pings of consumerism. The observation of outdoor activity and its experience can go a long way to re-establishing a connection with nature. It can introduce a sense of dynamic seasonal change and our part in this temporal environment. Or as Jackson states: ‘I believe we attach too much importance to art and architecture in producing an awareness of our belonging to a city or a county when what we actually share is a sense of time’ (Jackson, 1994, p. 162).

Producing goods and services

Urban agriculture provides an economic lifeline in many developing countries. In Britain, the commercial aspects of urban food growing have traditionally been inhibited by the general prohibition on selling food from allotments. However, no such restrictions exist in the case of urban farms and some commu­nity gardens. Urban farms in particular sometimes derive a significant income from sales of fruit, vegetables and meat through shops, restaurants and direct selling through vegetable box schemes. In addition, urban farms often sell non-food prod­ucts through outlets such as craft shops and offer services such as horse riding (Howe and Wheeler,

1999) .