16.–21.01.2023 #immcologne

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Urban farming taken to the next level

Agrihood as an urban living concept

Nature is finding its way into our cities. As a countertrend to global urbanisation, the need for a bit of green space, self-sufficiency and community is growing. “Agrihoods” could be the answer. This newly coined concept merges “agriculture” with “neighbourhood” and is gaining popularity, especially in the USA. Read on to find out what the trend is all about and what benefits this form of urban farming offers.

Is incorporating agricultural land into the urban environment the answer to eco-friendly living? (Photo: verdian chua on Unsplash)

Is incorporating agricultural land into the urban environment the answer to eco-friendly living? (Photo: verdian chua on Unsplash)

What is an agrihood?

Wouldn’t you like to enjoy a breath of country air in the heart of the city? Although more and more people are moving to cities, this trend is accompanied by a growing desire to be more in touch with the natural world. From urban farming and the increasingly popular concept of vertical villages through to vertical gardens in big cities, there are already many options for living an eco-friendly life in close contact with nature.

Agrihoods, however, go one step further, shifting the focus of a residential community to its agricultural land, which is cultivated by either the neighbourhood or a farming business. The eco-friendly living concept built around this farmed land puts the emphasis on a lifestyle that is close to nature and centred on self-sufficiency and community in the heart of a big city. This kind of mindful way of living offers many benefits, including having green spaces right on the doorstep and food with a low environmental impact. At the same time, all the conveniences of urban life remain close at hand. This lifestyle concept could bring about lasting changes to the way we plan cities.

Urban agriculture in a new light

The idea of self-sufficiency in the city is by no means new. The desire to grow food in urban areas intensified with the advent of industrialisation and increasing population density. As settlements became denser, allotments sprang up in many places – both for growing fruit and vegetables and for daily recreation. This trend was periodically fuelled by crises such as disease outbreaks and wars, with Berlin’s Tiergarten, for example, turned from a park into productive agricultural land. Collectivist organisations like the collective farms of the former Soviet Union and the kibbutzes in modern Israel are also based on similar concepts of communities with an agricultural focus. Today, the need to source food locally or grow it ourselves has become part of everyday life. Agrihoods could be the logical next step in combining old and new forms of urban land use.

Farming in the city: self-sufficiency in small plots. (Photo: Hannah Hoggatt on Unsplash)

Farming in the city: self-sufficiency in small plots. (Photo: Hannah Hoggatt on Unsplash)

How sustainability and everyday life combine in selected pilot projects

A look at current projects in the USA reveals just how practical the concept is. By the summer of 2021, the States already hosted more than 200 agrihoods. With 750 homes and a farm of almost five hectares at the centre of an active community, Harvest Green near Houston, Texas, is proving to be a real success story. The land is farmed by professional farmers with the help of volunteers from the neighbourhood. Regular workshops, swapping events and weekly markets enrich everyday life. At the same time, members can subscribe to receive veg boxes from the farm, which gives the project additional support.

Sustainability and environmentally friendly living are the bedrock of most agrihoods. A new project in Santa Clara in the San Francisco Bay Area focuses on sustainable vegetable cultivation, affordable rents and an intergenerational neighbourhood. With Farmscape , the project has brought on board an experienced service provider, which harvests around 9,000 kilograms of fruit and vegetables annually from 1.5 hectares of farmland. Right in the heart of the San Francisco conurbation, the team focuses on regional crops and water-saving and insect-friendly cultivation methods. On-site cafés and green spaces serve as neighbourhood meeting places.

What urban farming can look like: productive gardens on rooftops and in parks. (Photo: CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash)

What urban farming can look like: productive gardens on rooftops and in parks. (Photo: CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash)

Like the idea of life on the land? Green ideas for your own neighbourhood

It will probably be some time before large urban farming projects like these become established in Germany. But even small ideas and initiatives can make a difference. Small city gardens are sprouting up on areas of wasteland or in parks. Roofs are being planted and used to grow produce. Thanks to greenhouses, even courtyards are contributing towards a small harvest for local neighbourhoods. Life is shifting outdoors, which is also reflected in the increasing range of high-quality outdoor furniture available. The trend towards sustainable living is spilling over into private gardens and onto balconies, and the desire for more greenery indoors has also been growing for a number of years . In this way, almost anyone can experience and reap the rewards of a little bit of farm life in the city, even in the smallest of spaces.

According to UN forecasts, there is also a need for this approach, as about 65 per cent of the world’s population could live in cities by 2050 . The urban planners of the future will therefore have even greater challenges to overcome than they do today. Agrihoods are one of the innovative solutions for an environmentally responsible and neighbourhood-focused lifestyle.

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