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Are Urban Farms More Hype than Hope? Report Raises Questions

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How does the urban farm grow?

A new report from the Center for a Livable Future suggests city farms aren't necessarily a magic bullet when it comes to solving the problem of urban hunger.

After analyzing 167 studies of urban agriculture—most of which focused on community gardening—the report found that urban agriculture sites aren't able to produce a significant enough percentage of the fruits and veggies consumed by locals.

Even if every vacant lot in New York City was put to agricultural use, the farms would as most yield enough for just 160,000 of the city's 8.4 million residents, according to the report. Other potential downsides of urban gardening include inefficient resource use, inadequate soil management, and fruits and vegetables sold at prices higher than what the community can afford.

But the Center for a Livable Future is by no means advocating an anti-urban farming stance. Rather, their research shows that the benefits of community gardens and rooftop farms are largely to be had through neighborhood engagement, community-building, and making fresh veggies and fruits more accessible to more people.

"Some neighbors of urban farms discuss the community improvement benefits… with more enthusiasm than the production of fresh local food," says the report.

Locals near urban farms and community gardens often report that their neighborhood looks better, in addition to having less crime, rising property values, and a greater sense of social connection.

But what do you think? As urban farming becomes more popular, do you think that new technologies and growing techniques will make it a more efficient way of cultivating produce? Or are the community benefits enough to justify the hype?

Vacant Lots to Vibrant Plots (PDF) [Center for a Livable Future]

Urban Farms Bring Us Together, but Can They Feed Enough of Us? [Civil Eats]

Europe's Largest Urban Farm, 'Times Square of Urban Agriculture,' Opens in the Hague [Curbed]