So far in our Vote for London’s Food System series, we’ve explored what community food security is and why protecting farmland is important. For our last installment, we are going to talk about how you can support urban agriculture this election.
What is urban agriculture?
Generally, agriculture is the act of using land to produce (grow) and distribute food. You may be more familiar with rural agriculture – think of large farm fields in the countryside. Urban agriculture is much the same, but it happens on a smaller scale within city limits.
Why is urban agriculture important?
Primarily, urban agriculture is important because growing food within a community means food is readily available to that community. Urban agriculture removes barriers to accessing food, such as financial strain and/or a lack of transportation. Since food is immediately available and the price does not include shipping costs, food is cheaper and fresher for community members.
Additionally, urban agriculture has longer-term benefits for you and your community. Since urban agriculture projects happen right in your neighbourhood, you can easily find fresh options that can improve your physical and mental health. Urban agriculture also provides opportunities near your home to learn about food production and food issues. Close contact with how food is grown gives communities the chance to learn about food security and why rising food costs impact both consumers (you) and food producers (growers, farmers, etc.).
Another amazing benefit of urban agriculture is its positive impact on our environment. Planting gardens, cultivating fruit trees, or starting small farms creates healthy habitats for wildlife. For example, planting flowers and growing vegetables provides homes and food for bees. This leads to increased bee populations and more pollination, creating a lush ecosystem (which also benefits your garden and food production). Urban agriculture also helps the environment by cutting down on driving and food waste. When food can be sourced locally, people drive leading to lower carbon emissions. Access to a regular supply of local food means you can buy less at one time which helps prevent food spoilage and in turn, decreases food waste.
Since urban agriculture impacts communities in so many positive ways, our next city council needs to support its growth in London.
What is London’s urban agriculture like right now?
London made some positive changes to our urban agriculture by-laws in 2021. For example, if you have a large plot of land in your backyard, you may be able to build a greenhouse up to 200m2. You can also grow food in shipping containers if you get a permit!
Despite the changes, by-laws still limit what can be grown within city limits, London has a small, but passionate, urban agriculture scene. There are currently over 450 gardeners working within London’s 17 community gardens to provide communities access to low-cost and healthy food. Organisations like Urban Roots London have pushed through the existing red tape to make the most of London’s unused land by growing organic food and distributing it locally, proving urban agriculture can be a successful operation in London. Others see this too which is why The Grove exists; an agribusiness hub in London’s Western Fair District that provides people with the space and resources to make connections and make their ideas for bettering local agriculture a reality. As previously mentioned, London’s urban ag scene is small but passionate, and more forward, pro-urban ag city government will only see the scene grow.
However, there is still room to grow.
What can the London city council do to support urban agriculture?
While London city council is not directly responsible for the implementation of urban agriculture projects, they are in charge of advocating for bylaw changes to the provincial government. This means they can push our provincial government to give more city space to urban agriculture. If by-law changes pass, neighbourhoods could build more community gardens or start other initiatives. The city can also refine land use applications and reduce fees to ease the burden of accessing land approved for urban agricultural activities. (See our citations for specific actions municipalities should take.)
How can I vote for candidates that will support urban agriculture?
How can you ensure the candidate you vote for supports growing food in the city? Use our questions below to gauge your candidate’s interest and knowledge of urban agriculture.
- Would you consider urban agriculture a solution to some food security issues?
- How do you plan to grow urban agriculture within our municipality?
- What urban agriculture initiative are you most excited about and why?
- What changes do you think you can make to existing by-laws and programs to expand urban agriculture in London?
Other Actions You Can Take To Support Urban Agriculture
Besides voting on October 24th, here’s a list of actions you can take to support our urban agriculture community and get involved yourself:
- Join a community garden and grow your own food. Take things a step further by saving a row and growing some food for the London Food Bank.
- Visit the Victory Garden at the Western Fair
- Connect with Pollinator Pathways and learn how to plant a pollinator garden
- Buy food from urban growers
- Join Facebook groups to connect with urban gardeners (FUAL, etc.)
- Urban Roots London: https://www.urbanrootslondon.ca/about/
- FUAL: https://www.facebook.com/groups/fuallondon/
Written by Evelyna-Sophia Press
Edited by Julissa Litterick