It should come as no surprise that indoor and vertical farms are making headway in cities across the U.S. While urban agriculture is still facing an uphill climb, city officials are starting to take notice of the benefits of indoor farming in metropolitan areas.
City governments are now partnering with local stakeholder groups and food policy councils to develop strategies for supplying city residents with an abundance of nutritious food locally grown. Below are four cities that are leading the urban agricultural movement across the country.
1. Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Minneapolis City Council launched an Urban Agriculture Policy Plan in 2011. The objective was to improve environmental conditions for farmers and gardeners. The 2012 urban agriculture ordinance accomplished that initiative, as food councils partnered with farmers to expand the agricultural landscape.
The result included 200 community gardens, 80 food trucks, and 32 farmer’s markets spread across the city. The poly plan increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables for Minneapolis residents.
2. Detroit, Michigan
Detroit has slowly recovered from an unprecedented economic collapse in 2010 followed by the mass exodus of longtime residents - over 700,000 to be exact. Over 60% of residents left the city, thus, creating a virtual wasteland.
But Detroit city officials stayed the course and fought to revive the once mega-metro area. In 2013, the Food Policy Council implemented local food systems and urban agriculture into the city infrastructure. The overarching strategy was to establish zones that allowed the production of local fresh food in the heart of the city.
Detroit now contains 1350 community gardens, dozens of farmer’s markets, food trucks, and small urban farms. Local grocers and restaurant owners are encouraged to support local farms.
3. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Like Detroit, the city of Milwaukee has also fallen on hard times. In 2013, over 70,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared along with 12,000 residential foreclosures, leading to a massive economic recession.
After conducting a zoning code audit, city officials adopt an urban agriculture program to stimulate the economy once again. Once vacant residential and commercial vacant lots, are now being utilized by greenhouse and bee farmers. Urban farms, community gardens, and city orchards thrive across the city, as well as an effort to replace outdated manufacturing methods with sustainable manufacturing solutions.
The new plans have resulted in the reduction of waste and energy consumption. Gardeners and farmers are receiving tax breaks by producing fresh fruits and vegetables on vacant lots.
4. Chicago, Illinois
Though far from an economic crisis, city officials in Chicago have recognized the need for a long-term solution for providing fresh, sustainable produce for the nearly three million residents who call the city their home.
In 2011, Chicago began revising the zoning codes to make concessions for urban agriculture within the city limits. The plan was to create farms and community gardens across the city including rooftop farms, apiaries, farmers markets, and indoor urban agriculture. Like Milwaukee, Chicago took advantage of vacant properties by transforming them into urban farms. The intended result was to make the city a healthier, safer place to live by providing more sustainable solutions.
The plan initiated by city officials was quickly embraced by residents as community outreach efforts and private education programs began popping up. All in all, the plan has been successful thus far — 64 food truck vendors, 24 seasonal markets, and a handful of year-round farmers markets. 62 urban farms and countless community and rooftop gardens are spread across the city. Over 100 major businesses, restaurants, and corporation have provided funding, as well as public support and participation in the urban farming initiative.
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