Urban Ag: Helping to Bridge Urban and Rural Interests

The views presented in these blogs are those of the authors.

By Kathleen Merrigan, AGree Co-Chair & Executive Director of Sustainability at The George Washington University

As the world continues to urbanize, it’s vital that we figure out strategies to ensure that American agriculture stays relevant to city folk. More than 71 percent of Americans live in urban areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Globally in 2014, 54 percent of the world’s population lived in cities, up from 34 percent in 1960 according to the World Health Organization. Many of the newfangled urban ag operations look nothing like grandpa’s farm, but they can be productive, contribute to making urban communities more sustainable, and help bridge the urban-rural divide.

I’m starting to hear rumblings about the forthcoming Farm Bill, due for reauthorization in 2018. The question is: how should urban ag be incorporated in our national food and farming law? Are there ways that urban and peri-urban (on the periphery) agriculture can be bolstered to support sustainable environments, economic development and food entrepreneurship, food access for vulnerable populations, and healthier diets?

As we move into Farm Bill discussions, we need to think pragmatically about building a broad base of support for food and agriculture policy, and urban consumers are an important constituency. No, we are not going to “feed the world” entirely with urban agriculture, but there is good reason to be excited by the opportunities within reach.

Join us Friday, September 30, at The George Washington University Sustainability Collaborative annual symposium co-hosted with AGree, Michigan State University, and the University of the District of Columbia. This year’s gathering will focus on urban agriculture. Register to attend in person or participate via livestream here.

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will speak. Senator Stabenow will highlight legislation–the Urban Agriculture Act of 2016–that she plans to introduce to support urban ag as an economic development, sustainability, food and nutrition, and food security tool – an important complement to our vibrant rural agricultural systems. What an exciting milestone!

Come to be inspired, engage with young people, and learn more about urban ag. Join the conversation on twitter using #UrbanAg, and submit your questions for speakers and panelists at www.pigeonhole.at/URBANAG.

Through a host of engaging speakers including farmers, ag entrepreneurs, government representatives, and non-profit urban agriculture and food and nutrition champions, the symposium will address questions such as:

  • Why does urban ag matter? Can it scale?
  • How can urban ag address issues of social justice?
  • What are the business opportunities and how can we finance urban ag in diverse settings?
  • How can USDA and other government agencies help?
  • How do we reach and inspire urban youth?
  • What do we need to know to improve our policies and programs?

The full symposium agenda is available here.