Growing Food in the City by Kim Matthews

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Food Fact:

“The term ‘food miles’ refers to the distance food travels from the location where it is grown to the location where it is consumed, or in other words, the distance food travels from farm to plate. Recent studies have shown that this distance has been steadily increasing over the last fifty years. Studies estimate that processed food in the United States travels over 1,300 miles, and fresh produce travels over 1,500 miles, before being consumed.” (Food Miles: Background and Marketing, Holly Hill)

Fuel Fact:

“The United States consumed 3.39 billion barrels of gasoline, 1.54 billion barrels of diesel fuel, and 0.59 billion barrels of jet fuel in 2007. And it currently imports 3.66 billion barrels of oil and petroleum products per year, 65% of US consumption, compared to 1.71 billion barrels (or 36%) 20 years ago.” (Biodiesel fuel for transportation: Status and issues in the United States by Bob McCormick)

Urban Agriculture is the social movement to create space to allow people to grow their own food in or near their city. Some of the produce is marketed, while other projects, such as community gardens, are designed to give participants the opportunity to grow food for their individual needs. The concept is based around the idea that cities are stronger when people are able to feed themselves through their own investment and actions. A garden doesn’t grow in isolation, but it is one piece of a larger, interconnected food system.

Whether you grew those tomatoes and peppers on the apartment balcony this year or had the full fertile spread going in the backyard, you were acting in same local food system as the farmers just outside town. We are all participating members of keeping food in our community’s stomach. That is why it’s important to learn more about Urban Agriculture and the sustainable food movement, whether or not you keep a garden.

The folks at G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education and Centre for Studies in Food Security at Ryerson University have put together a four-part distance-learning course on Urban Agriculture. The next course starts in January 2009 and will focus on the different types of urban agriculture, from community gardens to home gardens. From small-scale commercial horticulture to multi-use farms, each type of urban agriculture will be placed in context by discussing how to be best promoted in any given situation, where in the city it should be located and how this can be achieved. Examples and case studies from around the world will be used.

Become an educated eater by getting linked to the globe through education. This course is for both the newly interested and the well-researched. You can sign up now by contacting:

Reg Noble, PhD Academic Coordinator Certificate in Food Security Continuing Education, Ryerson University Email:

by Kim Matthews
Kim Matthews is currently a professor at Gwangju University in South Korea. She’s spent the last decade advocating, organizing and writing about environmental issues. In her past life, she was the original director and strategic planner of Community CROPS (, a community garden network and refugee and immigrant farmer’s initiative.