Speakers predicted the expansion of urban farming on Monday at a panel hosted by the Food Literacy Project and the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project.
The panel was preceded by a documentary about urban farming and community gardens in the United States. The film, “Growing Cities,” explored local efforts throughout the country to transform urban farming into a social, financial, and environmentally sustainable enterprise.
Citing the success of community “victory gardens” during the food shortages of both World Wars, the film highlighted the potential for growing food in neighborhoods with limited access to healthy foodstuffs. The gardens could be located on rooftops, front lawns, or vacant city lots.
“This movement is not just a movement of urban farming. It’s a movement of all different types of agriculture—from expanding what we think of as alternative forms of agriculture, to changing...the system as it is,” said Margiana R. Petersen-Rockney, director of the Food Literacy Project, during the panel.
Kate S. Petcosky, a panel member and food access coordinator at the Massachusetts-based New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, emphasized the variety of benefits from urban agriculture. Urban farms, she noted, provide far more than just another source of food.
“A lot of these urban farm projects are doing great work and growing great food and impacting food security in their communities, but might have an entirely social mission that they are fulfilling as well,” Petcosky said.
She pointed to garden programs for youth development and inmate rehabilitation as examples of farms that have a broader social mission.
Panelists also discussed the future of urban farming in light of a recent decision to make agriculture legal within the Boston city limits.
“I think it’s great that people have a framework now,” said Siedric White, a student at the Urban Farm Institute in Boston who attended the event. “It really helps people get an idea of what's possible.”
Panelists also noted that public interest in urban farming has grown over the last several years.
“I think with issues like food, everyone can relate, because everyone eats, and everyone literally has a place at the table,” Petersen-Rockney said. “I think Harvard has this opportunity to play a role as a sort of connector and disseminator of this kind of information.”