Urban agriculture is trendy in locations where cities are losing population and land is being converted back to gardens and green space. But what if we were to plan for intensive, high manual labor public gardens that provide education, production, and income to everyone in any urban area everywhere?
Studies are showing that bio-diversity, not just diverse crops but the transfer of “ecosystem services” are necessary for the proper operation of the system. Nearby compost and manure, trees, hedges, pasture, gardens constitute habitats for diverse species that contribute to the regulation of crop pests. Ponds, rivers, and buildings create more favorable microclimates for vegetable production.
Micro-farms of 1,000m2 (10,067 sf) is the heart, and greenhouses the heart of the heart, of a system that can range throughout a network of parks accessible within walking and riding distance. A distance vital to both the working inputs and the market outputs of a connected and personal economic system.
Free labor inputs of leisure time by garden hobbyists is a start. Beyond this, subsidized labor inputs of schools, unemployed, underemployed, probationers, and grantees would provide a huge resource. But ultimately the productivity of the land should be sufficient to provide a win-win of economically and ecologically sustainable activity.
Preliminary results show that this could be the case. “Astonishing” levels of agricultural output in long-term operations are showing that at least basic levels of income are attained by workers in the system. When compared to the cost of welfare and health subsidies the benefits compound.
The work is far from a Joe Job. Organic gardening is one of the most complex and demanding full-time professions. There is nothing like the work of a farmer to bring home the equation that Time is Money is Energy and the Value Process that optimizes design. “Working hours reflect the amount of energy spent to get a harvest. The money resulting from the sale of this crop is also a form of energy… Therefore the efficiency of the farm also depends on our ability to perceive the signals, the feedback loops, and our creativity to develop, every time, appropriate responses.”
A person can effectively take care of an area of between 500 and 1,000 m2. Each square meter can produce a value of about $60. For example, a 10,000-acre concession block with a population of 10,000 people could devote 10% of its park space to micro-farms, 150 acres. Each acre could be tended by up to 10 people (15% of the local population) and generate a revenue of over $24,000 each.
Beyond this, the economic and environmental diversity of the urban space inverts the notion that urbanization is destructive to the environment. Market gardens need only be a small percentage of total green space within the Eco-City. Diversity also springs from public parks, private gardens, boulevards, terraces, and the urban forest.
“Over the years, we have become aware that the economic viability of the farm depends on its ecological sustainability. In other words, when the agroecosystem is gaining in maturity and diversity the ecosystem services increase, the organic material is increasingly available, the soil gets richer, beneficial organisms are present and effective, and the farmer is rewarded with bountiful harvests. With decreasing workload the farm is gaining autonomy and resilience, time is in our favor, we are part of true sustainability.”